Ex-Players Rebuke SI's 'The Dirty Game'

When reading the first installment of Sports Illustrated's five-part series "The Dirty Game" there were several aspects that didn't add up. Former Cowboy Calvin Mickens, a cornerback who was eventually dismissed from the team, claimed to have been paid $200 for forcing a fumble and making two tackles. Really, a booster coming to the locker room and paying a bonus after a win over a FCS opponent?

Mickens goes on to add that he was given $800 for his contributions in a loss to Texas A&M. I've rarely seen anybody other than players, coaches and support staff in a losing locker room. It did not add up.

The comment of boosters on a team plane walking down the aisle handing out envelopes with cash also did not add up. There have been few times in the last 12 years that I've traveled with the team that boosters were on the plane. Most fly their own planes to games. Also, the flight attendants are trying to serve a meal and plenty of beverages so very few people get up during the flight.

There is so much that does not add up. Seymore Shaw could not have cleaned a rent house for the late Kay Norris. Her son, Chris Norris, owner of Chris' University Spirit, said his family has never had a rent house in Stillwater, only one in Broken Bow, and Shaw has never seen it.

So many of the aspects of the story began unraveling.

"He (Thayer Evans) started off with quotes from other players that didn't actually play," said Aso Pogi on a local radio station.

Pogi was quoted in the SI story as saying players got paid and he was cited as living at (FCA director for the area) John Talley's ranch rent free for a summer.

"The guy doing the interview was low class, barged into my church after Bible study. There was absolutely none of that stuff going on. I never saw anything of this sort. I was the starting quarterback. I was misinterpreted and misquoted and taken completely out of context," said Pogi.

Former Cowboy Rodrick Johnson was listed in the article as a player who was rewarded for his performance in games.

"Let me say this to all of you, I was never paid or said anything negative about OSU," Johnson wrote in a post on his Facebook page. "That Evans guy is trash for what he wrote! He took what I said and flipped it to his own words! I never said anything about Bobby Reid, Defo (Joe DeForest), or John Talley!

"I am embarrassed and shamed of this article! I was lied to about what this article is about and for that I apologize to everyone for! This is somethjng that will get resolved and I will see to that myself! The guy wrote lies! So for all of you flipping out on me, don't believe everything you read just because it's in a book or magazine!"

Tatum Bell was one of the better players at OSU during that time, a three-time leading rusher on the team (2001 to 2003). Bell is listed in the story as taking money but having denied it to Sports Illustrated. He denied it again today to The Tulsa World.

"I was one of the top players, so if anybody was getting money it probably would have been me or probably one other cat," said Bell. "Nobody was getting money. If they were, I would have known about it. I never bragged about money to (Seymore Shaw). I don't even know where that came from to be honest with you. I don't think Seymore would say something like that."

The story states that Shaw decided in his senior season at Shawnee High School that he was going to Oklahoma State. Shaw signed with Oklahoma and was going there until the Sooners had no room for (then allowed) partial qualifier. Schools were only allowed to take a limited number and OU had reached that limit.

Shaw actually did not arrive at OSU until after practice had started in August, nullifying the story in Sports Illustrated that he could have taken between $400 and $500 from a booster from OSU during his senior year in high school.

I spoke with two former players on my radio show today. Both Charlie Johnson, now with the Minnesota Vikings, and Billy Bajema, with the defending NFL champion Baltimore Ravens. Both played at Oklahoma State during the time in question in the first installment of the Sports Illustrated story, "Money." Both players said they never saw any of the activity being reported nor heard of it.

"It's frustrating to read," said Bajema, who played tight end at OSU from 2001-04. "Every bit of the picture painted by that article does not represent the culture or the things that I saw go on during my time there.

"I never saw a single envelope given out, never received any, never saw other guys get anything, and never heard them talking about getting anything. If somehow that stuff went on, it's amazing, and it's the best kept secret I've ever seen."

"There's a lot of different reactions," said Johnson, who played in Stillwater from 2002-05. "The first is just Sports Illustrated doing the article. The second initial reaction was disbelief.

"Most of the content was when I was at Oklahoma State. I find it hard to believe because I never saw any of that, the money, the sham. If any of that happened in the locker room then I completely missed it. I never heard any other players talking about it. I can't see how it would have happened."

There is plenty of national media skeptical and critical of the Sports Illustrated effort. The primary criticism is the inclusion in the project of Thayer Evans, a writer who has a strong history of being biased against Oklahoma State.

The fellow writers and editors on the project would have a hard time disputing that criticism as Evans was acknowledged as being the lead investigator and the first person to push for the original story being changed to focus on the Oklahoma State football program. At this point it certainly appears that Sports Illustrated chose poorly.

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