Tahlequah Daily Press

Z_CNHI News Service

July 12, 2014

Stillwater resident sues Sports Illustrated, 'Dirty Game' reporters

STILLWATER, Okla. — A Stillwater resident is suing Sports Illustrated and the writers of a series of articles published in September that looked into Oklahoma State University’s rise to football prowess from 2001 to 2014.

The series said Oklahoma State football players received payments from boosters for no-show jobs and cash bonuses for on-field performance, gave football players passing grades and allowed tutors to do their work for them, female hostesses in the Orange Pride football booster program provided sex to recruits, and widespread drug use in the football program.

Sports Illustrated claimed reporters Thayer Evans and George Dohrman conducted a yearlong investigation into the OSU program.

In Payne County District Court Thursday, attorneys for John Talley, longtime area representative for the North Central Oklahoma Central area for the Oklahoma Fellowship of Christian Athletes, filed a civil suit, claiming the magazine, Evans and Dohrman made “specific and malicious allegations” against Talley that they knew were incorrect. The story presented Talley in a false light.

In the Sports Illustrated articles, former OSU player Aso Pogi says Talley allowed him and another player to live at Talley’s ranch one summer rent-free.

“It’s a big deal. I was the starting quarterback,” Pogi is quoted as saying in the SI article.

Pogi, later, denounced the SI article, saying the reporters misinterpreted what he said. “He didn’t ask me if I worked all of it off. I cut grass, I cleaned the pool. I had to buck horses. I had to clean horses. I worked all the time,” Pogi said a few days after the SI series was published.

The lawsuit claims Sports Illustrated and the reporters published the information about housing, intentionally and “fully aware” that Aso Pogi had not made any such “malicious and offensive” statements or remarks about Talley.

The lawsuit claims the SI reporters conducted a single, five-minute interview with Talley, who informed them the allegations against him were untrue and urged them to “recheck their facts and particularly their sources” before going to press.

The lawsuit also claims the SI reporters failed to obtain accessible records from the OSU compliance department that would have confirmed the allegations made by the sources were false.

The SI article quotes other OSU football players as saying Talley paid them $1,500 to $2,000 every two weeks to work on his ranch, paid players a fee for speaking arrangements and paid them for work on his ranch that they never completed.

The lawsuit indicates it will seek to recover monetary damages from SI and the writers, but doesn’t include a specific amount. Gary Richardson, an attorney at the Tulsa law firm of Richardson, Richardson, Boudreaux, PLLC in Tulsa said the attorneys will be seeking more than $75,000. The Tulsa firm is representing Talley.

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