Gundy: OSU Should Thank Sports Illustrated

We hosted Mike Gundy last week on the Triple Play Sports Radio Network show "Sports Talk with Robert Allen and Friends." We spoke with the Oklahoma State head coach on a number of topics, primarily some of those that have him in such a "good place" right now professionally and as a husband and father that he is talking about coaching the Cowboys at least 10 more years.

That is a change from what some of us thought previously, but it's a good thing for OSU and Cowboys football. We will pull out some of the topics and some of the responses that Gundy gave us from a sort of finishing-the-school-year type of interview over the summer. I've decided to call these "The Gundy Chronicles."

We will start with the completion of the Sports Illustrated series and the resulting investigation and dealing with the NCAA. OSU immediately opened up to the NCAA when they learned of Sports Illustrated's five-part series in September of 2013 titled "The Dirty Game."

The series, from our investigation, was brought to the magazine by an enterprising writer with strong OU ties and a long history of written stories in print, and primarily on the internet, that were highly negative toward Oklahoma State.

That writer, Thayer Evans, was turned down by jobs or fired at several newspapers but had found a home with the internet. Sports Illustrated took him in and, from our sources, allowed him to bring his work on the project that became "The Dirty Game" and had primarily one writer, George Dohrmann, and one editor, B.J. Schecter, work with him on the piece.

It's release was trumpeted and highly promoted by the magazine until in the middle of it as it became widely criticized and attacked. OSU hired a firm, The Compliance Group, headed up by former NCAA enforcement investigator Chuck Smrt, and that group and the NCAA launched an extensive joint investigation.

The investigation did not find truth to the Sports Illustrated claims, just the opposite proving the majority of them could not have happened and finding that the words of players interviewed were twisted or taken out of context. Others said what Thayer Evans wanted out of frustration with how their OSU careers ended and later recanted.

The NCAA, in one of the most thorough investigations conducted in recent memory, did find OSU guilty of two level two violations that were not part of the Sports Illustrated series. The punishment was light and the report was very thin due to what the committee at the NCAA called one of the most cooperative situations in history. They stated that the OSU investigation should be a model for future investigations in the NCAA.

Now the public relations side of it is that Sports Illustrated still won with its series. You throw mud and even when the mud isn't there, some sticks. That happened in this headline reading and less than complete reviewing society that exists.

Oklahoma State, as well as the NCAA, tried to convey how completely far off and ridiculous the Sports Illustrated series had been. OSU President Burns Hargis even penned an editorial that the University released. It just doesn't happen that way these days.

Gundy, despite being asked to stay reserved in his response, is still wanting everybody to know how his program is run. Last week he opened up with Bill Haisten of The Tulsa World and on Friday with us.

"We had a so-called journalist that went on a mission and was taking shots at Oklahoma State and failed," Gundy started. "Then we had a Pulitzer Prize winner that jumped on board with him, for whatever reason, and got mud thrown on his face.

At the end of the day we opened up a 13-month investigation that found the Sports Illustrated series to be 99 percent fiction. What it did is it strengthened Oklahoma State University, the athletic department, and the football team because it allowed our administration to say, 'Wow, these guys have performed at the level they have and over 50,000 emails that have been reviewed and right around 90 former coaches and players, (and) boosters interviewed and they are running a clean program.

"At the end of the investigation the thought was, 'this is all they got?'" Gundy continued. "I said at that point that we all should be doing cartwheels, me included, because it actually came out cleaner than I thought it would.

"Over time things can happen when you are in a big business. This is a big business and there is a lot of money involved. We should be very proud. What Coach (MIke) Holder (athletic director) was referring too (when he said I know Mike Gundy doesn't cheat) is that we make it very clear that we're not going to sacrifice Oklahoma State University and the character of the school and who we are to do that.

"We want to win a national championship and Big 12 championships and be in CFP (College Football Playoff) bowls, but we also want to give young men the opportunity to better themselves for later in their life. We are not going to be held hostage by offering players something illegal in order to come to our school. It's not going to happen here.

"Someday, somebody else will be here and I will be farming and maybe they will try to do it that way but that is not going to happen while I'm here if I'm aware of it."

Gundy said that the football staff and athletic department staff was proud of themselves. Gundy passed out compliments to others on the review and the outcome.

"I thought the President (Hargis) and his group did a great job. Chuck Smrt and his group did a great job in the investigation part of it. They were transparent and allowed the investigators and the NCAA all the information they needed," he said.

"The only thing that bothers me is they removed our Orange Pride group from being involved with our football team for four years because they were handled (supervised) through football and not by the University admissions. Those young women had done everything the way we asked them to do it. They are great representatives and they are a great resource of information and they are first-class people and have lost the opportunity in college, work-study and that is primarily what Orange Pride is set up for.

"That disappoints me, but sometimes in life that happens. Those girls were first-class from the beginning because the information that came out on them was damaging and hurt. Nobody could come right out and say this was crazy until they did their research and found that out."

Gundy felt in the end the NCAA agreed with OSU and they did not issue any penalties that Gundy said would hurt the football team. Most of the penalties the NCAA adopted were self-proposed.

"I think at some point we will all look back and thank Sports Illustrated for giving us a clean slate and putting us in a position where everyone will hold Oklahoma State football at a very high level for having the success we're having and through all of this discovering that we are having it while doing things the right way."

GoPokes Top Stories