Oklahoma State University President V. Burns Hargis and independent investigator and former NCAA Enforcement Supervisor Chuck Smrt both met with the media as the school released the findings of their investigation. OSU and the NCAA, which was in on the investigation from the beginning, announced there are three possible Level II NCAA violations regarding the operation of the school's athletic department drug testing policy and the administrative supervision of their female recruiting group known as Orange Pride.
The most important line in the Results of the Inquiry document released by Oklahoma State and their independent investigator, The Compliance Group, was this:
Conclusion – Nearly all of the primary contentions in the SI articles were not corroborated. Regarding Article #1, information was not substantiated that coaching staff members or boosters provided cash to student-athletes for “big hits” or for work not performed. Regarding Article #2, information was not substantiated that members of the institution’s athletics department’s academic services unit provided excessive academic assistance.
Regarding Article #3, the available records did not support the contention that the University’s drug testing policy for football student-athletes was applied in a manner that favored more talented student-athletes. The policy was not followed on a few occasions, but TCG believes the student-athletes’ athletics abilities were not the reason for this failure. Regarding Article #4, no information was reported that Orange Pride members were involved in sexual activities with prospects to encourage their enrollment at the University. Based upon the inquiry, it was determined that the Orange Pride program was not sufficiently aligned with the Admissions Office, resulting in certain recruiting activities (i.e., accompanying coaching staff members on campus tours with prospects) being contrary to NCAA legislation.
Basically, what that says is Sports Illustrated's material could not be substantiated or backed up in the investigation. I was impressed that the investigation led to interviewing not only those that were quoted in the Sports Illustrated series and would cooperate, but also student-athletes and former student-athletes that were recruited by OSU and chose to attend other schools.
I thought it was also important to note that OSU requested that Sports Illustrated help with the investigation by allowing their notes and audio tapes to be used. They refused to be cooperative.
I'll be completely honest and forthright, I have no respect for Thayer Evans and know from my experience with him that he has an agenda. He hates Oklahoma State and this was his personal project to try to take Oklahoma State down. Am I a homer? Absolutely. Would I ever consider taking similar actions against OU? Never, I have too much respect for the sport and for the coaches and players that put the work in and that includes the ones at my school's arch-rival.
As for what this says about journalism and, more precise, sports journalism in this day and age of internet, blogging, and the rush to be first, the need to be interesting and even controversial, versus the choice to be honorable and respected, is that Sports Illustrated lost. They lost their place with a lot of us that grew up loving the way they covered the games.
"It is a business (the media). That was so amazing to me when this first started was on the one hand none of this comported with my understanding and experience with our football program and with Coach Gundy and Coach Holder. It was opposite of my understanding of what our commitment was to playing by the rules," President Hargis said.
"On the other hand I've been a Sports Illustrated fan since I was a little kid. I have a closet full of them going back to the '50s. And it truly is one of the venerable journalistic organizations of all-time. But I must say that is what made it hard to understand this. This doesn't look right to me but Sports Illustrated is doing this.
"That gave me kind of a start, and I think the articles in the beginning did give Oklahoma State a black mark. That faded very quickly because then the articles became so sensational. I will say this, it appears in some cases proper due diligence was not done."
Thayer Evans never had any integrity to lose. That was lost long ago with some of his slanderous stories. The co-author in George Dohrman, and I have not changed my thinking on him. I believe the Pulitzer people should get their prize back from his mantle.