Fallout From The Sports Illustrated Series

On Friday, the fourth installment of the Sports Illustrated series "The Dirty Game" about the Oklahoma State football program was three hours, 45 minutes late in being posted to the publication's website. Now, on Monday the final part of the series, "The Fallout," hit SI.com some 20 hours early, almost as if to say, we just want to get this thing over with as soon as possible.

The original schedule of release that came out in the magazine's overview of the series called for part five to be released on the website on Tuesday, and be the part of the story included in the magazine for the second week. We'll see if that happens.

The late arrival on Friday was also greeted with some major editing mistakes, including one sentence that ended abruptly only to find the end of the sentence standing alone some two paragraphs earlier in the story.

As expected the content of "The Fallout" was an attempt at gathering sympathy for the way the lives have turned out for some of the magazine's prime interviewees. Former Oklahoma State wide receiver Artrell Woods was at the beginning, the centerpiece, and was the conclusion of the story.

That also was expected and made sense as Woods was injured severely fracturing two vertebrae in a weight room accident on Friday, July 13, 2007. It's an injury and an event that has had huge ramifications and is remembered in detail by every member of the Oklahoma State football family that was at OSU at the time.

OU team surgeon and spine specialist Dr. Brock Schnebel performed the spine decompression and laminotomy on Woods. Rob Hunt, head trainer at OSU at the time and now at the University of Notre Dame, worked tirelessly on helping bring Woods back. He made it all the way back to play in the 2008 season and catch his first pass against Iowa State after the devastating injury.

"Sometimes I feel like what am I doing? This is a real blessing because they would tell me I wasn't going to walk again and now I am back out here doing what I love to do," Woods thought out loud after a spring practice in 2007.

Acknowledging that there were so many people to thank including the doctors and Rob Hunt. "I say thank you, but I don't think there is any way. They helped me to walk again. You can't thank somebody that does that for you enough. There is no way you can say thank you enough for that," Woods said at the time.

Woods was grateful at the time. While Woods played the 2008 season he was not competitive and head coach Mike Gundy worried about him. In practice they controlled the situation by having Woods wear a green jersey to keep defenders away.

In games, Gundy couldn't control the situation. He could have allowed Woods to play away at practice and not play him in games, which because of the players reduced speed and skill, would have made sense. Instead, and I remember the day well, Gundy called Woods in and explained his plan.

"I told him that if he were my own child I wouldn't want to risk him being out there. He couldn't protect himself," said Gundy, who was visibly upset. "I told him that we would put him on medical scholarship and he could help us out with football. I just did not feel right about him being out there."

Shortly after their meeting, Woods made the decision he wanted to continue to play, asking for and received his release. But not without hearing out several Oklahoma State football staffers including Gundy and strength and speed coordinator Rob Glass.

It did not work out for Woods at Central Oklahoma as he played little and did not finish his requirements for graduation.

In the Sports Illustrated series finale, Woods claimed he was not enrolled in classes for computer graphic design, a field he was interested in. But had he stayed at Oklahoma State with Gundy's plan. he could have pursued that avenue academically.

Now, as the story detailed he is working in a chain restaurant and suffering from a myriad of financial problems.

As demonstrated by his Twitter message last week and an interview with The Daily O'Collegian (OSU student newspaper), he is very bitter and unable to talk without repeated use of obscenities.

It is terribly sad but as former Oklahoma State defensive end Richetti Jones stated last week, Woods had his opportunity to finish what was most important, his education.

"Artrell Woods broke his back one summer during his time as a Cowboy," started Jones. "Everyone in the program got behind this guy. They stood behind him and everybody did everything in their power to make sure he was taken care of. He didn't want for anything. He didn't hurt for anything. When he got hurt they took care of him. Like you said, they worked with him and got him back to where he could play football.

"But Artrell was not the same player he used to be. I broke my hip (in high school) and I wasn't the same player I used to be," continued Jones. "I still managed to play football and persevere. Life goes on and life is bigger than football. The program gave Artrell a medical scholarship. He had his education without playing football. He chose to leave and try to play again at UCO. Oklahoma State doesn't owe him anything. They tried to help him."

Some of the former players featured in part five of the Sports Illustrated series were beyond help, and if Oklahoma State was guilty of anything it was even bringing them on campus. I've been around long enough to know that not everybody can be saved.

Former defensive end William Bell admits that he was an habitual drug user before he came to the OSU campus after being recruited by then head coach Les Miles and his staff. The staff found that out in a hurry. According to multiple reports by former staffers, Bell, his first week on campus, in a drunken and drug induced stupor fell down a Bennett Hall stairwell and tore his ACL and PCL. The knee injury put him out for the one season he was at OSU.

Former linebacker Marcus Richardson may be evidence that the NCAA doesn't allow nearly enough time for coaches, especially head coaches, to get to know players. Head coaches get one home visit and the recruit gets one paid official visit to campus. A lot can be hidden in just two opportunities to get to know a prospective player and his character.

Richardson, in part five of the series, said he joined a gang before his 12th birthday. He is now in a state prison in Texas serving out a 15-year sentence for aggravated robbery.

Give credit to former offensive lineman Jonathan Cruz, who finished his playing eligibility and his education at Northeastern Oklahoma State in Tahlequah. He now is a teacher and coach in the Dallas area.

Others like former running back Kevin White and safety Thomas Wright didn't pursue other avenues when they could. People deserve second chances, but they have to pursue those chances and football teaches not to quit. These players either failed academically or failed drug tests, part of the problem Sports Illustrated detailed (or tried to) in parts two and three of their series.

So what is it? Try to eliminate the problems in the program by dismissing these players or nurse them along hoping that your Division I football staff is also loaded with talented social workers.

The last former Cowboys player and most recent departure that Sports Illustrated documented in part five is a good example. Herschel Sims is an ultra-talented running back. He came to OSU as one of the best in the nation. He played as a true freshman, despite the Cowboys having Joe Randle and current starter Jeremy Smith.

Sims rushed for 242 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman and was being counted on for the future. Instead, he stole the bank card of fellow freshman Jeremiah Tshimanga and withdrew $700 from his account. He pleaded guilty to two felony counts of second-degree forgery.

It did not have to get that far as Gundy had basically given Sims a second chance by asking him and Tshimanga to work it out and avoid criminal charges. Sims had spent the money and did not work at trying to square the situation. In the end, he left Gundy, Tshimanga, and the authorities no choice.

"Still to this day, I'm sitting at home, and I break down in tears," Sims said to the Abilene newspaper after eventually transferring to Abilene Christian after spending a year at Lamar. "I'm watching TV, getting on Instagram and Twitter. I see all my friends back in Stillwater, talking about how much fun they're having, and I'm missing out on it.

"I was talking to J.W. Walsh the other day. He was telling me how much he misses me up there. He and Josh Stewart and Jimmy Bean, they all went to Denton Guyer, and we were all roommates. I talk to those guys weekly. They miss me up there, and I miss them dearly. It just wasn't what God had in store for me."

Sims is now taking the responsibility he should have back in the spring and summer of 2012 when he stole a teammate's money out of an ATM.

"It hurts," he said to the Abilene newspaper. "I never dreamed I'd come back to Abilene to play football. I feel like I'm a top-notch Division I player, and I should be up there with the rest of the guys. But it's nobody's fault but my own. I had my chance, but I messed it up."

That is the moral of these stories that Thayer Evans, Pulitzer Prize winner George Dohrmann, and the rest of the Sports Illustrated staff can't seem to digest. Talented football players that are fortunate enough to be recruited get a great chance to play football on a grand stage, make memories that will last forever, contacts that will help the rest of their lives, and get their education paid for.

Yes, work is involved and rules are there to be adhered to and like virtually all of life's pursuits some will be successful. It would be great if all of them were. Unfortunately, some will not.

Speaking of success. In my opinion that is something this series landed far short of. However, the aspect of this that bothers me the most is that Sports Illustrated, Evans, Dohrmann and editor B.J. Schecter had the audacity to think they could construct this series with many factual errors and a gaping void of documentation and think that Oklahoma State University, its former players, especially of the era written about in the series, and its fans would just take it. They have seen otherwise.

I agree with Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis and his plan to thoroughly investigate the claims made in the series. But I am even more eager to see the result of the process athletic director Mike Holder spoke of, in separating the fact from the fiction. I think we'll all find that the vast majority of "The Dirty Game" was in that second category.

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