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Sports Illustrated writer George Dohrmann defends his investigative report of Oklahoma State

by Anthony Slater Modified: September 10, 2013 at 8:00 pm •  Published: September 10, 2013
Sports Illustrated senior writer George Dohrmann, who wrote every word of the partially released investigative piece into the Oklahoma State football program, joined Doug Gottlieb’s radio show this afternoon to answer questions regarding some of the immediate backlash.

It was an interesting interview by Gottlieb, who asked some pressing and necessary questions. And Dohrmann, who won a pulitzer prize for his investigative book about AAU basketball titled “Play Their Hearts Out”, stood firm in his reporting/writing. Here’s the transcript:

DG: What percentage of the work did Thayer Evans do in the report?

Dohrmann: Substantial. Absolutely. And what I did was substantial. I wrote the story, every word of the story was written by myself, but Thayer certainly did a substantial amount of the reporting. He’s located in Texas, where a lot of these players we were tracking down were, so that was certainly beneficial to us. We both talked to untold numbers of people, players. But yeah, substantial. I wrote it, but Thayer was a big part of it.

DG: How credible do you think the sources are?

Dohrmann: Very credible, or we wouldn’t write these things. These are players who spoke to us on the record, who we found. They didn’t come to us, they didn’t come and say, ‘Oh, I got a story to tell.’ We had to track them down and go to them and then hear their stories. This wasn’t something where, I think there’s a perception that, a lot of people who talk about their school is bitter because they got kicked off the team or they didn’t start. But you played the game, a lot of guys aren’t bitter at all, sometimes they are just years removed from this experience and you go and see them and they have time on their hands and you show them attention and you’re curious about their experience and they share it with you. Sometimes it’s not a guy sitting their spewing venom about a school he once attended.

DG: Were any of the players compensated for their interviews?

Dohrmann: Oh God no. No. Sports Illustrated doesn’t do that. ESPN doesn’t do that. CBS doesn’t do that.

DG: Seymore Shaw, the running back, said he got $500 when he committed to Oklahoma State out of high school. He actually went to OU and they didn’t have a partial scholarship. Is that a misrepresentation, an oversight, I’m just trying to figure out how that came to be?

Dohrmann: Well, he went to OU, he didn’t qualify and then he had to choose another school. And so, when he chose Oklahoma State, he received this money.

DG: Fath’ Carter said he would get $100 handshakes on ‘The Walk’ from the student union to the stadium before games. That feels really brazen. Sounds hard to believe. 

Dohrmann: You know, I understand. Fath’ is a somebody who played four years at Oklahoma State, has two degrees from Oklahoma State, spoke on the record, recorded. I have no reason to believe he lied about that. And he’s certainly not disgruntled. He still talks to people at Oklahoma State.

DG: Aso Pogi told (Sports Talk Network’s The Rush): “That was nothing I said. It was misrepresented, misquoted. It was taken completely out of context.” For Aso to come out now, and the other guys who have said they’ve been misquoted, how would you respond?

Dohrmann: All those people who say they’ve been misquoted, their conversations were recorded. I’ve heard them, editors here have heard them, lawyers here have heard them. We are absolutely comfortable that they were quoted accurately.

DG: What type of punishment (NCAA-wise) do you think Oklahoma State will face from this investigation?

Dohrmann: I think it’s pretty hard to do that. I think a lot of that is based on what the school is able to prove, what the NCAA is able to prove. I really don’t ever consider that when I’m writing these articles, you know, ‘Oh my goodness, what will the NCAA (do)?’ Will the NCAA interview all of the players we did? They won’t. Will the players talk to the NCAA? A lot of them won’t want to. Now that’s a great question that I don’t think anyone can answer. It’d be totally guessing at a really early point. It really just depends on how aggressive the school is in trying to track these players down and really getting at the truth. And then the NCAA, their undermanned enforcement staff, are they really going to have the resources. It took us 10 months. Are they really going to have the resources to go after this like that? I don’t know. It’s really hard to say.

DG: What can we expect from the other four articles?

Dohrmann: Tomorrow you’re gonna learn that there was widespread academic misconduct at the school. Players had work done for them, professors handing them grades that they didn’t deserve, some questionable counseling, things like that. Then you’re going find out that there was a real drug problem on the team. In that and of itself is not really different from college life, but what’s really intriguing to me is how the school responded to that drug use. There was some really questionable things that they did, in terms of the counselor that they employed that will raise into question how serious the school is about drug use and treating drug use. And on Friday, you’ll learn in general how the school treats women, the mistreatment of women and how it ran its hostess program.

DG: What is your take on the response you have seen from Oklahoma State?

Dohrmann: When we met with Mike Holder and a bunch of the staff there, their general counsel and compliance folks. The narrative they put there after hearing our allegations, was this sounds like a Les Miles story. And they sort of came up with this idea that this stuff only stretched until 2007 and I don’t know where they came up with that. I think that they’re not wrong in that this culture that we say exists at Oklahoma State started with Les Miles. So if they’re looking for the time frame when this began, then it was the Les Miles era. Do I think that Mike Gundy took over and suddenly cleaned up the program? Our evidence suggests that if he did do that, he was very slow to get it cleaned up. Maybe that’s the case, maybe it takes a while to purge that sort of stuff from your program. But we have allegations that run to 2010, 2011, depends on what story we’re talking about. That’s not that long ago. At the very least, in the last few years, Oklahoma State has what I would say is an oversight problem in regards to a lot of these issues.

DG: What’s the smoking gun from the stories that are going to come out? 

Dohrmann: For me personally, I’d say pay close attention to how they counseled kids with drug problems. And I know that’s not sexy because people want to say money or something like that, but to me that was a really shocking and disheartening bit that we learned about the program that they didn’t really take that seriously. And I think there were some kids who they could have really helped that, because of the system they have in place, help was not really available to them. I know that that’s not, again, that’s not something that’s sexy and not something that most people are going to pick up and make a big deal about. But for me, I spoke to their drug counselor, I looked at their drug policy, the way they ran that to me, I don’t make a big deal out of drug use, but I will make a big deal out of how they reacted to drug use in our story. So that’s something I hope readers would pay attention to and be really shocked.

by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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