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Everything You Need to Know from Sports Illustrated's Report on Oklahoma State

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Everything You Need to Know from Sports Illustrated's Report on Oklahoma State
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Part Five of "The Dirty Game," Sports Illustrated's investigate report on misconduct in the Oklahoma State football program, was released on Monday, ending the series with a section called "The Fallout."

Though no more pieces of the expose will be released, the story is far from over. The OSU program has hired an ex-NCAA official to investigate the years in question, which could lead to some sort of eventual sanction (be it self-imposed or other).

Here's what you need to know about each section:

Note: The following contains allegations from Sports Illustrated's report. Though written and sourced in "The Dirty Game," they should not, necessarily, be taken as fact.

 

Part I – "The Money"

Certain Cowboys players were paid for good performances.

The payment system wasn't like the New Orleans Saints' bounty system—there wasn't extra incentive for injuring opponents—but supposedly amateur athletes who played well could expect to find money, perhaps hidden in a sock, in their locker.

Not every player received payment. Mostly just the stars did. And according to the report, the size of the payment would vary, ranging all the way up to $25,000 per season.

Bob Simmons, who coached the team from 1995 to 2000, didn't allow boosters to invade the program and players. But when Les Miles took the job in 2001, that all changed:

Miles took a more hospitable approach after he arrived in 2001 from the Dallas Cowboys. 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. The Cowboys' victory kept the archrival Sooners from a shot at the BCS title game and sparked OSU's surge under Miles.

In the locker room after the game, boosters approached key players and slipped cash into their hands. "We are talking about $500 handshakes," says safety Fath' Carter (2000 to '03), who observed others accepting such payments. (Miles denies that players were paid and says he gave boosters less access to the program, not more.)

This, of course, is a major violation of NCAA rules, and if proven indisputably true, would make the Cowboys subject to punishment.

 

Part II – "The Academics"

The whole "academic" system in Stillwater—at least for football players—was a sham, intended to keep players eligible by any means necessary, no matter how they performed in the classroom.

Unnamed former players and assistants claimed that some OSU players were functionally illiterate during their career. Professors would give football players special perks, allowing them to pass classes without doing the work or blatantly letting a tutor take their exams in class.

All-American wide receiver Dez Bryant, now a member of the Dallas Cowboys, was voted second-team academic all-Big 12, a distinction that his teammates had no choice but to laugh about:

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." Calvin Mickens, a cornerback from 2005 to '07, says he also saw tutors do coursework for Bryant.

The report mentions Terry Henley, the Cowboys academic advisor, as someone who has helped facilitate academic misconduct. Though even the anonymous sources in the expose spoke highly of his character, they alleged that he—by order of the program—cared more about keeping them on the field than their academic well-being.

The fact that Henley was (a) a former Cowboys player and (b) had no formal background in academia cast the legitimacy of his job into doubt.

 

Part III – "The Drugs"

Marijuana use has been rampant with Oklahoma State players, though other drugs like cocaine and hydrocodone have also been used in small doses.

In 2009, former player Bo Bowling was arrested for felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and was quickly suspended indefinitely from the team. After missing one season, he returned to the team in May of 2010, before coach Mike Gundy would have been able to conduct a thorough enough internal investigation.

When stars or top prospects tested positive for marijuana, they were assigned to a group called "Weed Circle," which was supposedly a place for them to work through their drug issues. But instead, it was used as a loophole for genuine consequences, and players were allowed to keep using.

There was also a drug-dealing problem within the locker room, as players would often look to teammates rather than outside persons to get their weed:

Three former players admitted to SI that they dealt marijuana while members of the 2001, ’04 and ’06 teams. Players from seven other seasons between 2001 and ’12 were accused by teammates (or, in the case of Bowling, by police) of also dealing drugs, meaning the program hosted an alleged or admitted drug dealer in 10 of the last 12 seasons.

Players would smoke before practices and also before low-profile games against teams they knew they would beat.

 

Part IV – "The Sex"

A group of campus hostesses called "Orange Pride" was tasked with shepherding high school recruits around the school and highlighting its best attributes. But on more than a couple of occasions, the often attractive group of girls would have sexual relations with the prospect.

After a scandal at Colorado in 2004, the NCAA tried to crack down on the alleged use of sex in recruiting. At that time, though, Oklahoma State began investing even more into its Orange Pride program:

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.

Orange Pride was a volunteer program, and the members who decided to go past mere flirtation and actually engage in sex with a recruit did so on their own accord. The program was not asking them to do that, but their sexuality was still being overtly flaunted as a means of helping the team.

Also of note: Mike Gundy and Les Miles both personally interviewed applicants to be in Orange Pride, a practice that doesn't occur at the three other Big 12 schools who admitted to having a hostess program.

 

Part V – "The Fallout"

A large number of players, mainly ones who had been kicked or forced out of the OSU program, have ended up watching their lives disintegrate, prompting the report to ask: How much did the Cowboys really care?

It's hard for a team to ensure the well-being of every player who walks through its doors. But the discard rate in Stillwater was particularly troubling:

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.

Kevin White, an introverted player who fell down the depth chart, was kicked off the team for being in a car that was pulled over with marijuana in it. He was the only person in the car not charged, and despite cases like that of Bowling (discussed in Part III), Gundy ruled his case with an iron fist.

Jonathan Cruz, an offensive lineman who was kicked off the team for academic reasons, attempted to commit suicide. The psychological trauma of being devalued was too much for certain former Cowboys to bear.

Artrell Woods was a star receiver who fractured his vertebrae after his freshman year. The school milked his comeback story dry, allowed him to play in five games (as a backup) when he was healthy enough, but then kicked him off the team because Gundy didn't like his attitude.

These are just some of the examples of how OSU treated former players—not the stars, but guys they no longer felt obliged to use. Once a player was no longer of importance to the program, the program was no longer a part of that player's life.

 

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