Thayer Evans has finally responded to the backlash against his reporting in the recently released five-part investigation into Oklahoma State football.
Here’s his response, in an interview with his coworker at Sports Illustrated:
People believe you are a university of Oklahoma homer and you have a vendetta against OSU.
That’s actually really laughable, Maggie, because if you look back at it, my parents actually attended Oklahoma State. A majority of the people on my mother’s side of the family are Oklahoma State graduates. My family are from places like Coyle, Cushing, Perkins, all these little communities around Stillwater. Actually grew up going to Oklahoma State games. I can remember watching Barry Sanders, Gerald Hudson, Hart Lee Dykes. So I actually spent a lot of time in that community. I have no axe to grind with Oklahoma State. 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.
What about the people that are looking back into your past and questioning your professional life?
That’s laughable as well. A lot of the stuff that people have alleged are just urban myths perpetuated by the Internet. This is lots of fanbases over the years coming up with things allegedly that I’ve done and it’s not true. Any idiot can post something on the Internet. And then all 0f a sudden people start to look and the myth grows and that’s what’s happened with my “professional background”.
Specifically with things in your story. Are you surprised that your sources aren’t backing this up?
Absolutely not surprised by that. Look, a lot of these guys have fallen over the years. They were in the spotlight and now they’re not. This is putting them back in the spotlight. And by putting them back in the spotlight, they are getting lots of pressure when they tell the truth. And that’s what’s happened here. Family members, friends that they went to Oklahoma State with, the school itself is pressuring these guys and so, what happens is, they’re backing off their statements. But we researched this, we checked it, we know that what they’re telling us is the truth, which is why we wrote what we wrote is the truth.
What about Tatum Bell? He says that you never spoke to him.
That’s laughable as well. I showed up at his house in late July. He lives in the Denver area. I showed up to his house. I knocked on the door. He came out with a plate of food. We stood on his porch and we talked for 15-20 minutes. I tape recorded the interview on my iPhone, just like I tape-recorded all the other 60-some odd interviews I’ve done with players. We spoke at length, Tatum denied everything and he even told me that he smoked marijuana when he was at Oklahoma State.
Are you surprised by the blowback you are getting from this story?
I’m not surprised by it. Look, I’m from the state, I understand how passionate people are about their alma mater, especially in a place as special as Oklahoma. People are simply defending their alma mater here. They don’t like damaging things about their university. Like I said, I’ve been to Stillwater, I understand how important Oklahoma State is to a ton of people in Oklahoma.
You spent 10 months on this investigation, hundreds if not thousands of hours on this reporting. How did you report this story?
Just like I report any other story. You make a lot of calls, knock on a lot of doors. You know, I wear Cowboy boots, I’ve gone through four soles and two pairs of Cowboy boots reporting this story. And that’s just dogged reporting work, that’s going out and knocking on doors and trying to find where guys are at. We interviewed these people, all tape-recorded, and we spoke at length. A lot of these interviews were an hour, two hours, ask more questions and we would vet our stories and check our information and then we published what we could back up and we knew to be true.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’d ask that people read the entire series before they come to a conclusion or have their knee-jerk reactions. So many people are getting caught up in the individual parts of the series. The money, the sex, the academics, the drugs. The most important part of all this is the final story, the fallout story. What happens to these guys when you get spit out of a football program like Oklahoma State. What people are going to find is that a lot of guys have found themselves in worse situations than originally before they attended Oklahoma State. So I’d ask people, in the last story, to just take it all in before they come to a conclusion as to what Sports Illustrated and myself are trying to do in this. Look, I worked with great editors in this, B.J. Schecter, Jon Wertheim, Pulitzer Prize award winner George Dohrmann. We took the time to be thorough in this. 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.