Head coach Mike Gundy of the Oklahoma State Cowboys looks on during pre-game warm ups before playing the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the Advocare Texas Kickoff at Reliant Stadium on August 31, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Several Oklahoma State football players received impermissible benefits during a period spanning from 2001 to as recently as 2011, earning pay-for-play inducements via assistant coaches, boosters and "no-show and sham jobs," according to a story released Tuesday by Sports Illustrated.
"It was just like in life when you work," former defensive back Thomas Wright told the magazine. "The better the job you do, the more money you make."
The Sports Illustrated report includes the testimony of eight former OSU players, who in turn implicated 29 former teammates, in a damning indictment of a fast-rising program's willingness to flaunt NCAA rules and standards in paying players money for on-field successes.
Some players earned $2,000 annually, per the report, and "a few stars" upwards of $25,000. Players would receive money in one of three ways, according to SI:
- Via an assistant coach, typically former OSU assistant coach Joe DeForest, who coached the Cowboys during the entire span from 2001-11. The SI story also implicates former running backs coach Larry Porter for giving one student-athlete "a couple hundred bucks" to help cover room-and-board costs. Former defensive tackle Brad Girtman said DeForest gave him a debit card with $5,000 on it when he arrived on campus in 2003. Both DeForest, currently an assistant at West Virginia, and Porter, now at Texas, have said the SI allegations are untrue.
- Via boosters, who would deliver the money in several different ways, per SI: OSU players would find money in their per-diem envelope, which typically holds $15 for meals; in their lockers the day after a game; or even in a new pair of socks, said former defensive back Thomas Wright. The article does state that prominent OSU booster T. Boone Pickens was not mentioned in any improprieties.
- Via fake jobs set up by boosters, wealthy alumni and even an assistant coach like DeForest. Former running back Seymour Shaw said of DeForest: "We'd go over to the house, and [cornerback Darrent 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." DeForest said he compensated players "fair market value" for their work, per SI.
The breadth of time covered among the SI allegations spans the entire tenure of then-OSU coach Les Miles, now at LSU, as well as current OSU coach Mike Gundy, Miles' former offensive coordinator and eventual replacement following the 2004 season.
SI writes of Miles taking "a more hospitable approach" to boosters when compared to his predecessor, Bob Simmons. Boosters were commonly seen in OSU's locker room after big wins under Miles, including a victory against No. 4 Oklahoma in 2001. After that game, boosters walked through the room and "slipped cash" into players' hands. Said former safety Fath' Carter, "We are talking about $500 handshakes." SI writes of boosters becoming so pervasive that they would connect with players before new recruits arrived on campus.
The story, co-authored by SI senior writers George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans, is the first in a five-part series, called "The Dirty Game," set to be issued by the magazine during the next week.
Another four installments will be launched on all of SI's platforms during the next week. According to a preview released Monday, the ongoing series will tackle "widespread academic misconduct," drug use and a hostess program that violated NCAA recruiting rules. The fifth chapter in the series, "The Fallout," chronicles how several OSU football players were "cast aside" when they were deemed "no longer useful to the football program."
In addressing the media Monday, Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said he was "very concerned" about the magazine's allegations. Holder was named the university's athletic director in September 2005, after Miles had left for LSU.
"As the athletic director at Oklahoma State and an alumnus of Oklahoma State University, I don't want to believe that it's true," Holder said, via the Tulsa World. "We take this personally. We're all committed to playing by the rules and doing things the right way around here, and for people to say that's not what's happening is very disturbing."
Gundy spoke Monday about the SI story during his weekly press conference breaking down the Cowboys' next opponent.
"I'll be real honest with you. I know the part that may have involved me. I'm not sure we know it all yet. But we've had tremendous support from administration, from the people behind the scenes who have looked at this and researched it," Gundy said. "I'm going to guess that once we get all the information and we see what's out there, then our administration and the people inside will look at it and we'll see where we made mistakes and we'll try to make ourselves better and we'll correct it and then we'll move forward. And I would hope that there will be some of it that we look at and say I'm not sure one way or the other based on what's out there."
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, another prominent alumnus of the school, said Tuesday that she found the allegations "disturbing and disappointing" and that she is confident the school's administration will investigate the charges thoroughly.