It's time to question 'icing' the kicker

It's time to question 'icing' the kicker
January 3, 2012, 10:50 pm
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"Im a man! Im 40! Ice Me!" Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State head coach

Ted Griggs
CSNBayArea.com

OK, Mike Gundy didnt actually say the last part of that quote -- but I wish he had.

Gundy, Oklahoma States head coach, gained national attention and became at Internet sensation in 2007 when he defended former starting quarterback Bobby Reid at a press conference after a critical column in The Oklahoman.

One of the things Gundy said about Reid was "Here's all that kid did: He goes to class! He's respectful to the media! He's respectful to the public! And he's a good kid. And he's not a professional athlete and he doesn't deserve to be kicked when he's down."

The same could be said about Stanfords placekicker, Jordan Williamson.

The redshirt freshman missed a 35-yard field goal as time expired that would have won yesterdays Fiesta Bowl for Stanford.

RELATED: Stanford suffers heartbreaking loss in Fiesta Bowl

As the 19-year old Williamson lined up for that kick, Gundy did what 99.9 percent of all college football head coaches would have done. He called a timeout to ice the kicker.

Icing the kicker is ploy to make him think a little longer about the stakes, to psych him out, to potentially give him what golfers call the yips. Is this really something a grown man getting paid hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of dollars should do to a 19-year old college student?

When I saw pictures of Oklahoma State fans and Gundy celebrating after Williamsons missed kick juxtaposed to shots of Williamsons tears (from which the ABCESPN cameras wisely and thankfully cut away), I instantly remembered Gundys 2007 speech where he went on to say, "Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40! I'm not a kid. Write something about me, or our coaches. Don't write about a kid that does everything right, that's heart's broke ...

This isnt sour grapes, Oklahoma State won and Stanford lost, fair and square. There are scores of plays that go into a win or a loss. And to be fair, no one will ever know if Gundys timeout caused Williamson to miss the kick. Moreover, Gundy seems to be a very good man. He humbly gave Stanford credit after the Fiesta Bowl and dedicated the victory to the memory of the four members of the OSU athletic department who died in a plane crash this fall.

Gundy seems to have perspective. I just wish he -- and every college coach -- had more. Stanfords David Shaw also calls time outs to ice the kickers. He did it early in the season against lowly Duke and again before the Cowboys Quinn Sharp made a chip shot 22-yarder to win the game in overtime.

In fact, in the 2006 Orange Bowl, the two coaches who have won the most games in Division I college football history -- Florida States Bobby Bowden and Penn States Joe Paterno -- each successfully iced the other teams kickers. The Nittany Lions kicker missed an overtime field goal and Seminoles kicker missed not one, but two possible game-winners. The game ended with the two legends hugging and laughing about the missed kicks. Watching that, my stomach turned at the thought of two septuagenarian coaches playing head games with college kids, inducing failures that would perhaps haunt those players until they reached their 70s.

Of course, Bowden later had 12 of his 389 victories erased from the record due a minor scandal and Paterno is now embroiled in a major one. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.

Admittedly, theres probably no way to make a rule against icing the kicker. Coaches can claim they are taking the time out to set their defense for a possible block. I just wish all college coaches would let a kid make a kick or not without employing the head games. After all, it is just a game and coaches should have enough class to remember that kids real job is to go class.

This isnt the pros where at least failing kickers like Buffalos Scott Norwood (who infamously missed a game-winner at the end of Super Bowl XXV) get paid. Jordan Williamson is a 19-year old student. Yes, hes getting a scholarship at one of the most prestigious (and expensive) universities in the world, but few would want to trade places with him when Stanford resumes classes in a few weeks.

The brief shots of his anguished face at the end of the game left me with two thoughts: First, Im glad Williamson has those few weeks to put this behind him. And second, as for icing a college student-athlete -- no matter who does it -- Gundys final words as he stormed out of that 2007 press conference to applause are perhaps the most appropriate of all.

It makes me want to puke, he said as he slammed the door.

Ted Griggs is the vice president and general manager of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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