STILLWATER, Okla. — A year-long Sports Illustrated investigation into Oklahoma State University’s football program has reportedly uncovered evidence of payments to players, academic fraud, sex for recruits and other improprieties.
Sports Illustrated told university officials 10 days ago that the report will be published soon, and deals mainly with inappropriate activities from 2001 to 2007.
The university, in turn, said it notified the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Big 12 Conference about the impending magazine article and what it is expected to say.
“We take the allegations seriously,” said Mike Holder, OSU’s vice president of athletics. “Whether they have merit or not, we don’t know. But we will find out.”
OSU President Burns Hargis said the university would “investigate the accuracy of the allegations and take all appropriate action.” He added that the school requires all student athletes “to follow the rules and adhere to the highest ethical standards.”
Because most of the reported improper activities date back several years, there’s a question over whether they would result in punishment to the current football program. The NCAA, governing body of college sports, generally does not pursue rules violations that are more than four years old.
The Daily Oklahoman, the state’s largest news organization, reported the Sports Illustrated investigation turned up:
n Payments to football players from boosters for no-show job and cash bonuses from coaches for performance on the field.
n Players getting their grades changed to stay academically eligible and tutors doing class assignments for players.
n Female hostesses in the “Orange Pride” football booster program providing sex to recruits.
n Widespread drug abuse as well as an uneven drug policy.
Les Miles, now at Louisiana State University (LSU), was head coach of the Oklahoma State football team from 2001 through 2004. Mike Gundy has been the OSU head coach since then.
Gundy had no immediate comment, but Miles told reporters Saturday after his LSU team defeated the University of Alabama-Birmingham that he had been contacted by Sports Illustrated.
“I don’t know of any improprieties while I was coaching there,” said Miles. “I can tell you this: We have always done things right. We worked hard. It has never been a place where you needed to cheat to have success.”
The Oklahoman identified former OSU assistant coach Joe DeForest, as someone who provided cash bonuses to players who made big plays or performed exceptionally in a game.
DeForest, now an assistant coach at West Virginia University, did not comment on the report, but West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck issued a statement saying the university has begun “an internal review to ensure the coach’s full compliance to NCAA rules while at West Virginia.”
Luck said DeForest has denied he made bonus payments to Oklahoma State players while coaching there from 2001 to 2011.
Oklahoma State's football program has prospered since 2001, with 75 wins and 50 losses. It has played in eight post-season bowl games during that time. The school is a member of the Big 12 conference.