The next big impermissible benefits scandal in college sports might just involve the Oklahoma State Cowboys football program.
According to a FoxSports report, Oklahoma State is in the midst of an impermissible benefits probe that involves star wide receiver Justin Blackmon and former running back Kendall Hunter, now a rookie with the San Francisco 49ers.
Oklahoma State has already self-reported its violations to the NCAA.
The key figure in this potential scandal is a man named Gannon Mendez, a sales representative and golf club dealer. He has refused to cooperate with Oklahoma State's investigation, but the university has discovered that he has led players to commit several violations, including making money off autographs.
Most notably, Mendez had Blackmon, Hunter and wide receiver Hubert Anyiam sign autographs at a birthday party for his stepdaughter last year. He allegedly charged $50 for the autographs, with a 50-50 split with the players.
Mendez is also alleged to have sold a piece of paper with a Blackmon doodle on it for $300, and that he split the money with Blackmon.
Sources also told FoxSports.com that Mendez sold guest passes for football games belonging to the players, and that he split the proceeds with them. He is also alleged to have helped players sell their guest passes to the 2010 Cotton Bowl.
According to Kevin Fite, Oklahoma State's associate athletics director of compliance, Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy told his players earlier this season to start avoiding Mendez.
“We’re concerned about it,” Fite said of the allegations. “We’re concerned about it like we would any potential violation and we’ve reviewed it as best as we can. Without any additional information, it’s hard for us to take any further steps. Some of that would be some cooperation on the part of him. As a member of the community, I would think he would want to do what he could to help us.”
Mendez has declined interview requests, and sources told FoxSports that he has openly bragged about not cooperating with Oklahoma State's probe.
The NCAA has declined to comment, citing its policy of not addressing potential scandals or ongoing investigations.