By CHRIS DAY, CNHI News Service
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A year-long Sports Illustrated investigation into Oklahoma State University’s football program has reportedly uncovered evidence of payments to players, allegedly involving a former OSU assistant coach who is now coaches at West Virginia University.
The Daily Oklahoman newspaper identified Joe DeForest as someone who Sports Illustrated said provided cash bonuses to players who made big plays or performed exceptionally in a game, as recently as 2011.
DeForest, now an assistant coach in charge of special teams at West Virginia University after serving last year as the Mountaineers’ defensive coordinator. He was an assistant at Oklahoma State from 2001 to 2011.
DeForest 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.”
“The NCAA has also been contacted,” Luck’s statement read. “While our assistant football coach has denied the allegations, it is the right thing to do to look into the matter and review practices here.”
“Beyond this statement, WVU will have no further comment while the review is taking place.”
The Sports Illustrated report also reportedly found academic fraud, sex for recruits and other improprieties at Oklahoma State.
Sports Illustrated reporter George Dohrmann and Executive Editor B.J. Schec-ter informed university officials on Aug. 28 about the investigation into the football program. They said it deals mainly with inappropriate activities from 2001 to 2007.
The university, in turn, said it notified the National Collegi-ate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Big 12 Conference about the pending 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.”
Sports Illustrated will launch its five-part series at 8 a.m. Tuesday on SI.Com, according to a press release from SI. The first story also is the magazine’s cover story. It will be on newstands and tablets Wednesday.
The series continues Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at SI.com. It will wrapup on Tuesday online and Sept. 23 in the magazine.
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.
According to The Daily Oklahoman, SI’s series looks at:
• Money: OSU boosters and at least two assistant coaches funneling money to players via direct payments and a system of no-show and sham jobs. An assistant coach paying players for on-field performance. Some players made $500 a game.
• Academics: Widespread academic misconduct, including tutors and OSU personnel completing coursework for players and professors giving passing grades for little or no work.
• Drugs: OSU tolerated and at times enabled recreational drug use through a counseling program that allowed some players to continue to use drugs while avoiding penalties.
• Sex: OSU’s hostess program, Orange Pride, tripled in size under Miles. Multiple former playrs and Orange Pride members say a small subset of the group had sex with recruits, a violation of NCAA rules.
• The Fallout: Many players who were no longer useful to the program were cast aside. Some have been jailed; others live on the streets. Many have battled drug abuse and a few have attempted suicide.
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.
Miles told reporters Saturday after LSU 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.”
Oklahoma State's football program has prospered since 2001, with 75 wins and 50 losses.
Gundy said on Monday the football program is focused on complying with NCAA rules and regulations.
“I am very proud of what we have accomplished here both on and off the field. Our goal has always been to take young people from where their families and parents have gotten them and to make them better over a four- or five-year period. We are very proud of that in many ways,” Gundy said.
Chris Day is associate editor of the Stillwater (Okla.) NewsPress. Distributed by CNHI.