Boosters and assistant coaches at Oklahoma State handed out tens of thousands of dollars to players for at least a decade as the football program grew into a national power under coaches Les Miles and then Mike Gundy, according to a Sports Illustrated article released Tuesday.
The article, which quoted several former players by name, said some players received $2,000 to $10,000 annually, with a few stars receiving $25,000 or more. Eight players told SI they received cash, while 29 others were named by teammates as taking money. The transgressions cited stretched from 2001 until at least 2011, the magazine said.
Oklahoma State said it has notified the NCAA about the report and launched its own investigation.
Sports Illustrated said its five-part series included interviews with more than 60 former players who played for Oklahoma State from 2001-10. Among the allegations of misconduct and potential NCAA violations are:
Never miss a local story.
• An Oklahoma State assistant coach, Joe DeForest, paid cash bonuses to players of up to $500 for performance.
• Boosters and assistant coaches funneled money to players and provided sham jobs for which players were paid.
• Tutors and school personnel completed school work for players and professors gave passing grades for little or no work.
• The program’s drug policy was selectively enforced, allowing some players to go unpunished for repeated positive tests.
• Some members of a hostess program used by the football coaching staff had sex with recruits.
NCAA rules bar boosters from providing cash or other benefits based on athletic performance. NCAA spokeswoman Emily Potter declined comment when asked about Oklahoma State, citing the organization’s longstanding policy.
SI reported that eight former Cowboys told the magazine they had received cash payments and 29 others were named by teammates as having also taken money.
Former player Calvin Mickens said he was handed cash in the locker room by a stranger after Oklahoma State’s 2005 season-opening victory, a game in which he played well.
“I was like, Wow, this is the life!” Mickens told SI. “I’m 18, playing football and I just got $200.”
He said he got money at other times, including $800 later that season after the game at Texas A&M, and saw teammates getting similar handouts. Former defensive tackle Brad Girtman said he saw some star players get “monster payments,” while he once received $500 from a member of the football staff.
Girtman said the rates were told to him by Joe DeForest, who ran special teams and the secondary under Miles and then was an associate head coach under Gundy, the current head coach, from 2005-11.
Girtman also said he recalled DeForest handing him a debit card in 2003 with $5,000 on it and that it was periodically refilled. DeForest and assistant Larry Porter, the running backs coach from 2002-04, also made payments directly to players, SI reported.
DeForest is now an assistant at West Virginia, which has launched an internal review.
“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,” athletic director Oliver Luck said.
Texas men’s athletics director DeLoss Dodds said Porter was questioned and “we do not have any issues with him at this time.”
Miles has said he didn’t know of any improprieties while he was the Oklahoma State coach.
“I can tell you this: We have always done things right,” he said after LSU’s game Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.
Energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens, the biggest booster of his alma mater, said he was disappointed the expose focused on Oklahoma State “a decade ago.”
“There have been wholesale changes at the school in recent years in leadership and facilities,” he said. “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.”
Several former players under Miles told SI that boosters were highly visible – in the locker room, on team flights and bus trips. After the Cowboys knocked off archrival Oklahoma in 2001, boosters approached key players and slipped cash into their hands, said former player Fath' Carter.
“We are talking about $500 handshakes,” he told SI, which also detailed several examples of alleged sham jobs in which players were paid hundreds of dollars for little or no work by boosters.
William Bell, a defensive end in 2004, said he and a teammate were directed by a member of the coaching staff to a booster’s home to do a job. When they arrived, they were told their “job” for “a couple hundred dollars” was to fish for catfish at a nearby pond.
“And we got to keep all the fish we caught,” Bell told SI.
Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday that the allegations against her alma mater were “disturbing and disappointing” and that she is confident the school’s administration will investigate the charges thoroughly.
Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said the school has notified the NCAA “and they’re going to assign an investigator.”
“We'll reach out and get someone to stand with that investigator and go through the facts and at the end of the day, we'll come to some conclusions and we'll deal with those, prop ourselves back up, polish off that OSU brand and move on down the road,” he said.
Gundy, who is preparing the No. 13 Cowboys for their home opener on Saturday against Lamar, said he was confident the proper steps would be taken. The team said Tuesday no players will be made available to comment until after the game.
“I’m going to guess that once we get all the information and we see what’s out there, then our administration, our people inside, will look at it and we'll see where we made mistakes,” Gundy said. “And we'll try to make ourselves better and we'll correct it and then we'll move forward.”