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Berry Tramel  


Oklahoma State football: Analyzing Sports Illustrated's drug accusations

by Berry Tramel Modified: September 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm •  Published: September 12, 2013

Installment III of the Sports Illustrated series on OSU is out, this one on the drug culture in Stillwater. Just like the others, it’s heavy on 2001-07. And just like the others, it’s a difficult sell for SI, for this reason. The sources are all a bunch of potheads, by their own admission.

However, the general thesis is sound. There was, and maybe still is, a drug culture within the OSU football program. We know that by how many players Mike Gundy has dismissed from the team.

Here are the accusations in the Thursday report, each followed by my comment.

* SI claims that OSU’s response to Bo Bowling – charged with intent to distribute marijuana, pled guilty to misdemeanor possession, Bowling was sentenced to 30 days in jail and rejoined the team – is indicative of the program’s treatment of drug users.

Mike Gundy doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. You let convicted drug dealers back on the team, you take your medicine. It’s not really that complicated.

* Calvin Mickens says some teammates from 2005-07 smoked marijuana before games against lesser opponents.

Maybe so. If you ask me, the boosters who Mickens say paid him several hundred dollars after a 62-23 loss are the ones to drug test.

* Herschel Sims says that 15-20 players who played in the Fiesta Bowl would have failed a drug test. OSU says of 18 tested players, one test was positive.

I’ve tried not to come down on the accusers. Just because you’re disgruntled does not mean you’re lying. However, I draw the line at Herschel Sims. The guy’s a thief.

* Three former players admitted they dealt marijuana (2001, 2004, 2006) and players from seven other seasons were accused of dealing by teammates or law enforcement.

It interests me the way our society differentiates between using and dealing. I’m not saying we’re wrong. But when it comes to drugs, we’re lenient on the former, tough on the latter. We don’t do that with other things. If someone has a gun illegally and uses it in a crime, whoever supplied the gun isn’t a bigger culprit than whoever used it. I’m sure there are valid reasons for our drug policy. I’m just saying I don’t necessarily understand them.

* Football staff members joked about drug use to the team, including an instance of Gundy walking through the locker room, pretending to be puffing on a joint, and Rob Glass encouraging a player by saying, “Hey, why don’t you come work out and then go hit your bong?”

Unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. And I’m told that yes, those things happened on rare occasions. Totally joking manner, with coaches trying to build a trust factor with players. But it’s not a joking matter.

* Andrew Alexander says he came to OSU in 2003 with no history of drug use. By the next summer, he was smoking daily with some teammates and eventually flunked out.

That’s called falling into the wrong crowd. OSU deserves some culpability for recruiting knuckleheads. But Alexander fell victim to what ails many a person; associating with the wrong kind of folks.

* An anonymous Stillwater peace officer says when he called Les Miles to report a player with drug problems, Miles said, “What do you want me to do?”

I don’t know what that means. Miles says he emphasized “What.” The story suggests Miles emphasized “me.” Of course, this opened a different line of questioning that Sports Illustrated did not go down. Why didn’t the law just arrest the guy if he had done something illegal?

* William Bell says he was a “borderline pothead” when he arrived at OSU in 2004 and quickly began selling marijuana.

This was a recruiting mistake. OSU has got to vet these guys better. And heck, here I am, talking like it’s present tense. Bell was recruited by the Miles regime. But college football programs can save themselves many mistakes by filtering out troublemakers before they arrive, not after.

* Chris Massey (1999-02), Eric Allen (2003-04), Rodrick Johnson (2004-07) and Gerron Anthony (2010-11) say teammates sold drugs in at least one of the seasons they were on the team. Anthony, who was in school last year but not on the team, was aware of a player on the 2012 who dealt drugs.

The Anthony charge is the most troubling. Most of this stuff dates back to Miles or at least the early Gundy years. But 2012? OSU should be on Anthony’s case right now, telling him to name names.

* Thirty former OSU players from 2000 to 2011 say they used marijuana while on the team; the majority say they used daily and named more than 20 other players who used, too.

This part of the report is not an OSU story. It’s a college campus problem. Not that that exonerates OSU. Football programs have a unique opportunity to affect the behavior of its players. And the Cowboys have not been effective in that regard.

* Thomas Wright says he and teammates extended to cocaine use. Larry Brown, Jonathan Cruz and Artrell Woods say they knew of players using cocaine, too.

Now we’re getting a little more serious. Marijuana seems to afflict every team – every group of young Americans – but cocaine is a different deal.

* Doug Bond and others say team members tried to use masking agents to pass drug tests.

The lack of education is striking. Of course, we’re not talking about the brightest of the bright when we talk about people who want to toke their way to happiness.

* SI says that OSU had a group called the Weed Circle, a counseling session which existed from 2003-06 for certain players who had failed drug tests. It came with a perk – players who went to the session could continue to use marijuana without penalty. As long as the players were involved in the counseling, they could not incur another strike from a failed drug test.

Two things. 1. The longer the week goes, the less I’m interested in 2003. The amount of material from 2001-07 is getting less and less relevant to me. I would like to see some contemporary allegations. 2. What a horrible idea. Drug counseling is great. But football teams have a unique motivating tool. Eligibility. Status on the team. Suspension of strikes for failed drug tests seems like a terrible plan.

* OSU’s drug policy included four strikes. A first positive test, no penalty. A second, immediate suspension of 10 percent of the regular season. Third, immediate suspension of 50 percent of the season. Fourth, dismissal.

Seems pretty lax. I’d cut out the first strike. Let’s go straight to the penalties.

* A licensed alcohol and drug counselor ran the Weed Circle, but players said attempts to create a meaningful group session failed. Players often attended under the influence and viewed the Weed Circle as a social event. Miles would occasionally drop by the session.

The Weed Circle sounds like a mess. Kudos to Gundy or whoever stopped the danged thing.

* SI says that in 2007, Joel Tudman was put in charge of the drug counseling. Tudman was an assistant strength and conditioning coach who also is the team’s chaplain and carries the title of Life Issue/Social Development Counselor for the football program. SI reports that Tudman’s bio on the OSU website was incorrect with both his academics (he did not have a master’s degree in counseling) and his athletics at Texas A&M-Commerce.

This is not good. Falsifying biographies and/or resumes is a red flag. And absolutely OSU should have a qualified drug counselor, if it’s going to have a drug counselor at all. This one makes OSU look asleep at the wheel.

* Players say Tudman advised them on how to stop smoking marijuana, including by gradual means rather than cold turkey.

I have no idea what’s acceptable and what’s not. Alas, some would say that Tudman does not either.

* Dexter Pratt says marijuana ruined his life, including a six-month prison sentence for drugs. Pratt says it would have helped to have some real counseling.

He’s right. I know the guy’s a goofball. I know he made his own bed. I know we can’t trust anything he says. But it would have helped, or at least could have helped, if Pratt had received professional counseling.

* Victor Johnson says he was kicked off the team for drug use, while people like Bowling returned to the good graces of the team.

Johnson’s theory is wrong. I don’t know the full story of why he was kicked off, or even the full story of why Bowling was welcomed back. But he’s wrong if he believes that coaches thought Bowling was a more valuable player. Bowling was a good player. So was Johnson. The Cowboys of 2010 could have used a good defensive back as much as they could use an extra receiver.


by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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