STILLWATER — Before Thursday, any potential holes in Sports Illustrated's five-part investigative series alleging multiple improprieties in the Oklahoma State football program stemmed from more hearsay — such as denials from former and current players and staff members and sources backpedaling on their words, claiming they were taken out of the incorrect context.
But ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy unearthed multiple tangible discrepancies Thursday afternoon.
McMurphy's report, citing documents obtained by ESPN, showed several comments made by Fath' Carter, one of the main sources quoted in the first three days of the report, to Sports Illustrated were not true. Carter has continued to stick by his words throughout the week, even telling News 9 earlier Thursday that he gave urine to a teammate to submit as a drug test.
Among ESPN's findings:
* Carter told Sports Illustrated he had two degrees from OSU. ESPN, citing documents from the OSU registrar's office, says Carter attended OSU from 2000-05 but does not have a degree from OSU.
* Carter told Sports Illustrated he and former running back Tatum Bell took the same class twice, earning A's the first time in 2003 and F's the second time in 2004. ESPN, citing a transcript provided by Bell, says Bell was not at Oklahoma State in 2004. He withdrew from school after the 2003 fall semester.
Another discrepancy uncovered by ESPN involved former running back Dexter Pratt, who told Sports Illustrated that every course he took in 2009 was online. ESPN obtained university documents that showed Pratt took three online courses and two on-campus classes.
Thursday's report, entitled “The Drugs,” portrayed the OSU program as having a rampant culture of users and dealers, along with lax and inconsistent testing and counseling programs. Of the 30 players interviewed who said they used marijuana during their time in Stillwater, 27 did not finish their careers there.
Friday's installment — entitled “The Sex,” which will allege that Orange Pride hostesses provided sex to recruits — will be the last of this week. Tuesday, the series will wrap with “The Fallout,” which will examine the current lives of former players who claim they were cast aside by the OSU program.
Many former Cowboys — including several quoted in the piece — have continued to speak out. Specifically, they have continued to speak out against the interviewing tactics of reporter Thayer Evans.
Donnell Williams, who was dismissed from the program in 2006 and is quoted in the story as saying “drugs were everywhere” at OSU, posted on Facebook that his comment was actually that drugs are everywhere, referencing society as a whole. Seymore Shaw released a statement, apologizing to OSU and saying he became uncomfortable with the direction of his interview with Evans and asked not to be used in the story. Doug Bond and Jonathan Cruz both told the Daily O'Collegian that they were misled by Evans about their interviews' original intent.
Others, like Bo Bowling, who leads Thursday's piece because he was dismissed from the program in 2009 after a drug arrest and was then allowed to rejoin the following season, denies he was part of a widespread drug culture at OSU.
It was his problem, he stressed, not the Cowboys'.
“I brought this (negativity) to Oklahoma State,” said Bowling, who rejoined the program as a walk-on, signed a conduct contract with coach Mike Gundy and athletic director Mike Holder upon returning and underwent weekly drug tests during the 2010 season. “It makes me feel bad that (Sports Illustrated wanted) to use me to make (OSU) look bad.
“I made Oklahoma State look bad. I was the one that put myself in those positions and got in trouble.”
Among the backlash, including from former star quarterback and current Cleveland Brown Brandon Weeden, Sports Illustrated issued the following response to Cleveland. com:
“The facts of the matter are that a team of award-winning reporters conducted a 10-month investigation that included on-the-record recorded interviews with 60-plus individual players from the Oklahoma State program,” spokesperson Scott Novak said. “Any attempt to discredit an individual reporter is an attempt to deflect the matter at hand.”
Former quarterback Josh Fields, who has been accused of being paid and participating in academic misconduct, has been one of the loudest Cowboy defendants this week, speaking with multiple media outlets and demanding on social media that the former teammate(s) who named him in the report come forward. There was clear annoyance and anger in his voice as he described Wednesday on Dan Patrick's radio show that he once invited Bond over for Thanksgiving dinner with his family.
But he also doesn't want to prematurely bash his former teammates used as sources in the story, based on the outrage many of those same teammates have since expressed.
“There's certain people who do something to get ahead,” Fields said. “Having played with some of these guys at Oklahoma State, I hope this story was twisted by the writer, for those guys' sake.
“You never know, but I can only go by what I'm seeing and hearing.”