By Clark Matthews / @clarkmatthews
As an Oklahoma State alum, there was a time when I prayed the national media would give my school some attention. These days? Not so much.
Thanks to a highly publicized five-part expose by Sports Illustrated’s new crack team of investigative reporters, the Oklahoma State Cowboys football program is making plenty of headlines this week and none of them have to do with the thrashings they gave Mississippi State and Texas-San Antonio to open the season.
Instead, SI is changing the season flavored by a potential Big 12 title run into a narrative about shenanigans supposedly going on during the previous decade (did we ever decide what to call that thing? The aughts, maybe?). On Tuesday, the first part dropped with allegations regarding improper benefits. Wednesday gave us academic improprieties. Thursday promises plenty of ganja, and Friday will bring the sex every good scandal needs.
Here’s the thing. I’m an OSU homer, through and through, and I suspect there to be truth to everything Sports Illustrated is bringing to the table. Boosters sneaking money to players? Probably. Players getting grades they didn’t earn? It happened when I was there. Drugs? Please, what players aren’t doing them? And as for sex with co-eds…well, I always envied the ball players. The problem is despite my preconceived notions, SI’s series doesn’t really prove any of it. And in some cases, I question if their reporting doesn’t hint at the opposite.
Sports Illustrated has boasted about spending ten months investigating the Cowboys. They bragged about acquiring more than 100 sources, 64 of them former players (ALL ON THE RECORD!). Despite all that time and cooperation, they have a shocking lack of any real evidence throughout the series thus far.
That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of dirt being slung. Sprinkled liberally with quotes from former players, the bylined team of George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans tosses out a plethora of allegations in part 1 about players being paid for performance. According to some of the quoted players, the really good players were getting upwards of $25K per season. Did the quoted players have any proof? Sure. They heard about it, and in one case, former defensive tackle Brad Girtman witnessed former defensive back Darrent Williams getting a fat envelope full of bills. As for the corroboration of the single case of eyeball verification, well, that would have been difficult for the SI team; Williams died in 2007.
Speaking of the dead, Dohrmann and Evans found plenty of impropriety when it came to people who couldn’t be reached for interview by any method other than seance. Vernon Grant, who died in a traffic accident before the 2005 season, was one of six named recipients of performance bonuses. A deceased campus museum worker was one of two named boosters who supposedly supplied players with odd jobs at her rental homes that paid exorbitantly for the work performed. (Her heir, who was not questioned by SI, claims his mother did not own rental homes.)
The other booster named was John Talley, the director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Stillwater. We all know that FCA is rolling in dough, so he was flush with cash to give players. ( edit. – Since most of you have never read me before, please note that was sarcasm.) That said, the player who reportedly claimed a Summer of free rent from his spiritual advisor, former starting quarterback Aso Pogi, immediately refuted that characterization, and explained how Thayer Evans ambushed him outside of a bible study and took no notes or gave any indication their conversation was recorded.