After days spent dreading word of an upcoming unflattering expose on its football program, Oklahoma State and its fans finally felt the weight of Sports Illustrated's initial blow Tuesday.
And it was heavy.
The first story — titled “The Money” — in its five-part series “The Dirty Game” details allegations of cash payments to players from various people associated with the program, ranging from boosters to assistant coaches dating back to the Les Miles era.
Players were paid in ways that included performance bonuses and no-show jobs according to the report, which was released on its website Tuesday morning and will serve as the cover story for this week's magazine.
The series will continue on the website through the end of the week. A synopsis of what's to come:
• Part 2: Academics (Wednesday morning): Widespread academic misconduct, which included tutors and other OSU personnel completing coursework for players, and professors giving passing grades for little or no work, all in the interest of keeping top players eligible.
• Part 3: Drugs (Thursday morning): OSU tolerated and at times enabled recreational drug use, primarily through a specious counseling program that allowed some players to continue to use drugs while avoiding penalties. The school's drug policy was selectively enforced, with some stars going unpunished despite repeated positive tests.
• Part 4: Sex (Friday morning): OSU's hostess program, Orange Pride, figured so prominently in the recruitment of prospects that the group more than tripled in size under previous head coach Les Miles. Both Miles and Mike Gundy, then an assistant coach, took the unusual step of personally interviewing candidates. Multiple former players and Orange Pride members say that a small subset of the group had sex with recruits, a violation of NCAA rules.
• Part 5: The Fallout (next Tuesday morning): SI found that many players who were no longer useful to the football program were cast aside, returning to worlds they had hoped to escape. Some have been incarcerated, others live on the streets, many have battled drug abuse and a few have attempted suicide. This is the finale, scheduled as the cover story of the Sept. 16 magazine.
“In separate interviews seven other former Cowboys told SI they received cash payments,” the magazine claims. “29 other OSU players were named by teammates as having also taken money.”
The report alleges that Joe DeForest, an assistant at OSU from 2001 to 2011 and now the special teams coordinator at West Virginia, ran much of the pay-for-play system. DeForest denied these charges to The Oklahoman and Sports Illustrated.
Former running backs coach Larry Porter, now at Texas, was also implicated for paying players.
SI reports that those interviewed tell of some players receiving $2,000 annually and others $10,000, with a few stars receiving as much as $25,000 or more.
Countering the claims, many other former players rallied during the day to defend the program, pointing out that most of the players quoted in the story either left the team or were kicked off and are disgruntled that their careers went awry.
“Honestly, I'm disgusted,” said Corey Curtis, an offensive lineman at OSU from 2002 to 2004. “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.”