Oklahoma State football: A behind-the-scenes fixture becomes a central figure in S.I. report

JOHN TALLEY — The local director for the Fellowship for Christian Athletes is alleged to have made improper payments to Oklahoma State football players. But OSU players contacted Tuesday said that isn't the John Talley they know.
by Jenni Carlson Published: September 10, 2013
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John Talley has made an impact on hundreds of students at Oklahoma State over the past decade-plus.

Still, his name was largely unknown outside Payne County.

Until Tuesday morning.

A much-anticipated Sports Illustrated investigation pointed to Talley as the Oklahoma State booster who made the biggest of illegal payments to Cowboy football players. One player said Talley gave him $1,500 or $2,000 every two weeks to do work on his horse ranch one summer that was far more than the job was worth. Another player, who has since said his quotes were taken out of context, said Talley allowed him to live at his ranch one summer rent-free.

If true, those allegations and others would constitute major NCAA violations.

So, who is John Talley?

Several former Cowboys say he is not the man who he was portrayed to be in the Sports Illustrated story.

“John Talley is a guy I will go to bat for,” said former Cowboy offensive lineman Charlie Johnson, who now starts for the Minnesota Vikings. “He is a tremendous human being.”

Talley is the area representative for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He has worked for the faith-based organization for two decades, and over the years, he has become a behind-the-scenes fixture at OSU.

Andrew McGee remembers hearing about Talley before he ever moved to Stillwater. When the defensive back was on his recruiting visit, he mentioned to some of the coaches that he had been heavily involved in FCA.

“You've got to get with John Talley,” they told McGee.

Soon after he arrived on campus, Talley reached out to him and quickly became a mentor.

They discussed their faith and did Bible study, but then, McGee says that Talley would do the same with anyone who was trying to grow in their faith.

“I've never seen someone who serves and gives his time like John did,” said McGee, now a graduate assistant at West Virginia. “Every single person, no matter who you were, John was definitely not biased.”

Well, McGee admits, Talley did have one bias.

“The big-time recruits or the big-time guys ... he was a little bit skeptical of those guys and what their hearts were,” McGee said. “If a (big-time) guy came in and said, ‘Yeah, John, I want to work, I want to work,' ... he'll give 'em the hardest job out there.”

Talley often had manual labor that needed to be done. Some of it was on his spread outside of Stillwater. Some of it was work that had been requested by people he knew around town. Mowing lawns. Moving furniture.

Players would often ask if he had any odd jobs they could do to make some spending money.

Contrary to the SI story, many players say Talley made them earn it.

Johnson remembers one summer Saturday that he paved a driveway for Talley. The job took all day, about eight hours.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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