Part 3 of Sports Illustrated’s series on Oklahoma State football leads with Bo Bowling, who, after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession and spending time in jail, was dismissed from the program but allowed to rejoin the Cowboys the following season.
Bowling, who was not contacted by SI for the story, came back to the Cowboys as a walk-on and underwent weekly drug tests during the 2010 season. He also stressed that he did not experience the rampant drug culture portrayed in the SI story, nor did he ever see or know of any teammates dealing drugs.
Bowling talked with me by phone Thursday. Here’s what he said:
What was your first thought when you read the story this morning?
I was surprised they started the whole deal with my thing. It was pretty much just the charges and allegations that they put in there. They didn’t tell the rest of the story or how it played out and stuff like that. So that was irritating.
From my understanding, you were never contacted by SI. Is that correct?
Right. I never spoke to them prior to this coming out or anything. No contact.
Does that surprise you?
It surprised me, but they’re just putting out public knowledge, I guess. It looks like they read the police report or read articles that were (written) when the incident happened back in ’09 and pretty much just rewrote that. I guess you could say they can, it’s public knowledge, but, yeah, why would start the whole based around me, but you’re not going to talk to that person? If you’re going to do investigative reporting, I think you should do both sides of the story.
Is that the most frustrating part? That they started with you getting in trouble, but didn’t circle back to the work you did to get back on the team?
Honestly, this isn’t frustrating at all to me. Actually, I’m glad they came out with this, because, like I’ve been talking all day with people, this is a success story in the end, and it just shows you what kind of program coach Mike Gundy and Coach Holder run. It’s a good, clean program. I’ve never seen any of these allegations the time I was there, from ’08 to 2010. I didn’t get no special treatment from OSU. I had to walk back on the team, and honestly, the steps I took to get back on was hard. But when people look into this, it’s going to show you what kind of people they’ve got at Oklahoma State. It’s gonna be success and a good story, positive. They’re trying to shine a negative light, but there’s no negative to Oklahoma State. I brought this on them.
How would you describe the culture at OSU? It kind paints it as guys were using before games and you didn’t fit in if you weren’t smoking. How does that compare to what you experienced?
I didn’t see any of that there. I was cool with every guy on the team and we were all about football and all about winning. Both years I was there, we had great seasons. We worried about winning a Big 12 championship and BCS. That was our goal and that’s all we were. Like I said, I brought this to Oklahoma State. It makes me feel bad that they want to use me to make them look bad. I made Oklahoma State look bad. I was the one that put myself in those positions and got in trouble. At the time, when you’re going through that, I was younger. Now, when you get past that, you get through all that, I was starting to realize, it’s different when you’re representing your team or your family or wherever you’re from. I let them down. I let me family down, let the team down. It hurts. That’s why I wanted to prove to get back, I wanted to play football. That’s why I did every step. I think Coach Mike Holder and Coach Gundy felt that, and that’s why I got the second opportunity.
One of the guys mentioned in the report is Joel Tudman and his role as a drug counselor. What was your interaction like with him?
Not much interaction. He was a strength coach in the weight room. I never did any counseling or anything, so I don’t know about that whole deal.
You say you never saw any examples of these allegations while you were at OSU. Had you ever heard of the ‘weed circle’ or a selectively enforced drug policy with teammates?
I never even heard the term ‘weed circle’ until I started talking to media and reporters. I don’t know what all of that is about. Maybe it was a generation before I got there. But from my time from ’08 to 2010, it’s just I never (saw) it. The thing is, too, they’re trying to come up with all these allegations in the recent years, too, and trying to say that. That’s what makes me mad, because they’re trying to paint me from the recent years of drug use. There was nothing like that going on. It was a shock to Coach Gundy when I got in trouble and everything. So, I mean, I honestly feel like since Coach Gundy’s been there, it’s been a clean program.
How did coaches approach drugs with you guys? How much was that drilled into your heads throughout the season?
It was a constant reminder, from the start of it, offseason, summer. Always reminding us the decisions we’re making. At the same time, during the season, we’re focused on football: Getting up in the morning early, lifting weights, going to classes, practicing all afternoon, all the way up to you’re eating at night. We’re thinking about football and we’re thinking about each game, trying to win. To me to sit here and say that we have a culture like that—do you think a team like that would be winning if all these bad things we’re going on?
What was the most surprising or shocking or upsetting thing you read in the story today?
The time period of the recent years that they want to talk about—because that’s all I can speak for is the time I was there—they’re trying to say that problem is a 2010 or ’09 or whatever the dates were. That wasn’t the case. That wasn’t the culture. I can’t speak for the (older) generation, the Coach (Les) Miles era. I don’t know anything about that. I’m just talking about when I was there, I never seen a lot of these allegations, none of them, really.