They all cheat in some way, of course. Only those who are loose, dumb and reckless get caught. When $7.3 billion is being pumped into the mechanism beginning next year — all so programs from five megaconferences and Notre Dame (btw, why is Notre Dame still special?) can compete for four berths in ESPN’s new playoff system — why wouldn’t there be complete lawlessness and anarchy? Hell, the official network of college football can launch a half-hour daily show. Call it “Pardon the Corruption.” What concerns me about the Oklahoma State scandal isn’t so much what happened in the tumbleweed winds of Stillwater between 2001 and 2011 — though the allegations are scummy enough that I took three showers after reading the details. No, it’s how this will be an impropriety blueprint for years ahead, when the 64 power programs are governing themselves, running roughshod over the rules and turning the sport into a bigger Wild Wild West sham. Scandals have been as much a part of college football as marching bands and tallgating, and the five-part Sports Illustrated expose only reminds us of this: The sins of previous decades will continue more egregiously in the future, when the ESPN boardroom is running the kingdom and prioritizing clever student signs on “College GameDay” over law and order. So don’t even blink when you read Part 1 of the SI series, which reports how players were paid upwards of $25,000 under the table via an elaborate process involving boosters and a bag-man assistant coach. Or Part 2, which reveals an academic fraud show starring professors and tutors. Or Part 3, which exposes a drug culture that ignored positive tests and allowed players to get high at their leisure. Or Part 4, which looks into the school’s hostess program and how some coeds had sex with recruits. Or Part 5, which details how many players purged by the program end up homeless, in prison and/or suicidal and receive no help from the school. All of which happened on the watches of two coaches:
- Les Miles, who has gone on to superstardom at LSU.
- Mike Gundy, who embarrassed himself in 2007 with his infamous rant at a female columnist — “Come after me! I’m a man! I’m 40!” — and since has lifted the Cowboys into status as a top 10 program.
If even half of these allegations are true, Gundy should be fired immediately and Miles should be seriously reprimanded by his current employer, if not fired himself. Of course, that’s now how it works in a multi-billion-dollar industry. Oklahoma State is putting on an aw-shucks face, hoping the stench blows away. Gundy cracked a joke, then said, “I’ll be real honest with you. I know the part that may have involved me. I’m not sure we know it all yet. But we’ve had tremendous support from administration, from the people behind the scenes who have looked at this and researched it. … I’m going to guess that once we get all the information and we see what’s out there, then our administration and the people inside will look at it and we’ll see where we made mistakes and we’ll try to make ourselves better and we’ll correct it and then we’ll move forward. And I would hope that there will be some of it that we look at and say I’m not sure one way or the other based on what’s out there.” Huh? Then there was athletic boss Mike Holder, who said, “I don’t think that it’s really appropriate for me to answer any questions. I’m not really afraid of them. I just wouldn’t have any answers. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to read these stories, however many days that it takes, catch my breath and then we’ll start working through the process. Everybody out there, time to Cowboy Up, and let’s ride for the brand.” Cowboy Up? Let’s ride for the brand? Oklahoma State football — and its athletic department in sum — is largely the creation of oil magnate and financier T. Boone Pickens. His name is on the stadium. He has funneled more than a half-billion dollars into the university. His money has helped a football program transform from sub-mediocre to big-time. Oddly, though not attached directly to the scandal by SI, he doesn’t seem to be denying anything. Rather, he criticizes SI for focusing on the past and not the present at Oklahoma State. I think T. Boone can afford a calendar. The year 2011 wasn’t long ago. “There’s one word I have for the Sports Illustrated reporting on Oklahoma State University: Disappointing,” T. Boone wrote in a statement, obtained by USA Today. “This series is not reflective of Oklahoma State University today. Many of (its) sensational allegations go back a decade ago. There have been wholesale changes at the school in recent years in leadership and facilities. 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. “But I do welcome this scrutiny. 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. “Which leads me back to my disappointment with Sports Illustrated, and (its) failure to ask the most important question of all: What’s happening at OSU today?” In all likelihood, the same things going on the previous 12 years: rampant cheating. Oklahoma State is just the loose, dumb and reckless program that happened to get caught. With the NCAA apparently ducking away as a serious enforcement arm — see: Johnny Manziel and autographs for pay — and ESPN no longer interested in investigating its good-old-boy business partners in college football, the NFL and the rest of sports, I applaud Sports Illustrated for uncovering some dirt. That’s one program down, 63 more to investigate.