Gauging How Damning Part 1 of Sports Illustrated's Report Is for Oklahoma State

Ben Kercheval@@BenKerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterSeptember 10, 2013

Sep 7, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys corner back Gilbert, Justin (4) is tackled by Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners corner back Dahlquist, Chase (33) during the first half  at Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, Sports Illustrated released the first part of a five-part series titled "The Dirty Game" on Tuesday. 

The focus of the SI investigative report centers on Oklahoma State, a program that "went to extreme measures to build a winning program, with an increased willingness to cut corners and bend rules." 

The first installment is called "The Money" and accuses OSU assistant coaches and boosters of providing impermissible monetary benefits to players through three mediums: 

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.

Obviously, paying players for on-the-field performance is against NCAA rules. Specifically, former OSU assistant and current WVU associate head coach Joe DeForest is accused by ex-players of handing out rewards for big plays, as well as paying players for fake jobs.

Additionally, current Texas assistant Larry Porter is said to have provided money to certain players so they could eat and have a roof over their heads before the NCAA allowed them to begin receiving compensation for room and board. 

There are more accusations, but you get the idea. And it's becoming harder and harder to be outraged about allegations like these.

If anything, Part 1 highlights the current state of major college athletics—whatever that may be. 

To put it in a more straightforward way, college football has many of the characteristics of a professional sport played in an academic arena. It's a system where everyone is allowed to make money off the players except the players themselves. 

SI's report reflects this enigma. On one hand, statements are made that some college athletes are already (and illegally) compensated as though that should play a factor in the discussion. 

Often lost in the discussion about whether college football players should receive more than room, board and a scholarship is that some already are compensated, in violation of NCAA rules.

Yet, at the very end of the piece, Oklahoma State players are described as using the money for everyday expenses: 

At Oklahoma State the bonus system, the booster and coach payouts, and the bogus jobs provided players with money that was seldom spent on extravagances. One or two standouts bought a new car or expensive jewelry, team members say, but the vast majority of the players used the extra cash to purchase everyday items -- food, clothing, tickets to a movie. "There were some athletes who were almost starving," says Carter. "Wherever the money came from, they were like, 'Yeah, I'll take that.'"

The debate on further compensating players is ongoing and doesn't look like it will be resolved soon. If anything, it could be hinged on the outcome of the Ed O'Bannon case and whether it achieves class certification.

In the meantime, players can't be compensated for the use of their likeness, and they definitely can't be paid bonuses for on-the-field performances. But even if the former part changes, the latter occurrences won't.  

So how much trouble could Oklahoma State be in if the allegations in "The Money" are true? Porter left Oklahoma State for LSU with former Cowboys coach Les Miles after the 2004 season. DeForest joined the WVU coaching staff in 2012. Though impermissible payments were allegedly made "from 2001 to at least '11", there doesn't appear to be any specific examples given within the last few years. 

For what it's worth, both DeForest and Porter have denied the accusations made against them. WVU is also currently conducting its own internal investigation regarding DeForest. In a statement, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds stated the university has questioned Porter about the allegations, but "do not have any issues with him at this time." 

And, according to Oklahoma State athletics, none of the allegations involve current players. That could make any attempts to pin down a money trail difficult for the NCAA—should it choose to pursue an inquiry, that is. 

It's also fair to at least point out the background of the sources used in Part 1. 

Besides, Wednesday's edition of the series, which shines a light on academic misconduct, should be more up the NCAA's alley anyway. 

"Should be" being the operative phrase. 

The rest of the series—"The Drugs", "The Sex" and "The Fallout"—feels less like the NCAA's territory and more of an opportunity to pull open the doors for anyone who wants to see, as SI executive editor Jon Wertheim put it, "how the sausage is made" in college football.

Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval


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