Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said Tuesday that his goal is to return to the football building on May 1 because he hopes that tests for COVID-19 will be available in a few weeks to clear both employees and players -- a proposed timetable the university and its athletic director quickly disputed.
Gundy, speaking to more than a dozen reporters on a teleconference, said that although it would depend on whether there will be enough tests available in three or four weeks that he could get his assistant coaches and support personnel tested for the virus, it was his full intention that his team "start on May 1."
"It might get backed up two weeks," Gundy said. "I don't know, I can't make that call, but if it does, we'll start with the employees of this company, the ones that come in this building. Then we'll bring the players in, and slowly but surely, we'll test them all in."
In what was roughly a 20-minute opening statement, Gundy talked about the national and state response to the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has shut down sports across the globe, and college football has set no date to return to practice. Gundy, who has been working remotely from his home and spending time on his farm, said that if somebody were to test positive after returning to work, that person would be quarantined "just like we do people that get the flu."
"We get people that get the flu during the season, we quarantine them, we treat them, we make sure they're healthy, we bring 'em back," Gundy said. "It would be the same thing here, but at some point, we've got to go back to work. We've got to get these guys back in here. ... From what I read, the healthy people can fight this, the antibodies make it better. They're doing some blood transplants now with the people that have already gotten the disease, that have gotten over it that have the antibodies that can fight it. There's a lot of people who can figure this out. May 1's our goal. Don't know if it will happen. Players will come in after that."
Following Gundy's comments, the university issued a statement saying, essentially, that the decision about when to bring the football team back together wouldn't be up to the coach.
"We will adhere to the advice of public health experts who are making informed decisions in the best interest of the citizens of our nation and state based on sound scientific data,'' the university statement said. "We will also abide by the federal and state mandates as well as Big 12 guidelines. We will not compromise the health and well-being of our campus community. This virus is deadly and we will do our part at Oklahoma State to help blunt the spread.''
Athletic director Mike Holder also declined to back Gundy's timeline, saying in a statement: "May 1 seems a little ambitious.''
Gundy said he was interested in hearing more positive news about the COVID-19 pandemic, which has crippled economies and forced restrictions on the movement of people around the world in an effort to stop the virus from spreading further and overwhelming health care systems.
"I'm seeing total number of cases, but what I'm not seeing is how many number of those cases that are now back to a normal life,'' Gundy said, adding: "It's really interesting to me to see with the mainstream media, sadly enough, just how negative everybody can be. Let's just report the news. Let's start putting some things in there that are positive, because I know there's positive out there.''
Gundy said there could be people who work in the football building who are older or "maybe have some type of underlying condition."
"Maybe they don't come back," he said, "but the majority of people in this building who are healthy ... and certainly the 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-, 22-year-olds that are healthy, the so-called medical people saying the herd of healthy people that have the antibodies maybe built up and can fight this? We all need to go back to work.
"I'm not taking away from the danger of people getting sick," he said. "You have the virus, stay healthy, try to do what we can to help people that are sick. And we're losing lives, which is just terrible. The second part of it is that we still have to schedule and continue to move forward as life goes on and help those people."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.