Sports Illustrated just published part one and the overview of a five part series detailing alleged improprieties committed by the Oklahoma State University football program over roughly the last decade and the football world went gaga. Hat tip to SI for serializing. Hook us with salacious tales and them bore us with dollars and cents. Part 1: Money was released Tuesday. Part 2: Academics came out Yesterday. Merely appetizers. In the overview we were tantalized by revelations that members of the hostess program gave it their all while players used and dealt drugs. Here comes Part 3: Sex today and Part 4: Drugs on Friday. The weekend is looking up.
Sports Illustrated, seemingly has made up its mind as to the veracity of the evidence they have so far put forth. Of former OSU assistants Joe DeForest and Larry Porter, “DeForest and assistant Larry Porter, who was running backs coach from 2002 to ’04, also made straight payments to players.” That’s not the tentative statement of a multi-million dollar publishing entity with what would be assumed a Manhattan skyscraper floor’s worth of legal advice/warnings. No “allegedly.” No “according to witnesses.” X did Y. That doesn’t mean SI is right. It does mean they are confident in this article.
I’ll be shocked if Part 3: Sex has anything to offer other than anonymous witnesses. A corrupt hostess program? It’s going to be the rare soccer mom who cops to blowing prospective slot receivers eight years ago. It’s a good thing guys never lie about sex. I will admit to a raised eyebrow upon reading in the overview that both Les Miles and Mike Gundy personally took an interest as to which coeds were selected to represent the athletic department, but that raised eyebrow has a tainted heritage. We naturally believe the worst in people.
In fact, we naturally believe the worst in college football. “That happens everywhere.” “They all do it.” But do they? If everyone seriously does pay players regularly, provide improper benefits, look the other way or ignore drug tests, fix legal trouble, and prostitute female students then college football operates under a code of silence that should have the mafia taking notes. I’m not kidding.
Consider an elite NCAA college football program. There are nine on-field coaches, four or five off-field coaches, a handful of recruiting coordinators, four or five graduate assistants, eighty-five scholarship players, enough walk-ons to fill out the scout team, and enough weight trainers and physical therapists to keep the players at weight and flexible. Teams are allowed to to give out twenty five scholarships per year to incoming players but competition for players between schools means that to get twenty five you have to recruit… how many? Fifty? The article alleges friendly hostesses. How many hostesses does a university employ? Ten? Twenty? (Side note: If a university is employing a hostess and a recruiter deploys her knowing she will have sex with an underage recruit, is the University guilty of pimping? Corrupting a minor? If it happens in a dorm can the police seize the dorm like they do hotels because the room was used to facilitate a crime?)
By my estimate there are one hundred and seventy or so people who are part of football operations and recruiting on a regular basis. All one hundred and seventy are subject to turnover. Coaches and support staff get better offers and leave or get fired. Players have four years, five with a redshirt, and a six year window to play their four years if they want to take time off. They can leave early for another institution if they give up a year of eligibility. Walk-ons can walk off at will. New players come in every year. Recruits bounce from campus to campus every weekend. Loyalties are impossible to ensure.
If there is only one school, or even a handful of schools flaunting the NCAA’s rules, imagine keeping things quiet. Imagine silencing the recruit that ended up signing with your arch rival despite the fact that you gave him $500 and got him drunk in a strip club at seventeen. Can you even tackle him in game? What if your blitzing linebacker breaks his ankle and he can never play again? Does he hold a grudge? What if your hostess gave him herpes? Closer to home, that brilliant high school qb you courted with all the dollars, promises, and girls at your disposal shows up overweight, never develops a good work ethic, and never makes it passed third on the depth chart and gets cut for, say it with me, “undisclosed violations of team rules.” What makes him protect his institution’s dirty secrets? An elite team’s offensive coordinator gets a head coaching position at a smaller directional school and loses a recruit to his former employer. If his school is squeaky clean does he go off the record to ESPN? And what about ESPN? Is it possible that all the former players employed by the network just decided to pass on the career making story that pulling back the covers on the whole of Division I (don’t dare say FBS) would surely be? I could go on with what if scenarios. The point is, if these allegations against OSU are true, they almost have to be true of, or at least well known to, the rest of college football.
No matter what time of day or day of the week you are reading this there is likely a biography or documentary on Bio or A&E or one of the channels carried in most basic cable packages that details the life and crimes of some member of some crime family somewhere. Mobsters face stiff retribution for speaking to authorities but they do it all the time. Yes, they often snitch in order to avoid jail and no, the NCAA has no such power to compel testimony. But while the NCAA lacks a stick, the world provides a few carrots. Book deals, paid interviews, and in the case of an athlete who feels mistreated, revenge all come to mind. Surely more than a small handful would break the silence.
So, considering the scope of the allegations, either all participants in college football, no matter how tangential, are conspiring to keep secrets in adherence to an unspoken code so rigorously observed that it makes Omerta look like a community billboard or Sports Illustrated was fed a load of bunk. Time will tell I suppose, but on a related note, I do think Yahoo Sports is wrong. The Crimson Tide must not be besmirched.