Former Players Defend Gundy, Academic Unit

"The Dirty Game" and Sports Illustrated's effort to point out Oklahoma State as a runaway and outlaw football program turned its attention on Wednesday to the second in the-five part series, Academics. Honestly, this is a tough subject to write about as it is as behind the scenes and more privacy protected that any football or other related activity.

For the most part, Sports Illustrated writers George Dohrmann and the badly tarnished Thayer Evans turned to the same cast of whistle blowers in the second installment for transgressions on the academic support unit and academic integrity of the school.

Many of the same names -- Doug Bond, Fath' Carter, William Cole, Calvin Mickens, Brad Girtman, Andre McGill, Ricky Coxeff, Kevin White, William Bell and Artrell Woods -- took turns speaking of grade changing, grade negotiating, and tutors or academic assistants doing their classwork for them.

There were a few new names like Victor Johnson, Jonathan Cruz, and Dexter Pratt also quoted in the story. Again, all of these players have credibility issues after having less than happy conclusions to their OSU careers.

A constant theme was that Oklahoma State and football counselor Terry Henley pushed players into majors that would be easier for them but weren't necessarily their choice of academic pursuit.

Henley's credentials were questioned in the story. But his experience as a former OSU player, a former social worker with at-risk youth, and his knowledge of the Oklahoma State academic system have allowed him to have a large amount of success stories.

"What I do with degrees and scheduling, I base it on aptitude, attitude," said Henley in the Sports Illustrated story. "Now a guy may have wanted to be a business major, but he can't get through a math class. That's a big reason why we don't initially declare a major for a player. ... I'd love to tell every single one of them who walks in that door, you go be what you said you wanted to be, but at the same time I've got to look at aptitude, attitude and work ethic."

Several players came to the defense of Henley today.

"Man, I have to tell you that Terry Henley is a great man and a good friend of mine," said former OSU defensive end Richetti Jones. "I can tell you that if it wasn't for Terry Henley I would have failed out of school my freshman year. I would not have finished school and I would not have a degree.

"He is one of the best guys that OSU has and is a great asset to OSU. I would fear what would happen to academics and the football team if Terry Henley were to go somewhere else. There are so many guys that if it weren't for Terry, wouldn't have made it.

"t's not just academics. He is a guy that guys confide in. There are guys that have cried and told him about their problems in his office. The players trust Terry and he gets calls from players all hours of the night," added Jones

"Terry Henley is a good man," said former linebacker James Thomas. "I don't have anything but good things to say about Terry. He was a real help with pushing you to get your work done."

The interesting aspect of the investigative reporting on the story was the accusation of Ronald Kemp, now an employee at Texas Southern University, being accused of doing academic work for players. There seemed to be a shortage of trying to find evidence of Kemp doing work for the players, just the comments and then a denial from Kemp.

Former defensive end Victor DeGrate said he never had academic work done for him, but he knows some players tried.

"Nope, the only person that ever did any (academic) work for me was my wife and that was typing papers for me," said DeGrate, who now lives in San Antonio with his wife and two daughters. "That is my wife today and she was my girlfriend in college. From the academic side? That was one thing they stood on was making you do things yourself. Guys would ask, but people like Terry, Marilyn (Middlebrook) and Nikki made sure you did your own work."

Middlebrook was not mentioned in the story but her passion for her job and her academic unit sent had her chomping at the bit to speak to the media and issue a statement.

"While I am surprised at the comments and allegations in today's sports illustrated installment, i can tell you we have a dedicated team of qualified specialists working hard every day with student-athletes to help them pursue and earn a degree," stated the veteran educator.

"i am proud of the work we do with our student athletes. we have assembled what i believe in my over 20 years of experience in academics, the majority of which at oklahoma state, a strong academic support network. we would never condone what sports illustrated said occurred. what they describe is not the place where i work. and i will also say, i greatly appreciate and enthusiastically support the president's resoluteness to conduct a thorough review to find out what is true and what is not true."

The really short-sided work came from the players' claims that professors changed grades and players were able to negotiate grades from professors.

A school newspaper reporter suggested that the players prove this by obtaining a copy of their transcript to first prove the grade matched up with the player's comment. Then the reporter would have the name of the class and the professor to be able to identify that professor and confront them on the subject. Honestly, i would not consider it a violation of journalistic integrity to pay the costs of obtaining the transcripts.

The absence of using that strategy either says that Dohrmann and Evans are short-sided and as sloppy as the factual errors in part one, "Money" or they don't really think like investigative reporters that I have known and worked with in the past, primarily in television.

i have no doubt that according to a quote from Henley that academics were less important to former head coach Les Miles than to current head coach Mike Gundy.

"There was never pressure [to cheat], but Miles was like most coaches who want to be somewhere else," said Henley in the Sports Illustrated article. "They're going to do what they need to do for two or three years, and they're not going to have to deal with whatever the fallout is. So, no, he didn't promote academics."

Richetti Jones said that with Gundy there was no lip service. A list of players was read off after games in the locker room at the request of Gundy compiled of players who did not have to show up on Sunday mornings for Cowboy reminders.

Gundy had the list of players that either missed class, were late to class or missed or were late to tutoring sessions read out loud in the locker room. He still does after games. Jones said those players report for Cowboy reminders, 300 yards of up downs and 150 yards to three-legged dog, and then another 300 yards of up downs.

"Everybody is being held accountable for doing their work, academics, and being on time for every activity," said Jones. "For coach Gundy that is the Cowboy way."

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