By Chris Day
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER – A Sports Illustrated investigation into Oklahoma State University’s football program won’t be a distraction for the Cowboys as they prepare for the 2013 home opener Saturday night against Lamar, coach Mike Gundy said Sunday night.
A story about the investigation is expected in this week’s issue of the national sports magazine. Oklahoma State University officials learned about the year-long investigation Aug. 28 when SI editors arrived in Stillwater and informed university President Burns Hargis and Vice President of Athletics Mike Holder a story would be forthcoming.
Gundy has preached the importance of avoiding distractions as a key to victory on Saturday during his eight-year tenure as OSU’s head coach.
The SI story will be just one more distraction to avoid, Gundy said Sunday.
“My personal opinion is the players go about their daily activity. They persevere through everything. They could probably care less to be honest with you.”
Gundy said he couldn’t comment about the SI investigation.
“I can’t speak on any of this. ... I’m just being fair to you. It’s not even worth wasting your time and asking me the question,” Gundy said. “There will be a time where we comment, but now is not the time.”
Oklahoma State University has notified National Collegiate Athletic Association and Big 12 Conference officials about the article and what they expect it to say.
“We take these allegation seriously. Whether they have merit or not, we don’t know. But we will find out,” Holder said.
The university requires all student athletes to “follow the rules and adhere to the highest ethical standards,” Hargis said.
The Daily Oklahoman reported the Sports Illustrated article looked into the OSU program from 2001 through 2007.
Four areas of concern were uncovered:
• Payments from boosters to football players for no-show jobs and players receiving cash bonuses from coaches for on-field performance.
• Players receive grade changes to remain academically eligible and tutors doing class assignments for players.
• Female hostesses for the “Orange Pride” football booster program providing sex to recruits.
• Widespread drug abuse as well as an uneven drug policy.
Les Miles was OSU’s coach from 2001 to 2004. Gundy was an assistant under Miles. He was elevated to head coaching job in January 2005 when Miles left for the head coaching job at Louisiana State University.
After Saturday’s victory over the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Miles said he didn’t know of any improprieties during his time as OSU’s coach.
“It has never been a place where you needed to cheat to have success,” Miles said.
The Oklahoman identified former OSU assistant coach Joe DeForest as someone who provided cash bonuses to players who made big plays or delivered exceptional performances during a game.
DeForest left OSU in 2011 to become an assistant at West Virginia University. West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck issued a statement saying the university has started an internal investigation to ensure DeForest’s full compliance with NCAA rules while at West Virginia.
DeForest, Luck said, has denied he made bonus payments to players when he was an assistant at OSU from 2001 to 2011.
The Cowboys (2-0) will play the Lamar Cardinals Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium. Kick off is 6:30 p.m.
– Chris Day is associate editor of the Stillwater NewsPress.