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OSU Allegations Preempted by T. Boone Pickens, School Brass

Image: OSU Allegations Preempted by T. Boone Pickens, School Brass

Wednesday, 11 Sep 2013 10:59 AM

By Michael Mullins

Oklahoma State University's football program allegedly engaged in academic fraud, payments to players, lax drug policy enforcement, and provided campus 'hostesses' to recruits for sex, according to a partially released Sport Illustrated investigation published Tuesday.

The OSU Allegations triggered an immediate reaction and in some cases preemptive response from the likes of Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder, Cowboys football coach Mike Gundy, and even billionaire oil man T. Boone Pickens, an OSU alum who over the years has donated $500 million to the school.

The article resulted from a 10 month investigation in which Sport Illustrated interviewed 64 OSU football players, who played between 1999 to 2011, as well as current and former football staffers, the publication notes.

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The alleged improprieties, which if true violate NCAA rules, reportedly occurred between 2001 and 2011.

OSU athletic director Mike Holder preempted the Sports Illustrated article during a news conference on Monday, in which he apologized to his fellow athletic directors around the Big 12 Conference.

"I apologize to all the athletic directors in the conference for what's about to happen, for what's about to be said about a member institution," Holder said without taking questions.

"You're not going to like what you hear, it's going to be a rough few days, but our hope is you may not be proud of what has been said, but we hope to make you proud about the way we dealt with it," Holder added.

In the five-part story, Sports Illustrated cites numerous instances in which players received illegal cash payouts for their performances on the field as well as "sham jobs" through the program when off the field.

At the time, current Louisiana State head coach Les Miles was head coach at OSU until 2004, when former Cowboys' quarterback Mike Gundy took the reins in 2005.

On Tuesday, during his weekly news conference, Gundy weighed into the controversy, notes USA Today.

"I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished here, both on and off the field," Gundy said. "Our goal has always been to take young people from where their parents have gotten them and to make them better over a four or five year period. We’re very proud of that in many ways. So, until further time — and obviously the university will make that decision — there’s not any comment that we would have on the Sports Illustrated article."

In addition to the alleged cash payouts and "sham jobs," Sport Illustrated reported that Cowboy players, "Participated in some form of academic misconduct. . . Were not only using drugs, but also dealing them. . . [And encouraged] a small number of women in the [program's hostess group to have] sex with recruits," as a recruitment tool.

On Monday, major OSU benefactor T. Boone Pickens weighed into the controversy via a taped video statement, CBS News reported.

"There's one word I have for the Sports Illustrated reporting on Oklahoma State University: Disappointing," Pickens said. "This series is not reflective of Oklahoma State University today. Many of their sensational allegations go back a decade ago."

"There have been wholesale changes at the school in recent years in leadership and facilities," Pickens continued. "During that time, I have given more than $500 million to OSU, for athletics and academics. Have I gotten my money's worth? You bet. We have a football program that has a commitment to principled sportsmanship. They understand the expectations we, as fans and supporters, have for the program. We have an incredible and growing fan base, and a loyal group of alums that believe in the character of our players, coaches and administrators."

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"But I do welcome this scrutiny," Pickens added. "If people take the time, it's an opportunity to better understand where Oklahoma State is today, not a decade ago. It's a different university today. It's a better university. If there are areas where we need to improve, we'll do it."

Related stories:

College Football Set to Overtake Baseball as Nation's No. 2 Sport

12 High School, College Football Players Die Each Year: Study

Commercialization Rampant in College Football

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