By CHRIS DAY
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State University officials will cooperate with an NCAA investigation that is set to probe details in an upcoming investigative report by Sports Illustrated. The university’s cooperation was confirmed by Vice President of Athletics Mike Holder on Monday.
Sports Illustrated will launch its five-part series at 9 a.m. Tuesday on SI.Com, according to a Sports Illustrated press release. 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.
The 10-month investigation into OSU’s football program includes independent and on-the-record interviews with more than 60 former football players from 2001 to 2010 as well as current and former OSU football staffers, according to the press release.
“We wanted to take a comprehensive look at a big-time program, particularly one that made a rapid ascent,” SI Executive Editor Jon Wertheim said. “There’s obviously a steady drumbeat of scandal in college sports — improper benefits here; a recruiting violation there — and plenty of rumor and hearsay about the unseemy underbelly. For this piece, we were more about venturing inside the factory and seeing how the sausage is made.”
OSU’s transgressions began under former coach Les Miles, and continue under coach Mike Gundy, according to the SI press release.
The five-story series was reported by senior writers George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans. Wertheim, SI Assistant Managing Editor Hank Hersch and SI.com Executive Editor B.J. Schecter supervised the project.
Dohrmann and Schecter informed OSU officials about general issues in the series on Aug. 28 trip to Stillwater.
According to its press release, 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.
OSU officials notified the NCAA, which will assign an investigator to review the facts, Holder said.
“At the end of the day, we will come to some conclusions,” Holder said. “We will deal with those, prop ourselves back up, polish up that OSU brand and move on down the road.”
Oklahoma State will assign a person to work with the NCAA investigator and help uncover the fact, Holder said.
Holder and OSU football coach Mike Gundy shared the spotlight at the coach’s weekly media pregame press conference. The Cowboys are scheduled to play Lamar at 6:30 p.m. Saturday before a record crowd at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Holder said said Monday he didn’t know specific incidents that will be cited in the magazine’s stories.
“I know a little bit. I know enough to be very concerned,” Holder said.
“As the athletic director at Oklahoma State and an alumnus of the university I don’t want to believe it’s true. We pride ourselves on doing things the right way around here,” he said.
Holder said he wants to read the Sports Illustrated articles. He acknowledged it will be a rough read for Cowboy alums and fans.
Once the articles are out, the NCAA and OSU can evaluate them and make changes, Holder said.
Gundy became OSU’s football coach in 2005 after coach Les Miles left for Louisiana State University. Gundy, an OSU alum and former quarterback, served as an assistant coach under Miles.
He has compiled a 69-35 record as Cowboy coach. The Pokes won the Big 12 Championship in 2011 and beat Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. OSU has made seven consecutive bowl appearances.
The Cowboys football coach briefly touched on the magazine articles before previewing Saturday’s home opener.
Gundy said 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.