John E. Hoover: Gundy's lenience with Littlehead situation a bit curious
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
8/14/12 at 4:45 AM
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Related Story: Smith, Randle give O-State 1-2 punch at running back
Original Print Headline: Gundy's Littlehead lenience curious
Mike Gundy doesn't need another newspaper columnist to tell him what to do about Christian Littlehead. But here goes anyway.
Oklahoma State's head football coach has actually become pretty adept at handling the part of the job everyone hates. Then again, practice makes perfect, and Gundy set some pretty high standards for himself when he took over after the 2005 season and dismissed roughly a quarter of his projected two-deep.
Gundy doesn't exactly have a short leash, even with repeat offenders. But as he's grown into the job, he's made it clear that once everything done in the dark has been brought to the light, his final decision is frequently swift and often fierce.
Just ask running back Herschel Sims, a casualty this past June. Or offensive tackle Michael Bowie, who was dismissed in July - though that one may have been out of Gundy's hands.
All of which makes Gundy's ongoing lenience with Littlehead a bit curious.
No doubt Gundy is doing his part to learn the facts around Littlehead's latest transgression. These things often take time, unless the head coach has reason to trust his player. In this case, Gundy doesn't. So to find the truth, Gundy probably will need to wait to get the real story from law enforcement officials.
But Tahlequah police and Cherokee County sheriff's deputies almost always have something pressing to take care of. Who cares if Gundy would like the investigation concluded before kickoff Sept. 1 against Savannah State? Littlehead has a court date scheduled for Sept. 24. Maybe that's good enough.
There may indeed be something incongruous within these latest allegations against Littlehead in the incident report. Beer pong? Punched a girl in the face? Scraped knees? Gundy is wise to take his time with this one.
But Littlehead already should be deep, deep in Gundy's doghouse. This assault charge - originally reported in March before it became a paperwork oversight in the district attorney's office - was his third legal entanglement in the past eight months.
Littlehead was suspended from the Fiesta Bowl last season after a charge of misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia on the OSU campus. His six-month probation is scheduled to end in two weeks. In May - again, some two months after the most recent charge was first reported to police - Littlehead was arrested in Tahlequah on a complaint of public intoxication.
That's some pretty thin ice on which Littlehead skates.
But instead of drawing a hard line with Littlehead and, say, suspending him indefinitely pending the outcome of the investigation, Gundy allowed Littlehead to play in Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage.
The Cowboys aren't that thin at defensive line. And Littlehead isn't that good a player.
Not that a player's skill has slanted Gundy's perspective with suspensions and dismissals in the past. Sims - a troublesome teammate, some say - was down the depth chart but still was one of the top schoolboy running backs in Texas. Bowie - a source said his dismissal was an NCAA issue, not a school or team issue - was the Cowboys' best option to protect their first-year freshman quarterback. And again, Gundy wrung out the depth chart between the end of 2005 and the start of 2006 because he wanted to send a message to players and to Orange Nation that Oklahoma State football was going to do things right on his watch.
Gundy has given second chances before, and recently.
In February 2009, Cowboy receiver Bo Bowling was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and was kicked off the team. Bowling received a one-year suspended sentence, paid a $500 fine, served 25 hours community service and in May 2010 spent two weeks in jail.
That June, he was allowed to return to the team.
In August 2010, defensive end Jamie Blatnick was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon - a beer bottle to the face - in a bar fight with a former teammate, which witnesses said Blatnick instigated. Blatnick was suspended for the start of training camp, but was quickly reinstated and played in 12 of the team's 13 games that season.
Clearly, Gundy frequently sets new precedents. And clearly, every case is different.
Gundy says he knows all too well he owes it to his university and the fans of the program to gather all the facts and act decisively whenever one of his players steps over the line.
The question now is, once Gundy has all the facts, where does Christian Littlehead fit in the coach's nebulous discipline structure?