OSU uber-booster T. Boone Pickens, who was not implicated, said he was “disappointed” in the magazine’s reporting, which details allegations of players and recruits receiving improper payments, academic misconduct, drug abuse and inappropriate sexual conduct between football recruits and members of OSU’s hostess program, Orange Pride.
“Many of the sensational allegations go back a decade. There have been wholesale changes in recent years, in leadership and facilities,” Pickens said in a statement posted on www.response.okstate.edu, a website built by OSU. “We have a football program that is committed to ethical sportsmanship.”
Written by SI senior writers George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans, The Dirty Game is the culmination of a 10-month investigation into the OSU football program that included interviews with more than 60 former OSU football players who played from 1999 to 2011, as well as current and former OSU football staffers, according to SI.
To this point, SI is sticking to its story. People within the bubble of OSU athletics don’t want the story to be true, Dohrmann said in a video clip posted on SI.com last week.
“We always feel like if you’re attacking the messenger on a story, that’s a positive, because it means the facts are solid,” Dohrmann said.
B.J. Schecter, SI.com executive editor, said 98 percent of the interviews with players and former assistant coaches were on-the-record and taped.
OSU athletics officials declined comment to Oklahoma Gazette by deadline. After the allegations surfaced, however, others began to refute SI’s story. One of SI’s major sources, former OSU running back Seymore Shaw, recanted his comments in a statement given to Tulsa’s FOX23.
“I agreed to talk with Thayer Evans with the presumption that we would be talking about something completely different. I became uncomfortable with where the conversation was going and later retracted all statements,” Shaw said. “At no point in time was I paid or looking to ‘out’ OSU, players, coaches, or anyone associated with the school. I can’t say a lot at this time, but please know there are untruths being written and the truth will eventually come out.”
Former OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden, now with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, thrashed Evans during an interview posted on the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s website, Cleveland.com. He said Evans “is an OU (University of Oklahoma) guy” and is just trying to hurt OSU’s image.
Weeden said he never accepted money or “anything like that,” and he never saw any wrongdoing in five years on campus.
After days of silence, Evans finally responded to the backlash. In a video clip posted Friday on SI.com, Evans said his parents attended OSU and questions about his professional background are just “urban myths perpetuated by the Internet.”
“I have no ax to grind with Oklahoma State. I really don’t. I’m just doing my job here of exposing the things that have gone on at Oklahoma State during the last 12 years,” Evans said.
OSU Associate Athletics Director for Academic Affairs, Marilyn Middlebrook, said she was “shocked” at SI’s assertions of academic misconduct.
The building in which student-athletes gather to study, the Joe and Connie Mitchell Academic Enhancement Center, has a full-time staff member in every room, Middlebrook said in a video clip posted last week on www.response.okstate.edu.
“They are constantly watched. They’re individually supervised. I don’t think we could set up a better unit than what we have to watch for anything that could go wrong,” she said.
Other media outlets also questioned SI’s story. In a story reported by Brett McMurphy on ESPN.com, the statements of former OSU players Fath’ Carter and Dexter Pratt, two more SI sources, were scrutinized.
Claims by Carter that he graduated from OSU with two degrees and attended classes in 2004 with running back Tatum Bell in which the professor gave them failing grades because their eligibility had expired were not supported by university documents, McMurphy wrote.
Pratt told SI he only took online courses during his first semester in 2009, but university records show Pratt took three online courses and two on-campus classes, McMurphy wrote. Former OSU head coach Les Miles, now at Louisiana State University, denied his part during last week’s Southeastern Conference football teleconference, and former OSU assistant coach Joe DeForest, accused of setting up a pay-forplay system and paying players for work not performed, is now under investigation at his new job at West Virginia University.
For its part, OSU will engage an independent investigator and the NCAA to look into every SI allegation, OSU President Burns Hargis said in a statement posted Friday on www.response.okstate.edu.
“Whether the reporting here was fair and credible is not the issue. The issue is the substance of the accusations. And it’s my responsibility as OSU president to ensure that the review is fair, comprehensive and complete,” Hargis said.