The OSU/Sports Illustrated saga has reached a merciful end, which thrills at least three parties.
OSU. SI. Me.
Probably you, too, but I don't claim to speak for anyone else.
But now that all five installments have been posted for posterity's sake, with black eyes abundant on both sides, we can start to figure out the exact fallout.
Sports Illustrated, which seemed to have less and less stomach for its own series the longer it lasted, retreated and declared victory.
Now it's time for OSU to do the same. And the Cowboys have some ammunition to do just that.
The SI project was not so much about truth as it was perception. Looking at a long list of allegations and deciding what to make of the mess.
Sports Illustrated looked and saw “Dirty Game.” Saw a corrupt culture.
OSU can look and see a transformation. Saw a changed culture.
And that's using Sports Illustrated's own evidence. The vast majority of SI's allegations occurred during the Les Miles years, 2001-04. And the majority of the Mike Gundy-era allegations, both NCAA violations and general morality situations, occurred during the early Gundy years.
Counting just the last five years, 2008 and since, here are the specific accusations:
* Tailback Dexter Pratt says marijuana ruined his life and OSU didn't provide adequate counseling;
* Spiritual adviser/drug counselor Joel Tudman, hired in 2006, was not credentialed to help with substance abuse and falsified his résumé;
* Assistant coach Joe DeForest, who left for West Virginia in 2012, paid players for performance, though no examples were given since 2007;
* Gundy allowed receiver Bo Bowling back on the team after a drug conviction;
* Tutors did academic work for star receiver Dez Bryant;
* LeRon Furr said recruits had sex with Orange Pride hostesses;
* Gerron Anthony said players in 2012 sold drugs;
* Herschel Sims said 15-20 players on the Fiesta Bowl team in 2011 would have failed a drug test.
That's it. Few allegations, all vague. No specific names. No specific incidents. Just generalizations. Go back 10 years, and you get way more than generalizations. Dozens of specific examples of players saying they got paid a certain amount by a certain person, or were helped by specific tutors for specific classes.
Sports Illustrated painted a picture of a program that had been cleaned up. Not spotless; not pristine. But cleaned up. A culture change.
I don't know if that portrayal is true. But that's what was portrayed.
So while SI lumps it all together — a long connection from 2001, when Les Miles was coach, Terry Don Phillips was athletic director and James Halligan was president, to 2013, when Gundy is coach, Mike Holder is AD and Burns Hargis is present — OSU can show a clear disconnect.
Remember last week, before the series started, when Holder said that even if all of SI's allegations are false, OSU failed on some level, because so many of its former players now feel so negatively about the school?
You can turn that around. Even if all of SI's allegations are true, OSU can claim the high ground, because of the massive difference in football culture on campus from 2003 to 2013. And that's by using nothing more than Sports Illustrated's own evidence.
OSU won't couch it that way. Won't concede anything it doesn't know to be true. But that will be the ultimate play. Who knows what happened in 2003? Who knows if Rickey Coxeff and Brad Girtman and Thomas Wright were telling the whole truth or any part of it? But whatever went on, it's not going on now.
And the heavy lifting for that OSU argument was done by Sports Illustrated itself.
Ten years is a long time. Nine years, which is how long Miles has been gone, is a long time. Seven years, which seems to be about when Gundy finished up his well-chronicled purge of knuckleheads, is a long time.
Sports Illustrated talked to 60 players, heard some horrific stories, and saw Dirty Game. Those stories fit SI's desire for an example of what's wrong with college football.
OSU read the horrific stories, studied the timeline, and saw a culture shift. Those dates fit OSU's desire for an example of, in Boone Pickens' words, “wholesale changes.”
So in the end, the vaunted SI project fundamentally was not about truth. It was about perception.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.