The extent of the damage caused by racially insensitive photographs taken at an Oklahoma State University fraternity party has yet to be determined.
According to OSU football officials, the aftermath may not only include academic and social areas of the university, but may affect the athletic department as well. While the incident didn't directly affect the OSU football team, coaches and players think it could have influence over future recruiting prospects.
"The fraternity incident was not a positive thing by any stretch of the imagination," said OSU defensive coordinator Bill Clay. "I think it's something we will have to overcome, though. It is just another one of those distractions you wish you didn't have to deal with."
On Sept. 20, OSU Alpha Gamma Rho members held a "Come As You Are Bizarre," in which members were photographed while participating in a mock lynching.
One of the men in the photos was dressed in a prison suit with his face painted black, and another person was dressed in a Ku Klux Klan costume. In a second picture, a fraternity member in overalls and a Confederate bandanna held a noose over the man in black face.
From the coaching perspective, Clay thinks some young players may not even glance OSU's way.
"It can really hurt if you have a youngster who has five visits he can choose from, and if the only thing he knows about OSU is the fact that we had these racial problems, then he could choose to visit somewhere else," Clay said.
Even though the first step may be to plant a seed of interest in a high school or junior college player, Clay said he hopes recruiters from other schools don't use the AGR incident as a negative tool to lure players away from OSU later on.
"It can definitely be used against us," Clay said. "Of course, that is negative recruiting and it is frowned upon— but it happens."
Recruiting for college football is a tough business, especially since so many schools go after the same top athletes, Clay said.
Josh Henson, recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach for the Cowboys, said negative recruiting by rival schools could be a concern OSU needs to examine.
"I think it is something somebody would put in a kid's head," Henson said. "They could say, ‘Do you really want to go there— look what happens there.'"
Overall, coaches Clay and Henson think the beauty of OSU and its football program will win out in the end. The chore will be showing the recruits that Oklahoma State football has principles and doesn't associate with the type of behavior the fraternity members presented, Henson said.
With the racial diversity on the roster split nearly down the middle, the team was affected in many ways after the offensive photographs were made public.
Clay said he was caught off guard, especially since he relocated to Stillwater from the South, where incidents like the one at the AGR party are more rampant.
"It is shocking to me— I have only been here two years, and I am a white man who had just moved from Birmingham, Alabama. It caught me completely off guard because places like Oklahoma are supposed to be over that. Everything I have experienced (in Stillwater) has been positive socially. None of it would have prepared me for this happening here."
Sophomore defensive lineman Marcus Craig was also shocked at how the events took place in September.
"I just remember thinking, ‘Wow, this cannot be true,'" Craig said. "It was really hard at first to see something like that happen in the place you call home."
As for recruiting difficulties, Craig said he thinks students will see the positive aspects OSU football has, and not persecute it for the stupidity of those in attendance at the AGR party.
Getting the players to consider OSU as a possibility may be tougher now, but Clay isn't too discouraged.
"That is why we have to educate them about Oklahoma State and let them know that there are good things that go on here. What happened at that fraternity house does not exemplify any facet of life at Oklahoma State in any fashion," Clay said. "It may make it harder to get (recruits) to visit our campus, but we will show them the good things about this place."