STILLWATER, Okla. — When defensive safety Fath` Carter reported for work at an Oklahoma State University football booster’s ranch during his playing days, he says he quickly learned about getting paid for doing nothing in violation of NCAA rules.
Carter, who played for OSU from 2000 to 2003, told Sports Illustrated he and fellow players received cash to help shoe horses and “most of us hadn’t even seen a horse before” and didn’t do the work.
The poignant anecdote was one of several cited by the magazine Tuesday in the first of a five-part series detailing alarming improprieties at the OSU program from 2000 to 2011 – a series SI said tells how the Big 12 school rose from the bottom of major college football to the elite during that decade.
Based on interviews with 64 former OSU players and another 40 current and former football staffers, the magazine’s 10-month investigation outlined these NCAA rules violations:
- Allowing cash payments to players from boosters and coaches, with some stars earning as much as $10,000 per year from bonuses for big plays and sham jobs.
- Keeping players academically eligible by having tutors do their course work, and professors giving passing grades for little or no work.
- Ignoring drug use and abuse by top players, including the smoking of marijuana before games and the dealing of drugs.
- Inducing prospective players with the help of a hostess program known as “Orange Pride” that included “a small subset” of the group having sex with the recruits. SI said former OSU head coach Les Miles and current head coach Mike Gundy “took the unusual step of personally interviewing candidates” for the hostess program.
Sports Illustrated said that most of the violations fall outside of the NCAA’s four-year statute of limitations, but Oklahoma State officials said they will rigorously investigate the magazine’s claims of improper conduct. The NCAA has said it will also investigate the accusations of rules violations.
“In a way I guess I should thank you,” SI quoted Mike Holder, OSU athletic director, as saying after being informed of the magazine’s findings. “Because our intent is to take this information and to investigate and do something about it.”
Several players and football staff named in the magazine’s series denied accusations made against them by former players. Prominent among them was Joe DeForest, an associate head coach at OSU during the decade investigated by SI. DeForest left OSU two years ago for a similar position at West Virginia University.
Brad Girtman, a defensive tackle for OSU during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, told SI that DeForest would discuss cash payments with players and that “your stats definitely dictated how much you were getting.”
Chris Wright, a defensive back from 2001 to 2003, said he saw DeForest hand stacks of bills to certain players. “It depends on who the player was, how many yards they ran for, how many catches they made, how many touchdowns they scored, how many tackles,’ Wright told the magazine. He also said he did not take money.
SI quoted DeForest as denying the accusations by Girtman, Wright and other former OSU players.
“I have never paid a player for on-field performance,” DeForest told the magazine. “I have been coaching college football for almost 24 years, and I have built a reputation of being one of the best special teams coordinators and college recruiters in the country based on hard work and integrity.”
Sports Illustrated said a culture of winning at any cost permeated the Oklahoma State football program during the Miles era of 2001-2005, and continued under his successor, Gundy. Miles is now the head coach at Louisiana State University; Gundy, an assistant under Miles, remains in charge of the OSU football program.
The magazine said that paying players, academic dishonesty, tolerating drug abuse and recruiting players with sex plays into the behavior often suspected by cynics of big-time college sports.
But, it added, more troubling was the human cost of the improprieties at Oklahoma State. SI said its investigation developed a portrait of a school exploiting ill-prepared student athletes who had big-time football skills, and then discarding them if those skills didn’t produce a winning result.
“Over the past decade an astonishingly large cohort of OSU players never earned a college degree, lasting only a season or two, their scholarships revoked after they were injured, arrested or simply deemed unable to contribute,” the magazine said.
“Once the perks ended and they were discarded, some former Cowboys turned to drugs and crime, and a few attempted or contemplated suicide. As one former OSU assistant says of the players, ‘The sad part is when (the coaches were) done, they threw them away.’”