Gundy prefers players play in bowl games
STILLWATER — The list of players skipping bowl games to focus on preparing for the NFL continues to grow, and it hit Oklahoma State for the first time with the news earlier this week that Justice Hill and Larry Williams would not play in the Liberty Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
“It’s become very popular now,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “I hate to see that happen, but as I’ve said before, we live in a society today where things are considerably different than they ever have been before, and (if) young people feel that there’s a better opportunity for them somewhere else, then they’re gonna make that decision to move on, and so we do the same.
“The one thing that I am concerned about is the longevity of the bowls and the fact that I would hate for it to become so popular that bowls aren’t important anymore, because I think that’s a great reward for a team.”
Gundy thinks the trend will get worse, not better. Could a player whose team made the College Football Playoff skip the postseason to protect his future?
“You could have a team that’s in a championship and a guy not play,
if somebody told him, ‘You could be worth this amount of money,’ and I’m guessing that players do it if they’re concerned about their durability to stay healthy for the spring, for the draft,” Gundy said.
“Like with Justice, we protected him as much as we could early in the season, and he got hurt in the latter part of the season and I would guess that he wants to make sure that he stays healthy so he can test and run and do all the different things for the draft.”
OSU defensive end Jordan Brailford announced his plan to skip his senior year and enter the NFL Draft, but he will participate in the bowl, seeing it as one more opportunity to show NFL scouts the type of player he is.
“It’s another game, it’s against an SEC team,” Brailford said. “They have a pretty good offensive line. Hopefully we can do some things to disrupt them, and have a good game and end on a win.”
Gundy said he kept conversations with Hill and Williams brief once they told him they wanted skip the bowl to prepare for the NFL.
“I don’t ask ‘em why and I don’t have discussions with ‘em and I don’t try to talk ‘em into coming back,” he said. “I feel like if a young man is gonna move on with his career, if I have to try to convince him to be here, then in most cases, it’s not gonna be good for either side.
“I just said, ‘hey, I’m disappointed and hate to see that happen because I don’t believe in that,’ but I respect their opinion, and it’s their career and their future.”
Noteworthy: Three Oklahoma State players were selected to The Associated Press All-Big 12 team. Receiver Tylan Wallace was a first-team pick, with Hill and Brailford landing on the second team.
Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill announced earlier this week that he would not participate in the Liberty Bowl to focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.