At least eight former Oklahoma State football players say they received cash payments from people associated with the Cowboys program starting in the Les Miles era and identified another 29 players as having also taken money, Sports Illustrated revealed Tuesday in the first of a five-part investigative series on the football program.
Some players received $2,000 annually and others around $10,000, multiple players told SI, with a few stars allegedly received $25,000 or more.
Among the players SI identified as having taken money, included former quarterback Josh Fields, running back Tatum Bell and cornerback Darrent Williams, who was shot to death in 2007 while a member of the Denver Broncos. Fields, Bell and others denied getting illicit payments, but multiple players were on the record as saying they received money and saw other players getting payments.
SI also claimed that former quarterback Bobby Reid was given money. During a notable September 2007 press conference, Gundy staunchly defended Reid after an Oklahoman columnist questioned Reid's maturity. But four former Cowboys told SI that after Reid lost his starting job, he stopped receiving bonus money. Reid too denied receiving money while a player.
Subsequent chapters of the investigative piece allege that there was also widespread academic misconduct involving the football program, that the program tolerated recreational drug use and that members of a hostess program had sex with recruits.
The first part of the series concentrated on financial irregularities in the football program. SI reported that payments to players, which stretched from 2001 to at least '11 under head coaches Miles and Mike Gundy, were primarily delivered three ways: a de facto bonus system based on performances on the field; direct payments to players from boosters and coaches independent of performance; and no-show and sham jobs -- including work related to the renovation of Boone Pickens Stadium -- that involved at least one assistant coach and several boosters.
Miles, now the coach at LSU, was instrumental in creating a "hospitable" environment for boosters, according to Sports Illustrated.
Several players claimed that former Oklahoma State special teams and secondary coach Joe DeForest played an integral role in the bonus payment system and would determine how much players would get.
"It was just like in life when you work," said Thomas Wright, a defensive back from 2002-04. "The better the job you do, the more money you make."
Defensive back Calvin Mickens said he received $200 after forcing a fumble and breaking up a pass in his very first game.
"I was like, Wow, this is the life!" Mickens said, according to Sports Illustrated. "I'm 18, playing football, and I just got $200."
DeForest, now the associate head coach and special teams coordinator at West Virginia, said he never paid a player for on-field performance.
T. Boone Pickens, the school's most prominent booster, was not implicated in any improprieties by SI's sources.
The SI report claims that the timing of the violations coincided with Miles' arrival at Oklahoma State in 2000. The Cowboys had gone 3-8 the year before Miles became coach, but afterward the football budget was increased. Assistants were paid more, players ate better, facilities were upgraded, but, according to players SI interviewed, the culture change around the football program also included NCAA violations.
"It's very disconcerting to hear about all these things that are alleged to have happened," athletic director Mike Holder said last week when SI presented him with its findings. "But there's nothing more important to us than playing by the rules, being ethical, having integrity. To hear we have some shortcomings or could have ... in a way I guess I should thank you. Because our intent is to take this information and to investigate and do something about it."
Gundy, trying to focus on preparing the No. 13 Cowboys for their home opener on Saturday against Lamar, said he was confident the proper steps would be taken by the university.
"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. And I would hope that there will be some of it that we'll say, 'I'm not sure, it could go one way or the other.' That's really the best way I can put it. But I think the university is looking forward to seeing the information and seeing how we can make ourselves better from it."
West Virginia released a statement Saturday that did not mention DeForest and said it had "launched an internal review to ensure the coach's full compliance to NCAA rules while at West Virginia," while also contacting the NCAA.
"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.
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.
Sports Illustrated reported that many of the violations happened outside the four-year statute of limitations for prosecution; however, the NCAA could still penalize the school if a "pattern of willful violations" occurred before the four-year statute but continued into the last four years and/or allegations include a "blatant disregard" for the most serious of NCAA rules, including extra benefits or academic misconduct.
Information from ESPN.com's Joe Schad and The Associated Press was used in this report.
Edited by adfalcon, 10 September 2013 - 08:37 AM.