Cost Of Cleaning Up Sports Illustrated's Mess

In the end there really should be no sour grapes toward Sports Illustrated and devout OSU hater and, using the definition loosely, journalist and writer Thayer Evans. In the end Oklahoma State will have spent somewhere between $300,000 to $500,000 on a consultant, investigative expenses and now a fine ($8,500 that amounts to a mere parking violation by NCAA standards.

It's all part of the price for true transparency in the way Oklahoma State University football conducts its business. It's a shame that fee can't also buy transparency into the way Evans and the management at Sports Illustrated conducted their business in assembling the ill-fated and critically criticized series "The Dirty Game."

The final chapter of Evans' attempt to hijack and tear down Oklahoma State's recent ascent into the top level of schools competing in Division I football was written today and Evans was nowhere to be seen because he has become irrelevant to the story he fictitiously created.

After learning of the Sports Illustrated series back in September of 2013, the leadership of the OSU athletic department and the University contacted the NCAA and the enforcement staff and outside consultant Chuck Smrt and his firm The Compliance Group. The NCAA and Smrt simultaneously and working in concert conducted a very thorough investigation that Xavier University athletics director and NCAA Committee on Infractions Chief Hearing Officer Greg Christopher deemed as cooperative as he had ever been associated with or aware of.

"I’ve only been on the committee myself I think under two years, so I can’t speak from a long historical standpoint," Christopher qualified in his answer to how thorough the investigation was handled, "but at the end of the day, there’s no doubt that this case was written about (and) highly publicized. Some salacious stuff was out there. A lot of unsubstantiated stuff that was not found, and it was not for a lack of looking.

"I think the numbers indicate that when you say that there were 50,000 documents that went through (and) nearly a hundred interviews. But we have full confidence in the (NCAA) enforcement staff and the university. This was really one of the most cooperative investigations in recent history. Again, we have full confidence in what came out of this."

"We participated with the NCAA in looking at everything we possibly could," Oklahoma State University President V. Burns Hargis stated in a teleconference earlier Friday. "We were not trying to hide anything. We wanted to know the truth."

What came out of the investigation, concluded last October, were three charges.

First, OSU was guilty of violating its own drug policy. Five student athletes played in seven football games that the OSU policy dictated they should have been suspended. That was five athletes, seven contests, with roughly 1,500 tests having been examined. Christopher stated that was rather limited and narrow in scope.

Second, the University and the football program used a female student group that they organized and coordinated to help host prospects on official and unofficial visits in recruiting. Those groups must be administered by the admissions or general student recruiting office and not football or athletics. As a result OSU will disband the Orange Pride for four years and not form any other group that could be used to take its place.

They'll be able to recruit athletes without the Orange Pride and the real loss there will be for the girls that just learned they were going to be in Orange Pride for next year and for the people inside the football office that worked with those young ladies. I know for a fact that some very close, almost mother-to-daughter type relationships came out of that situation. It's unfortunate but it is the rules and OSU is going to abide by the rules.

Oklahoma State, as a result of the two violations, was also cited for a failure to monitor the football program, but the panel concluded that violation was not demonstrated.

OSU is going on NCAA probation for a one-year period through April 23, 2016. There are other penalties regarding one less coach on the road in recruiting evaluations and using less official visits and those were all self imposed and the panel adopted them.

So, in the end this looks like a lot less than what the NCAA Committee on Infractions sees on a regular basis and it is not at all the out and out cheating with cash flowing in the locker room and on planes, even stuffed in athletic socks along with the sex and other assorted tawdry tales that oozed out of the Sports Illustrated pages back in 2013.

My sources, and I believe them to be really good, tell me that Thayer Evans had the series mostly written and pieced together when he took it to Sports Illustrated with the intent of them hiring him and that series getting placed front and center in one of America's then paragons of sports journalism.

A legitimate question would be who helped Evans' with his costs or did he finance the project on his own. The editors at the magazine bought in and then brought in a Pulitzer Prize winning writer in George Dohrmann to polish it up and give it the shine it couldn't get from Evans and his tarnished motives. There was also help from editor B.J. Schecter, and I can only imagine what he truly thought after being thrown in to organize and attempt to substantiate the sloppy research of Evans.

In the end the investigation by both The Compliance Group and Smrt working with the NCAA showed the Sports Illustrated material at best to be inaccurate and unsubstantiated and at worst to be fabricated lies.

"I’m not going to say that it was above and beyond ... but I will say that it was complete cooperation," Christopher stated in the media teleconference on the OSU case. "At the end of the day, it helped get a great result. I think this was really the model of the way the process should work. Thankfully, it works this way a lot.

"I think the steps that Oklahoma State took from a transparency standpoint should be applauded. They were out front with this and addressed it with their alumni and constituents in a very public manner. Again, complete confidence in the end result because of the cooperation Oklahoma State had with the NCAA enforcement staff."

Maybe at the end of all this Oklahoma State University and its players, both past and present, its coaching staff, the administration, and its supporters and fans should thank Thayer Evans and Sports Illustrated. At the cost of some terrible publicity that quickly evaporated in the criticism of the series, some $300,000 or more of investigative and consulting expenses, and a few tears from some coeds that just wanted to help out the football program but won't be able to, we now know OSU is running a very clean and rule-abiding and winning college football program.


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