Lunt eyed five finalists -- Southern Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Illinois and Louisville -- but multiple reports surfaced that Gundy wouldn't allow Lunt to leave for Southern Miss or any SEC schools, which eliminated three of Lunt's options. Former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken -- an Illinois native like Lunt -- is preparing for his first season as Southern Miss' head coach.
The Tulsa World reported Lunt wouldn't be allowed to transfer to any Pac-12 schools or future opponent Central Michigan. OSU preventing Lunt from going to any Big 12 schools or future opponents is par for the course. A high percentage of high-profile transfers are blocked from leaving for schools their current program is likely to play in the future in either conference or nonconference play.
The situation is still in flux, but while Lunt's still deciding what to do -- the World also reported that Lunt's family is considering an appeal of the restrictions -- here's a few thoughts:
Gundy declined a request from ESPN.com for an interview, statement or explanation through a spokesman, who said the issue is "between him and Wes."
It's not surprising to see Gundy catch a whole lot of criticism. Some of it's deserved, but here's the scenario I see in which Gundy's position is most defensible: Lunt comes to him and asks for a transfer at the end of spring, saying he'd like to be closer to home. Gundy says yes, but wants to make sure that's the real reason why Lunt is leaving. In that case, leaving for the SEC or Pac-12 obviously would not make sense, but it doesn't behoove Gundy to come out in public and explain that Lunt either lied to him or changed his mind in the process of deciding where to go. That makes sense. Is that what actually happened? We may never know.
Even if that's the case, I still say the negatives outweigh the positives here for Gundy. Even if Lunt did change his mind about being closer to home, the perception is that Gundy's being unnecessarily stingy. I see two reasons why Gundy could do what he did in scenarios other than the one I described above: One, because it sets a dangerous precedent to allow players to follow assistants to other schools if they leave. Two, other schools telling Lunt they'd love to have him before he'd decided to transfer -- aka tampering -- might get back to Gundy, and it seems banning Lunt from going there is fitting retribution. It doesn't behoove Gundy to go public with that information. The latter is possible, but if you've got players skipping town after assistants leave, there's something wrong with your program. OSU has had several assistant coaches leave for better jobs in just the past three years alone (Robert Gillespie, Joe DeForest, Dana Holgorsen, Monken) and we haven't seen any players elect to follow them, so I don't buy that as a legitimate worry. OSU's a healthy program in good shape and building in the right direction. Lunt was the only OSU player on the roster from Illinois, though, and obviously had something of a bond with Monken, who maintained in an interview with The Oklahoman that he hasn't had contact with Lunt since he decided to transfer. Monken also said Lunt's best option was to stay at OSU and compete. I agree. Still, Gundy can't be worried about Lunt coming back somehow in a game against OSU with Southern Miss, who went 0-12 a year ago.
To clarify: Lunt can go anywhere he wants to next season, but Gundy's limitations mean he would have to pay his first season on campus, and couldn't be put on scholarship at another school without a release from OSU.
I don't buy two criticisms levied against Gundy, though: One, that he's worried Lunt could go to an SEC school and come back and beat the Cowboys. Two, that somehow Gundy's flirtations with Tennessee last offseason have anything to do with his decision in Lunt. The latter couldn't be a more different situation than Lunt's and Gundy, after all, elected to stay. One is possible, but knowing Gundy and his attitude like I do, I don't buy that it's a concern big enough to be the reason he's blocking Lunt from leaving for an SEC school.
It definitely feels a little unfair to Lunt, but with neither side opening up about many details, it's hard to draw a lot of concrete truth. Still, it's hard to believe the costs for Gundy and OSU of letting Lunt go wherever he wanted to go outweigh the PR hit his program endured in the court of public opinion (and, perhaps, the recruiting trail). I don't get it.