Oklahoma State Football Profiled in SI's Shocking 5-Part Investigative Report
Part 5: "The Fallout," Released on Tuesday, Sept. 17
Sports Illustrated concluded its five-part series investigating the Oklahoma State football program on Monday by releasing "The Fallout," which details the lives of some of the former Cowboys football players that were allegedly cast aside by the university for various reasons.
Former OSU wide receiver Artrell Woods was the main focus of the feature by SI.com's George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans, as his life has gone downhill since leaving Oklahoma State a few years ago. Woods currently works as a waiter at a restaurant in Bryan, Texas, after his football career was cut short:
He waits tables part-time and lives with his mother and her foster children. He concedes that he drinks too much and smokes too much marijuana. He is spending more and more time with what he calls "hustlers," people he knows he should avoid and he thought he'd left behind when he went to Oklahoma State. He is also in constant pain from a back injury he suffered while in college, which he can't remedy because he doesn't have health insurance.
Woods left for Stillwater seven years ago strong and hopeful. Now he is spiritually and physically broken. "Every time I think I've hit bottom there is a new bottom," he says, searching for a position that will dull the pain needling his spine. "I'm the mother------ who wakes up every day and I think, F---, how am I gonna eat today? The bottom? S---, it's now. Every day is the bottom."
According to the report, Woods suffered a back injury while lifting weights at Oklahoma State in 2007. That injury kept the promising wide receiver out of action for an entire season, but he was able to work his way back. Once it became clear that Woods was a shell of his former self on the field, though, he was allegedly forced out by head coach Mike Gundy:
Early in the spring semester of 2009, Woods was called to a meeting with Gundy and an assistant coach. According to Woods, Gundy told him that he didn't like his attitude and that he didn't see a future for him in Stillwater. Woods says he didn't think he had done anything that would cause his football career to be imperiled.
The school designated Woods a medical non-counter, which meant he could stay on scholarship without playing football. That may seem like a kind gesture, but it was merely a creative way for OSU to get Woods off the books: His scholarship wouldn't count toward the team's limit of 85. While he was still capable of playing -- he had appeared in five games the previous season -- he was no longer such a promising talent. Woods says the school saw no further use for him, particularly since his comeback story had been milked dry. He stayed in Stillwater through the fall semester of 2009. He eventually decided to transfer to Central Oklahoma, a Division II school in Edmond, where he would play again.
Woods was also allegedly given poor academic guidance during his time at Oklahoma State. He aspired to be a video game designer, which is something he still dreams of to this day. However, the academic advisers that worked with the football team reportedly steered him in the direction of easier classes that didn't relate to his desired field:
When he arrived at Oklahoma State he thought he would begin taking classes to implement that backup plan. Then he met with academic counselors and says he was told there were certain courses that football players should avoid because they conflicted with practice and/or were too taxing. "They were just telling me to take these classes, the ones they pick for you," Woods says. "They said don't worry about your major until you are a junior." He did what he was told, kept taking the classes put in front of him, never once speaking up about what he hoped to do if football failed him.
In 2010, when Woods transferred to Central Oklahoma, he finally told a counselor about his desire to design video games. He was informed that given the classes he had taken in his three years at Oklahoma State, to earn a degree in computer programming or a similar discipline would require several more years of college. Woods couldn't pay for that, so he pursued a degree in general studies. (According to the school he has yet to graduate.)
Woods wasn't the only player essentially thrown on the scrap heap, either. According to Dohrmann and Evans, Oklahoma State routinely chased out players who didn't prove to be useful on the football field:
Between 2002 -- the year of Les Miles's first full recruiting class at Stillwater -- and 2010, 43.5% of the players who enrolled at the school left before exhausting their five years of eligibility, and that's not including one player who died and those who declared early for the NFL. Though oversigning is a widespread practice in college football, this is a staggering churn rate. Texas Christian, another fast-rising program in the Big 12, lost about 23.4% of its players during that time. (Oklahoma State says the number is inaccurate because it doesn't account for players whose careers ended for medical reasons, but SI didn't include those for TCU either.) Players told SI that their first two years in Stillwater felt like a tryout: Those who performed to the coaches' expectations stayed; those who didn't were run off to free up scholarships.
Former Oklahoma State running back and linebacker Kevin White was on the wrong end of Oklahoma State's dismissals, and it allegedly had more to do with his on-field performance than anything else:
In September '06, White was a passenger in a car that police pulled over and searched. The officers found marijuana. Though White was the only member of the group not charged -- and though OSU had a history of overlooking drug use and drug offenses among its stars -- Gundy kicked him off the team. White says he offered to take a drug test on the spot, but Gundy was not persuaded. (Gundy declined to comment for this story.) The official reason given for White's departure: a violation of team rules.
Former Cowboys offensive lineman Jonathan Cruz was so upset following his dismissal from the team due to academic issues that he even attempted to take his own life:
Offensive lineman Jonathan Cruz says his scholarship was revoked in the summer of 2003 because of academic troubles -- troubles that many more prominent players avoided by having substantial coursework done for them. Cruz says he loaded a single bullet into a 9-mm revolver, spun the cylinder, put the gun to his head, closed his eyes and pulled the trigger. "[I'm] hoping that maybe if it does go off [the Oklahoma State coaches] are going to find me," Cruz said in a taped, two-hour interview last April. "They'll know why this happened." After the gun didn't fire, Cruz cried for hours. "You want to reach out [to someone], but where do you go?" Cruz says. "I was so miserable, and nobody understood because, in my opinion at the time, nobody cared to understand." He says he became a cocaine addict and "a major drug trafficker," moving as much as 30 pounds of marijuana a week. Cruz enrolled at Northeastern State, a Division II school in Tahlequah, Okla., and eventually cleaned up. He now teaches and coaches at a high school in the Dallas area.
While it's true that most of the former Oklahoma State players interviewed by Sports Illustrated were dismissed from the program, and thus may have hard feelings about the manner in which they were treated, it's very difficult to brush off all these stories as mere happenstance.
The first four installments of the investigative series didn't make Oklahoma State look particularly good, but seeing how some of these former players have ended up adds an entirely new perspective.
Dohrmann and Evans maintain that Oklahoma State's football program has cared about success on the field above all else, and "The Fallout" seems to support that notion.
UPDATE: Saturday, Sept. 14
The Associated Press (via Sports Illustrated) has the latest:
Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis says the school will conduct an investigation into possible rules violations by the football program that have been alleged in a series of stories by Sports Illustrated this week, and will ask the NCAA to join in the review.
In a video statement posted online Friday night, Hargis calls the allegations "very disturbing."
Hargis says: "We must review these accusations expeditiously, but thoroughly, determine the truth and take whatever measures are appropriate."
He says the school is "engaging an independent expert in NCAA matters" to assist the review.
Part 4: "The Sex," Released on Friday, Sept. 13
Sports Illustrated released the fourth installment of its five-part "The Dirty Game" series exploring a multitude of scandals involving the Oklahoma State football team. The fourth section, entitled "The Sex," takes a look at the role that sexual favors have played in recruiting at OSU.
According to George Dohrmann, Thayer Evans and Melissa Segura of SI.com, some members of an Oklahoma State hostess group called Orange Pride allegedly had sex with potential recruits in hopes of convincing them to choose OSU.
Dohrmann, Evans and Segura provided an anecdote relating to a 2003 recruit who told them he was the beneficiary of such improper benefits:
When the recruit arrived in Stillwater he received an enthusiastic greeting from two members of Orange Pride, a group made up of female undergrads that is described on the university website as an "organization that donates their time and efforts to assist with Recruiting for Oklahoma State and the Football Program." The women explained that they would be taking him to dinner, the recruit recalls, but first they had a stop to make. A short time later he was having sex with both of them. "Rock 'n' rolling, I had the best of the best -- the aces," says the recruit, who spoke to SI on the record but is not being named to protect the identities of the two women.
According to SI.com, Orange Pride became a huge part of the Oklahoma State recruiting process by 2004, and a number of former Cowboys who spoke with SI admitted that they or someone they knew had sex with Orange Pride members at some point:
Oklahoma State not only kept Orange Pride intact, but by 2004, multiple sources told SI, the group also became a key contributor to the program's rise. Membership in the organization more than tripled; there was a greater emphasis on attracting prettier and more outgoing women; and more than a dozen Cowboys who played from 2001 to '11 told SI that a small number of Orange Pride members had sexual relations with them or with other prospects during recruiting visits. According to the former hostesses who spoke to SI, the vast majority did not have sex with recruits. But for those who did, it proved to be an effective inducement.
Former Oklahoma State wide receiver Artrell Woods confirmed that he knew of teammates who had engaged in sexual acts with hostesses, and he said he understood the logic of the recruiting tactic:
There's no other way a female can convince you to come play football at a school besides [sex]. ... The idea was to get [recruits] to think that if they came [to Oklahoma State], it was gonna be like that all the time, with ... girls wanting to have sex with you.
SI.com also spoke with some former hostesses from the Orange Pride program, and while they said that only a small group of hostesses slept with the players, it was a prevalent issue:
Chantal Drumgole (née Sanders) an Orange Pride member during the 2003-04 academic year says there was a group within the group "and I am not that kind of girl, a groupie that is just about the football players and trying to sleep with the football players." A former Orange Pride hostess from the same year who asked not to be named recalls, "People did cross the line. That's why I was only in the program for one year. ... It was very disturbing. When I found out, that's why I quit."
Tess Maune of News On 6 provides these quotes from former Orange Pride member Jena Beth Teel:
"I was very quick to make sure that she understood that we were supposed to be not only professional on our end, but also we weren't there just for the recruits, we were there for the family, too," Teel said. "We were never, like, one-on-one alone with recruits during formal recruiting and that kind of thing, or even informal recruiting."
"Never at one time did I ever hear of any encouragement to be sexually active with any football players or recruits," Teel said. "If anything, it was always the opposite, to not even socialize with them outside of our Orange Pride events."
While it is unknown if any Oklahoma State staff facilitated the alleged sexual encounters, former Oklahoma State head coach Les Miles and current Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy have interviewed potential Orange Pride candidates.
Gundy declined to comment on the situation, but Miles pleaded ignorance with regards to the alleged sexual incidents:
"The volunteers' role in our program was important and I wanted to stress how seriously we took their duties and responsibilities and the manner in which we expected those students to conduct themselves if they were selected for Orange Pride." As for the role of sex in recruiting, Miles wrote, "I am not aware of this ever happening and am quite sure that no staff member was aware of recruits sleeping with this group of students or any other students."
Former Oklahoma State defensive back Chris Wright did tell SI.com about former Oklahoma State assistant coach and current West Virginia assistant Joe DeForest allegedly getting mad at Wright for failing to set up a sexual encounter for a recruit in 2001, according to SI.com:
Chris Wright, a defensive back, says that in early 2001, shortly after Miles and his staff took over, he hosted a recruit. Wright took him to a Stillwater club and to a couple of house parties. When the recruit left campus after the weekend, Wright says he met with Joe DeForest, then the special teams coach, to review the visit. "You didn't do your job," Wright recalls DeForest saying.
Wright says he was confused and asked DeForest to explain. According to Wright, the assistant coach said that when he had asked the recruit if he had sex the night before, the recruit responded that he had not. "He was pissed I didn't get [the recruit] laid," Wright says of DeForest. "He told me I would never host a recruit again."
DeForest said that he did "not recall that conversation ever occurred," but there certainly seems to be plenty of evidence mounting against Oklahoma State.
While it's difficult to say how rampant the alleged use of sex in recruiting might have been at Oklahoma State, there are certainly plenty of former players who are more than forthcoming about it.
Part 3: "The Drugs," Released on Thursday, Sept. 12
In Part 3 of George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans' expose on the Oklahoma State football program for Sports Illustrated, the focus turns toward drug use among the players and how the program handled the drug use on an administrative level.
What they found was rampant drug use within the football program.
"Drugs were everywhere," says Donnell Williams, a linebacker on the 2006 team who says he didn't use drugs but observed other players who did. Other players echoed that, saying it was common for some players to smoke weed before games. "[Against] teams we knew we were going to roll, a couple of guys would get high," says Calvin Mickens, a cornerback from 2005 to '07. "Some of the guys [it] didn't matter what game it was, they were going to get high." In the weeks leading up to the 2012 Fiesta Bowl, running back Herschel Sims says that so many of his teammates were smoking marijuana regularly that if the school had suspended those who had the drug in their system, "we probably would have lost about 15-20 people who actually played." (According to the school, 18 of the team's more than 100 players were randomly tested by the NCAA before the game; one tested positive and was suspended.)
Said one former assistant coach under Mike Gundy, "There's an issue with drugs at OSU, no doubt. We had all kinds of issues."
While marijuana use was regular, other drugs were prevalent as well, including some very unique methods of attempting to mask the substances to pass drug tests.
Larry Brown, a defensive tackle in 2005 and '06, says that the first time he saw teammates do cocaine was in a dorm during his freshman year. "It happened a lot of times," Brown says of his teammates' cocaine use. [Former OL Jonathan] Cruz and [former WR Artrell] Woods also say they were aware of teammates who used cocaine frequently.
In addition, several players say they and other team members drank codeine syrup and passed around hydrocodone pills that had been prescribed by team doctors to combat pain, and they sometimes dipped marijuana in formaldehyde before smoking it. They also consumed all sorts of substances in an effort to conceal their marijuana use. When players learned from an athletic department staff member that they would be drug tested, they raced out to buy supposed masking agents like niacin. [Former OL Doug] Bond remembers seeing one uninformed teammate drinking bleach, thinking it would purge the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from his system. "There's some crazy, crazy stuff that goes down, and you don't care because you're big and strong and young and dumb so you think that you're invincible," Bond says.
But that wasn't all.
While some former players in the report alleged that the drug use became more rampant upon the arrival of head coach Les Miles at the school, others suggested that the problem already existed before he reached the university.
A Stillwater law enforcement official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media, says that when officers called Miles to tell him about players with drug problems, his usual response was, "What do you want me to do?" Rodrick Johnson, a linebacker and defensive end from 2004 to '07, says of Miles's approach, "As long as you were performing on the field, he could care less what you did off the field."
In a written response Miles said, "This is an outsider's view or perhaps from a disgruntled player who wanted playing time but could not earn it. Yes, I wanted our players to perform on the field, but they had to perform socially and academically too or they would not see the field." Miles added, "I backed the police 100 percent and did support law enforcement by asking what I could do to provide assistance."
Dohrmann and Evans' findings suggest that Oklahoma State's response to drug use was, in a word, lenient. In two words, very lenient.
Oklahoma State had one of the nation's more lenient policies—yet the Cowboys still abused it. Frequent positive tests by stars were ignored while lesser players were suspended or kicked off the team. The team's substance-abuse counselor from at least 2007 to the present was an assistant strength-and-conditioning coach with no experience treating drug users; his bio on the university's website incorrectly stated that he had a master's degree in counseling.
The coaching staff did little to deter marijuana use, players say. Some football staff members, including Gundy, allegedly joked about it. "[A football staffer] would be like, 'If you were trying to get to a blunt I'd bet you'd throw that weight up,'" says LeRon Furr, a linebacker on the 2009 and '10 teams.
And then there was the "Weed Circle." According to several players, Oklahoma State had a counseling program for players who had tested positive for marijuana. In essence, the program allowed for players to avoid suspensions so long as they showed up for the program and tested for decreasing amounts of the substance.
"We all smoked and pissed hot, but the coaches were like, 'As long as you're performing, we'll send you to [the Weed Circle],'" [former safety] Thomas Wright says.
The Oklahoma State athletic department has, in essence, a four-strike drug policy. A first positive test results in no penalty; a second leads to an immediate suspension of 10 percent of the regular season; a third, an immediate suspension of 50 percent. After a fourth positive test, the player is kicked off the team—which is one more positive test than most BCS schools allow.
In itself, the existence of the Weed Circle was not improper. Within Oklahoma State's policy is a relatively rare clause; SI could find versions of it in only six of the 54 other BCS schools whose complete drug-testing policies are online. It states that a player will not incur a strike as long as he is in counseling and as long as subsequent tests reveal a gradual decline in usage. The aim is to allow players to get help and not penalize them as the drugs exit their system.
According to several Oklahoma State players, however, many players in the Weed Circle were never punished despite testing for elevated amounts of the substance, and many players remained in the program for entire seasons at a time.
Another problem with Oklahoma State's drug counseling program was that Joel Tudman, who headed the program, wasn't qualified to do so.
Around 2007, Joel Tudman, an assistant strength-and-conditioning coach who is also the team's chaplain and carries the title of Life Issue/Social Development Counselor for the football program—a mentoring position that has become more common within athletic departments—was put in charge of the drug counseling program for football.
Tudman, however, has no formal training in drug counseling. While Tudman's bio on the athletic department website indicated that he had received a "double masters in health and counseling" from Texas A&M-Commerce, he in fact has only a single master's degree, in Health, Kinesiology and Sports Studies.
The findings get worse for Tudman.
Tudman says because he took courses in health and counseling while at Texas A&M-Commerce he "thought it was a double masters." He produced a transcript that showed he completed five counseling courses, but none of them dealt with substance abuse and he never enrolled in the two courses Texas A&M-Commerce offered in that area. Tudman concedes that his athletic accomplishments were also embellished. "That's [a mistake] on my part," he says. "I take full responsibility."
Players weren't just using drugs, however. According to the Sports Illustrated report, many players were selling as well:
A player on the 2001 team told SI he made about $100 a week dealing marijuana to teammates and others. "It was college," he says. "It was something to get by." A member of the '06 team brought "pounds" of marijuana to campus from out of state and sold the drug to players and regular students, he says. Four others players—safety Chris Massey (1999 to 2002), wide receiver Eric Allen (2003 to '04), Rodrick Johnson and offensive lineman Gerron Anthony (2010 to '11)—said teammates sold drugs in at least one of the seasons they were on the team. Anthony, who remained in school through the end of 2012, says he was also aware of a player on last year's team who dealt.
Dohrmann and Evans' piece paints the portrait of a program with regular drug use, an administration that failed to properly address the problem (or perhaps looked the other way) and a double-standard in which players were ultimately punished.
However, according to a report from ESPN, multiple players mentioned in the report have said that former Oklahoma State safety Fath' Carter, who was heavily cited in the Sports Illustrated expose, lied in interviews.
Among the claims by Carter that are not supported by university documents were that he graduated from the school and attended classes in 2004 with running back Tatum Bell, where the professor gave them a failing grade because their eligibility had expired.
Another discrepancy was from running back Dexter Pratt, who told SI that in his first semester, in 2009, every course he took was online. According to university records, Pratt took three online courses and two actual classes.
In Tuesday's SI report, Carter said he graduated from OSU with a degree in education. George Dorhmann, one of two SI reporters who reported the stories, also said on The Doug Gottlieb Show Tuesday that "Fait' (Carter) has two degrees from Oklahoma State, spoke on the record, recorded. I have no reason to believe he lied. And he's certainly not disgruntled."
Carter didn't have two degrees. Carter attended OSU from 2000-05 but never graduated at all from the school, according to the university's registrar office.
Carter also told SI that he and Bell were in the same classes and got A's and then had the same instructor again in 2004 but both got F's, Carter said.
"I'd guess that there was pressure (on the instructor) to give us those A's when we were playing, but not when we weren't," Carter told SI.
However, Bell wasn't at Oklahoma State in 2004. He withdrew from school after the 2003 fall semester, according to his OSU transcript that he provided to ESPN.
"I withdrew from school after the (Jan. 2, 2004) Cotton Bowl," Bell said. "I was never enrolled in 2004 and never attended classes in 2004."
Carter has since denied that he lied, but the report certainly throws the validity of the former safety's claims into doubt.
Part 2: "The Academics," Released on Wednesday, Sept. 11
The second portion of Sports Illustrated's five-part series detailing misconduct within the Oklahoma State football program was released on Wednesday. This focused on rampant academic fraud, which allegedly allowed players to remain eligible to play on a weekly basis.
According to George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans of SI.com, academics were especially downplayed during Les Miles' tenure as the Cowboys head coach from 2001 through 2004. With Miles, it was apparently a case of him saying one thing, but meaning something entirely different.
Shortly after Les Miles took over as Oklahoma State's football coach in December 2000, he introduced an exhortation that he would use often at the end of team meetings during his four years in Stillwater. "Academics first," Miles would say. "Football second."
As Miles said, "Academics first," he would hold up two fingers. And as he said, "Football second," he would hold up one.
Miles dismissed that action as a one-time thing done in "a moment of humor," but Sports Illustrated's findings suggest that Miles' hand gestures told the whole story regarding the Oklahoma State football team's feelings about academics.
A number of former Oklahoma State players admitted to academic transgressions during their time at the school, including having their coursework done for them in some cases.
Given the coach's message to his players, it is not surprising that 13 Cowboys who played between 2000 and '11 told SI that they participated in some form of academic misconduct, and 16 others were named by teammates as also having had schoolwork done for them. Players said that they routinely had their coursework completed by tutors or university staff members, that they were provided with answers to exams before taking them, and that they received passing grades despite doing little or no work.
Former Oklahoma State safety Fath' Carter confirmed that Miles cared only about his players excelling on the field, but not in the classroom:
The philosophy, the main focus [of the program], was to keep [the best players] eligible through any means necessary. The goal was not to educate but to get them the passing grades they needed to keep playing. That's the only thing it was about.
While Oklahoma State football academic adviser Terry Henley denies that players benefited from academic fraud during Miles' tenure, Henley admitted that Miles wasn't particularly focused on academics:
There was never pressure [to cheat], but Miles was like most coaches who want to be somewhere else. They're going to do what they need to do for two or three years, and they're not going to have to deal with whatever the fallout is. So, no, he didn't promote academics.
Miles disputed that claim by saying, "I always said, and I always meant, that academics was the most important thing." The overwhelming evidence gathered by Sports Illustrated certainly seems to suggest otherwise, though.
According to Dohrmann and Evans, academic fraud at Oklahoma State didn't stop once Miles left for LSU. There have been alleged cases under current OSU head man Mike Gundy as well.
The most high-profile among them involves current Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant as he was named second-team academic All-Big 12 in 2008.
"You didn't have no choice but to laugh at it," said Victor Johnson, a safety for the program from 2008-10.
Although Bryant denied having work done for him while at Oklahoma State, even a former assistant coach conceded that Bryant didn't earn his spot on the all-academic team.
According to Johnson and one of the former assistant coaches, it was well known that Bryant would not go to class unless shepherded, often by a football staff member, and that tutors did a majority of his coursework. "He just wasn't supposed to be there. There's no way he could do the college work," said the former assistant coach. "Once he got there, he was connected with the people that would help him."
If the allegations linking Bryant to academic fraud are true, then it is certainly possible that the Oklahoma State scandal stretches far beyond the Les Miles era, and that doesn't bode well for the program moving forward.
UPDATE: Wednesday, Sept. 11
Current LSU head coach Les Miles spoke out about SI's report, per Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune:
I revered my time in Stillwater. The idea that someone would characterize the program that was run there as anything but right and correct.... Did we work hard? You betcha. Did we make tough decisions about starting lineups? You betcha. But every guy was encouraged to get his degree, stay the course and fight.
I can tell you that people that were commenting on the state of the program weren't there long enough to figure it out. They heard me tell them attend class, do the right things and heard me routinely. I'm going to withhold further comment. I can tell you that staff, family and friends, anybody that sat in our meeting rooms, knew that this thing was done right. I want to withhold further comment to get my team ready to play against a quality Kent State. That's my push.
UPDATE: Tuesday, Sept. 10
Following the release of the first part, "The Money," Peter King of Sports Illustrated passed along a statement from Oklahoma State Athletic Director Mike Holder following the release of Dohrmann and Evans' Tuesday report:
The Okla State AD to SI: "In a way, I guess I should thank you."— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) September 10, 2013
Former Oklahoma State quarterback Josh Fields also commented on the story to ESPN's Brett McMurphy:
Josh Fields to @ESPN: "Anyone that played at OSU or from Stillwater knows the players (quoted in SI report) are not credible"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) September 10, 2013
Oklahoma State's famous booster, T. Boone Pickens, released a statement on the investigation:
There’s one word I have for the Sports Illustrated reporting on Oklahoma State University: Disappointing.
This series is not reflective of Oklahoma State University today. Many of their sensational allegations go back a decade ago.
There have been wholesale changes at the school in recent years in leadership and facilities. During that time, I have given more than $500 million to OSU, for athletics and academics. Have I gotten my money’s worth? You bet. We have a football program that has a commitment to principled sportsmanship. They understand the expectations we, as fans and supporters, have for the program. We have an incredible and growing fanbase, and a loyal group of alums that believe in the character of our players, coaches and administrators.
But I do welcome this scrutiny. If people take the time, it’s an opportunity to better understand where Oklahoma State is today, not a decade ago. It’s a different university today. It’s a better university. If there are areas where we need to improve, we’ll do it.
Which leads me back to my disappointment with Sports Illustrated, and their failure to ask the most important question of all: What’s happening at OSU today?
Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News passed along a statement from former Oklahoma State assistant coach Larry Porter:
Former OK St assistant Larry Porter, now RBs coach at Texas, named as having paid players. Porter: "None of that ever happened."— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) September 10, 2013
ESPN's Joe Schad provided details on a potential NCAA investigation, should the organization choose to conduct its own research in the wake of Sports Illustrated's report:
NCAA Statute of Limitations is 4 yrs. but 1) OKSt allegations up to 2011 2) "Pattern" or "blatant disregard" can allow NCAA to go further.— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) September 10, 2013
CBS Sports' Doug Gottlieb, a former OSU basketball player, offered further insight into players discussed in the report:
Just read the SI article Calvin Mickens,Brad Girtman,Chris Wright,William Bell,Kevin White and Ricky Coxiff were all dismissed from team— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) September 10, 2013
These were just some of the reactions to Sports Illustrated's shocking release that rocked the sports world on Tuesday.
Part 1: "The Money," Released on Tuesday, Sept. 10
According to Dohrmann and Evans, many Oklahoma State players were paid liberally for a variety of reasons, including on-field performance. Former Oklahoma State cornerback Calvin Mickens recalled several instances in which he was paid as a freshman in 2005, but the issue was far more widespread than that.
In separate interviews seven other former Cowboys told SI they received cash payments; 29 other OSU players were named by teammates as having also taken money. Those payments, which stretched from 2001 to at least '11, were primarily delivered three ways: a de facto bonus system based on performances on the field, managed by an assistant coach; direct payments to players from boosters and coaches independent of performance; and no-show and sham jobs—including work related to the renovation of Boone Pickens Stadium—that involved at least one assistant coach and several boosters.
While many players were allegedly paid, Oklahoma State didn't necessarily go out of its way to make it happen. If players requested some form of financial assistance, though, those players were reportedly taken care of.
Why were some paid and not others? Often it was a willingness to request money. Players who sought financial assistance were often directed by teammates or sometimes a member of the coaching staff to a generous benefactor; in some instances they were paid on the spot.
Some players received $2,000 annually and others around $10,000, multiple players told SI; a few stars allegedly received $25,000 or more.
Despite the rampant nature of Oklahoma State's alleged payouts, those in charge of them made sure that they occurred in a discreet manner.
Bonuses were delivered in a variety of ways, multiple players told SI. Sometimes players got extra money in their per diem envelopes, which were usually distributed by low-level football staff members. On other occasions an envelope with money was waiting for them in their locker the day after a game. (Former defensive back Thomas) Wright says that if a player found a new pair of socks in his locker postgame, there was a good chance some cash was inside one of them.
The main culprits involved in the alleged pay-for-play scandal were Oklahoma State boosters. The boosters were reportedly always around, and their presence increased when the Cowboys upset rival Oklahoma during Miles' first season as OSU's head coach.
According to several players, boosters were permitted in the locker room; they were often on team flights and bus trips; they turned up at the training table. The boosters were at their most visible after a big victory, and no win was bigger during Miles's tenure than a 16-13 upset at No. 4 Oklahoma in the teams' regular-season finale of 2001.
Oklahoma State has endured just one losing season since 2001, and that high level of success only served to validate the actions of the aforementioned boosters.
Such handouts became more frequent as the team became more successful. Multiple players say it was common for some boosters to walk down the aisle of the team plane or bus and distribute cash-filled envelopes to the best players. (Former safety Fath') Carter says he and other players were handed as much as $100 by adoring boosters as they walked from the Student Union to the stadium on game days.
While boosters were heavily involved in the alleged payments, former Oklahoma State running back Seymore Shaw claims that late Oklahoma State defensive back Darrent Williams received pay from former Oklahoma State and current West Virginia assistant Joe DeForest for nonexistent jobs.
We'd go over to the house, and [Williams] would fake like he's starting up a lawn mower ... so people could see him. [Then he'd] cut it off. [He'd] start up a Weed Eater. Cut it off. [For that he'd get] $400, $500, $600.
Former Cowboys safety Fath' Carter claims that the players who allegedly received pay were broke beforehand. Because of that, most of them used the money that they were given to buy necessities such as food and clothing rather than extravagant, luxury items.
"There were some athletes who were almost starving," Carter said. "Wherever the money came from, they were like, 'Yeah, I'll take that.'"
The first of five parts to Sports Illustrated's investigation provided telling insight into to the Oklahoma State program and it remains to be seen if the ensuing parts will darken the black eye now put on the program.
Over the past decade, the Oklahoma State Cowboys have developed into one of college football's most dominant programs. Much of that success has been attributed to current head coach Mike Gundy and former head coach Les Miles, but a Sports Illustrated investigative report suggests that there have been other unscrupulous factors at work.
According to InsideSportsIllustrated.com, SI's George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans gathered information over a 10-month period by interviewing players and staffers involved with the program from 1999 through 2011, resulting in "The Dirty Game"—a five-part investigative series that breaks down the ascent of Oklahoma State football.
Evans offered a sneak peek at the magazine cover on Twitter:
"I knew this day was coming and today is that day. It was a matter of time." pic.twitter.com/bFP5wLtjV5— Thayer Evans (@ThayerEvansSI) September 10, 2013
SI was interested in finding out how Oklahoma State went from 11 losing seasons over the course of 12 years to being one of college football's most consistently successful teams since 2002. As the magazine's executive editor Jon Wertheim put it, there was a desire to see what tactics were used to take Oklahoma State from the outhouse to the penthouse:
We wanted to take a comprehensive look at a big-time program, particularly one that made a rapid ascent. There’s obviously a steady drumbeat of scandal in college sports— improper benefits here; a recruiting violation there—and plenty of rumor and hearsay about the unseemly underbelly. For this piece, we were more about venturing inside the factory and seeing how the sausage is made.
SI ultimately came to the conclusion that money, academics, drugs and sex all played a role, so it decided to break the report down into those four subsections. The series will conclude with a section related to the fallout for players who are no longer with the program.
Prior to the release, Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis released a statement regarding the report on Sept. 7:
Oklahoma State University is deeply troubled by these claims. We will investigate the accuracy of the allegations and take all appropriate action. We do not condone or tolerate improper conduct in our athletic programs. OSU requires everyone affiliated with the university to follow the rules and adhere to the highest ethical standards.
Each part of the series will be revealed over the course of the week on SI.com, and they will also be featured in upcoming issues of the magazine. Tuesday, Sept. 10, saw the release of "The Money," and it included plenty of shocking revelations.
According to InsideSportsIllustrated.com, grade manipulation allegedly allowed players to stay academically eligible without actually having to do the work. In addition, some of Oklahoma State's star players reportedly got away with repeated positive drug tests in an effort to maintain an elite on-field product.
Perhaps the most egregious accusation of them all, though, is that some members of the Orange Pride hostess program aided in recruiting by having sexual relations with potential recruits.
Details will remain unclear regarding the other parts of the investigation until everything is revealed, but SI has offered a sample of the misconduct that has taken place at Oklahoma State. On a wider scale, this investigation could begin to unveil how rampant these practices are across college football.
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