Sports Illustrated reporter Thayer Evans, who has received immense backlash for his involvement in the five-part investigative series alleging multiple improprieties inside the Oklahoma State football program, finally responded Friday in a video interview with a fellow SI employee.
Evans, who is perceived as having a bias because he has called the school “Chokie State” and written other anti-OSU pieces throughout his career, said that is not the case.
“I have no ax to grind with Oklahoma State,” Evans said. “I really don't. I'm just doing my job here of exposing the things that have gone on at Oklahoma State during the last 12 years.”
Evans said he was not surprised by the blowback from the series. He also asked readers to reserve judgment until reading the final part, “The Fallout,” which will be released Tuesday.
“We took the time to be thorough in this,” Evans said. “And the whole thing during the entire 10 months is, this isn't just about Oklahoma State, this could be anywhere. This could be your alma mater.
“And we ask people, when we're done, look at all five parts of the series and understand what college football really is.”
REGISTRAR CONFIRMS FATH' CARTER NEVER GRADUATED
The OSU registrar's office confirmed to The Oklahoman on Friday that former Cowboy safety Fath' Carter, who told SI that he had two degrees from the school, never graduated. The registrar also confirmed that former running back Dexter Pratt, who told SI that he took all online classes in 2009, was enrolled in both online and in-person classes. Both discrepancies were first reported by ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy.
The registrar also provided enrollment documentation for former running back Tatum Bell, who told McMurphy he withdrew from school following the 2003 season and was never enrolled for the spring 2004 semester and provided his transcript as evidence. The documentation provided by the school, however, shows that Bell was indeed enrolled in the spring of 2004 but withdrew on April 8 of that year. Carter told SI that he and Bell took the same class twice, earning A's the first time in 2003 and F's the second time in 2004.
BURNS HARGIS ISSUES VIDEO RESPONSE
OSU president Burns Hargis provided a video response to the SI series Friday on the website created by the school to house official statements.
“After reading the accounts from former players, most of whom have long since left the university, we must review these matters quickly, but thoroughly, determine the truth and take whatever measures are appropriate,” Hargis said.
“Let me emphasize, whether the reporting was fair and credible is not the issue. The issue is the substance of the accusations, and it is my responsibility as OSU president to assure that the review is fair, comprehensive and thorough. And it will be.”
Hargis said he was “inspired” by former players who have expressed support for OSU this week. He also noted that he's confident in the conduct of coach Mike Gundy, athletic director Mike Holder and the academic staff.
“Sure, at OSU, we want to win,” Hargis said. “But we want to win the right way. That's the Cowboy football that will be on display (Saturday) night.”
VICTOR JOHNSON THE LATEST COWBOY TO SAY HE WAS MISLED DURING SI INTERVIEW
Former OSU defensive back Victor Johnson became the latest source from the SI series to say he was misled by Evans during the interview process and that his quotes were taken out of context.
Johnson, who is now a senior at Northeastern State after being dismissed from OSU for violating team rules, said in an interview with the Tahlequah Daily Press that he thought he was going to be a part of a “where are they now”-type story.
“He called me out of nowhere and acted like he was going to do a story over me,” Johnson said of Evans. “He was like, ‘I want to catch up with you and see how everything is going.'…
“I was thinking, ‘OK, maybe he wants to do a good story about how I'm coming back and how I'm coming off my knee injury.'”
Johnson is prominently quoted in the stories on academics and drugs. First, he's quoted as saying “you didn't have no choice but to laugh at it” when Dez Bryant was named second-team academic All-Big 12. Then, his quotes imply OSU let drugs slide with stars, saying, “If I didn't get hurt, I probably could have (tested) dirty again and they would have been like, ‘just don't do it.' But when I got hurt it was a whole different (story). They were just going to find a way to get me off the team.”
His response to the Bryant comment: “I never have said anything about Dez; I laughed at (Evans) ... A lot of folks that know me, they know I'd never say anything bad about them, about Dez, about the school or anything. I've paid my price.”
His response to the drug comment: “I never said that. I told them, ‘I (tested) dirty. That's why I left.'”
FORMER SI STAFFER GIVES GLIMPSE INTO FACT-CHECKING
John Walters, who worked at Sports Illustrated for 15 years in the 1990s and early 2000s, gave readers a glimpse inside the world of fact-checking Friday on his blog, mediumhappy.com.
Walters said the magazine used to have 12-15 fact-checkers, including some folks who have gone on to have big-time careers like ABC's Josh Elliot, ESPN.com's Ashley Fox and USA Today's Kelly Whiteside.
Now, Walters said, the publication has just two fact-checkers.
“I have no idea how carefully SI fact-checked the Oklahoma State piece,” Walters said, “nor how many people or how much time was devoted to fact-checking it. I do know that the culture of fact-checking at SI has become much more of a ‘Smoke 'em if you got 'em' approach.
“Writers are expected to fact-check much more of their material before submitting it. But … the last person who should fact-check a story written by John Walters is ... John Walters.”
WHITE HOUSE PETITION TAKEN DOWN
Someone tried to take the SI series all the way to the president. President Barack Obama, that is.
A petition on WhiteHouse.gov, a tool designed for citizens to ask the Obama Administration to take action on issues in America, began circulating Friday morning, demanding that Sports Illustrated print an apology to OSU and fire Evans and fellow reporter George Dohrmann.
By Friday afternoon, however, the petition had been removed from the site because it was in violation of the terms of participation, which say the user must agree to “only create petitions consistent with the limited purpose of the We the People platform, which is to allow individuals to petition the Administration to take action on a range of issues — to address a problem, support or oppose a proposal, or otherwise change or continue federal government policy or actions.”