The Oklahoma State Cowboys improved to 3-0 Saturday Sept. 14 by beating the Lamar Cardinals 59-3. Nevertheless, no one in Stillwater, Okla. was thinking about the offensive explosion or the Cowboys shutdown defense. Instead, the focus was on a Sports Illustrated expose revealing that football players had been receiving illegal benefits from Oklahoma State for more than 10 years. Illegal benefit allegations happen in almost every major college football program at some point. Despite this, the degree to which these benefits were given out, combined with the rampant drug use, is something that the NCAA has never seen before.
According to former members of the Oklahoma State football program, players received several hundred dollars after games they played well in. It could range from $200 to nearly $1,000.
This “bonus system” is a direct violation of NCAA rules that forbids paying student-athletes for their performances on the field. The money came from the coaches and more notably the boosters. Boosters are people - usually alumni - who provide money to a specific program at a school.
To cover up the hundreds of thousands of dollars that were exchanged, the university “hired” players for jobs that they never completed or grossly overpaid them for menial tasks. Most of these jobs were related to renovating their football stadium. This alone could warrant a huge punishment from the NCAA. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, that’s not even half of the story.
Former head coach of Oklahoma State Les Miles had a “grades first” mantra. For the most part, players stayed in good academic standing. How ethically they did so is a different issue. During Miles’ time as head coach, 2001-04, and current coach Mike Gundy’s reign from 2005 to present, players were rarely treated like normal students. Often times, tutors or university staff members would complete assignments. Some players admitted to receiving exam answers days before a test.
On an even more concerning level, players take easy majors and classes with relaxed professors without their knowledge. For example, a star player who wanted to study engineering would be placed in low-level communication classes in order to maintain his eligibility.
This has probably been going on longer than the report investigates. In 1989, NFL defensive end and former OSU Cowboy Dexter Manley admitted that he could not read above a second grade level. This is a man who completed four years of college.
Remember a few years ago when you were visiting college and an undergrad showed you around campus? Oklahoma State decided to take this to a new level when showing its football recruits around. Orange Pride, the OSU organization that, according to the university website, “donates their time and efforts to assist with Recruiting for Oklahoma State and the Football Program” allegedly sent two attractive females, who asked to remain anonymous, to give a football recruit a tour of the college. Before dinner, however, the ladies said they needed to make a “stop.” Before he knew it, the recruit was having sex with both students.
Although Miles said he was “not aware of this ever happening and am quite sure that no staff member was aware,” it appears that some administrator directed the women to sleep with the recruits.
It’s no secret that many college students use marijuana. College athletes are just a segment of this population. Unlike most people, however, the football players at Oklahoma State did not have to keep their drug use quiet. It was even a well-known fact that several players would smoke before games. The coaches were not just turning a blind eye. Gundy reportedly jokes about his players’ drug use with them. Beyond being grossly irresponsible, it gives the NCAA another piece to add to its case against the Cowboys.
Now Oklahoma State has to wait. The NCAA is the only body with the power to punish the Cowboys. If all of these allegations are true, the NCAA could hand down the infamous “death penalty,” which entails banishment from a certain sport for at least one season. Regardless of what the NCAA chooses to do, it may take years to gather all of the evidence. Until then, the Cowboys can continue their football season, but the NCAA will be watching closely.