Oklahoma State: SI Publishes First Part of Investigation, Point Still Unclear


SI released the first part of its much hyped series exposing the alleged cesspool that is the Oklahoma State University football program. This was about the money. They’ll leave us waiting with bated breath for the sex. According to the magazine…

* Oklahoma State players were paid, at least between 2001 and 2011 under Les Miles and Mike Gundy. They were paid by both boosters and coaches. They were paid through a bonus system, direct payments independent of performance and fake jobs.

* Between 15-20 players per year were paid. Payments ranged from $2,000 to $10,000 per year and “allegedly” up to $25,000 per year for star players.

* Joe DeForest, an assistant at OSU from 2001 to 2011 and current West Virginia defensive coordinator, ran a bonus system and paid players for bogus yard work jobs. Larry Porter, a current Texas assistant and former Les Miles assistant at OSU and LSU, made “straight payments to players.”

Les Miles “took a more hospitable approach” to granting boosters access to players and told a player “I can lead you to where you can get some help” before he was introduced to a booster.

One could question the sources of the specific allegations. Just from cursory google searches… Calvin Mickens was dismissed from the program for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Thomas Wright was kicked off the team in 2005. Brad Girtman was kicked off the team in 2005. Seymore Shaw transferred after being suspended for being charged with felony counts of burglary and larceny and misdemeanor counts of domestic abuse and malicious injury to property.

None of that context, which is relevant, is mentioned. That said, named sources, even if flawed, are better than anonymous ones.

If we accept the testimony provided, SI provides no context for comparison, even from SI’s past reporting into other programs. Is this a “look at how naughty Oklahoma State is” piece or a “this is a case study for what is par for the course in major college football” piece? That’s not clear. Maybe we have to stay tuned for parts 2-5?

The NCAA itself acknowledges the current scholarship model is inadequate to cover cost of attendance. The organization tried to pass an additional $2,000 per year stipend for student-athletes. That figure does not cover the actual cost of attendance. It is a compromise number the NCAA thought it could get approved.

Payment figures mentioned roughly approximate how much players would be paid earning minimum wage for countable hours spent on football (a laughable underestimation) over the course of the year. SI acknowledges most players were using the money for “everyday items” not “extravagances.” The piece closes with a quotation describing players as “almost starving.”

So, why is this story about athletes at a specific school accepting handouts (they clearly need) in violation of NCAA amateurism rules instead of the broader problem here of NCAA amateur rules?

This “corruption” at Oklahoma State seems to be a natural outgrowth of the system. Players are worth an inordinate amount of money to a football program, surrounded by an inordinate amount of money. Schools cannot pay them money many of them need. Boosters seem to be, for the most part, closing a gap. The true “scandal” here is the NCAA outsourcing what should be its own obligations for schools to fink out on taxes, revenue sharing and adequate workers’ compensation.

[Photo via USA Today Sports]