Thursday, September 12, 2013

Your Handy-Dandy Guide to the Sports Illustrated-Oklahoma State Scandal

What's the big deal?
In a five part investigation, Sports Illustrated has allegedly uncovered evidence of massive institutional corruption at Oklahoma State University's football program. Money, sex, academic fraud, you name it - it's all apparently in there, and the allegations extend from the turn of the century up through 2011.

So what's the big deal?
Well, it depicts a program where academics were laughable, players got handed envelopes of cash in the locker room, and more. And all of this is coming from eyewitness reports from former players.

But that was all a long time ago, right?
It started under then-OSU coach Les Miles, now with LSU, and continued under current coach Mike "I'm A Man" Gundy, with certain specific assistant coaches heavily implicated. Also, the last charge was from 2011. Which isn't really that long ago, was definitely during the Gundy regime, and is within the NCAA's statute of limitations for arrant knavery.

Why hasn't the NCAA done anything, then?
It's not quite that simple. For one thing, lots of people, including former OSU players, are denying the reports. Of course, one could point out that it's in their best interest to deny said reports, as the NFL occasionally suspends people to make the NCAA happy. For another, at least one of the former players interviewed for the piece is now claiming he was misquoted.

Is there anything else to it?
Oh, lots. ESPN contributor and self-aggrandizer extraordinaire Jason "Big Sexy" Whitlock publicly trashed one of the authors of the piece in a bit of passive-aggressive performance art that was dumped-two-days-before-prom-worthy in its wackiness. (The author he picked on, Thayer Evans, seems to have an interesting track record. The other, George Dohrmann, has won a Pulitzer.) Evans, Whitlock claims, has a pronounced pro-Oklahoma bias. Dohrmann, on the other hand, cracked the Minnesota basketball team academic scandal, so who he's rooting for is anyone's guess.

Which means?
Which means it's shoot-the-messenger time, for those who feel that someone must be shot. So the knives are out for Evans, and by extension for the report. Most of those knives are held by either OSU partisans or media types who don't like some combination of SI, Evans, Dohrmann, or some combination thereof.

So you're saying it's not all made up?
That's where things get interesting. On the one hand, Evans does not have a spotless reputation for accurate reporting. On the other, some of the hate for him comes from his supposed hatred for OSU and his Heisman ballot, wherein he failed to recognize sufficiently that Johnny Manziel is in fact, alien space Jesus come to Texas A&M to offer salvation in the form of the read-option. Back on the first hand, one of the players cited in the article, former OSU QB Aso Pogi (now a youth pastor, for extra credibility), says that he was misquoted/fed leading questions and that he never saw a recorder or notes when Evans interviewed him. Back to the other hand, SI says the interview was recorded on Evans' cell phone, and yes, I believe there is an app for that. But on the first hand, the initial story ends with a tearjerking note that the players were spending their illegal money on food, while more than one commenter has pointed out that college football players get fed very nicely indeed on the school's nickel. And of course, OSU coach Gundy does have legendary fruitbat tendencies, and Dohrmann seems an unlikely candidate to make this stuff up, and considering the fact that OSU would likely sue S.I. into bankruptcy if the story were fabricated, it seems highly likely S.I.'s editors fact-checked the living hell out of this thing before it got anywhere near print, and, well. It's a mess.

What happens now?
Probably nothing. OSU fans have already decided they're being persecuted and nothing short of a trip in the TARDIS to watch the special teams coach hand envelopes of cash to players will convince them. (OK, that probably won't do the job, either.)  The usual suspects, like billionaire greenmailer T. Boone Pickens (who has donated half a billion dollars to his alma mater, a large portion of which went to the football program) will bluster about the whole thing. (Pickens, for his part, said that the story was not representative of who OSU is now, conveniently overlooking that it's highly unlikely most of the major players have changed that much since 2011.) Talking heads will be deeply saddened and indignant, at least until A-Rod does something else stupid. And OSU will go on playing football, while other schools that cheat - and they're out there - will refine their methods to make sure they don't end up in Sports Illustrated, too.
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