Josh Fields knew the Sports Illustrated reports were coming. And like most with associations to the Oklahoma State football program, Fields was anxious to see the names involved.
Then he saw a name that numbed him: his own.
“Seeing my name was a shock. I saw my name and my body temperature rose for a couple hours,” Fields said, “then I calmed down.”
The former Cowboys quarterback calmed, yet only enough to assist his offensive in painting a much different behind-the-scenes picture on OSU – and those used as sources – than Sports Illustrated portrayed in the first part of its exposé on the Cowboys, “The Dirty Game.”
His first edit: refuting claims by unnamed former players that he received money as a performance bonus.
“Honestly, it's not a laughing matter, but I couldn't do anything but chuckle to myself,” Fields said. “The guys who were at Oklahoma State, the guys that I associated with – and I regret to say that I didn't really hang out with many of those guys who had something to say — they know the truth.
“When you work so hard at doing things the right way and you really pride yourself on doing things right, and I know that Oklahoma State as a university prides itself on doing things the right way, it stings a little bit.”
Across the country Tuesday, former Cowboys lined up on social media and in various interviews, defending their university, and in some cases, their honor.
“Honestly, I'm disgusted,” said Corey Curtis, an offensive lineman at OSU from 2002-04. “When I read the article today and I found out who the sources were, it's unbelievable that somebody from Sports Illustrated could count these as credible witnesses.
“I mean, William Bell, who was in the video (online at SI.com) probably the longest out of any of those guys, barely was on scout team.”
The strong words kept coming from players from that era, including some of those named in the report.
Former quarterback Aso Pogi, who was a source in the story and allegedly lived rent-free at the ranch of regional Fellowship of Christian Athletes director John Talley, said on The Sports Talk Network that he was “misquoted” and “misinterpreted” in the story and denied ever receiving payments or knowing of teammates receiving compensation. Former running back Tatum Bell, who is accused of receiving bonus payments and bragging about it to teammates, denied the allegations on WWLS The Sports Animal and said Sports Illustrated never contacted him for comment (the report says Bell denied allegations to the magazine).
And others, such as former Cowboy offensive lineman and current Detroit Lion Corey Hilliard, defended their teammates.
“You've got to understand, I played with Rashaun (Woods) and Josh Fields,” he said. “So if anybody would've got paid, it would've been those guys. Tatum, never saw anything in his locker. never saw anything in (Darrent Williams') locker. And I had to walk by all those guys' locker to get to mine. I think I would've noticed envelopes in certain guys' lockers.
“I never saw a dime when I was there. I don't know if I was just oblivious. Never heard anybody else say, ‘Hey, I'm getting money for this. Hey, I'm doing this where I'm getting money.' Ever.”
The overwhelming denial continued from more recent players, including defensive linemen Cooper Bassett, who finished his career in 2012, and Jamie Blatnick, who ended his in 2011.
“As I started reading,” Blatnick said, “it was just so out of left field that it didn't even make sense to me. As I was reading it, I was just going through it just saying, ‘Wow, that's not true. Boy, that didn't happen.'
“And then it got to the point where I stopped reading it, and then started skimming it, because it was nonsense.”
Fields said he wondered why the magazine talked only to players with negative experiences at OSU.
“I really don't think I have to get too descriptive on these guys' character. The more that people start talking, the more their character is going to show.
“From what the Oklahoma State program has produced, there's many more guys who have much more credibility, who should be getting talked to on this whole entire thing, rather than the guys who are getting talked to.”
Fields said he was also disappointed that unnamed sources were given a voice in a story so potentially damaging.
“If you're going to come out and say something, put your name on it,” Fields said. “To be a part of the article and to even put it in the article when you have unnamed sources, that's cheap.”
Fields insists that he never took money. And he didn't see anyone take money. And he's skeptical that it was a rampant problem.
As the quarterback, Fields said he had a pulse on the team and the locker room and was someone that players regularly confided in. So for him and so many of his teammates to be so miss what was going on – reportedly in plain sight, according to those quoted in the story – would be unlikely.
“To have so many people in the dark about this is just not adding up in my mind,” Fields said. “That's what I'm having such a hard time with.
“People believe the story, because they believe that college kids can make some really stupid decisions. I was dumb and I was around those dumb college kids when I was there.
“That's why I can't believe it, because guys would have been so dumb, someone would have spilled the beans waaay sooner than 10 years down the line.”