By Chris Day
SI report: http://tinyurl.com/kc9ju2s
Oklahoma St response site: http://response.okstate.edu/
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State University football coach Mike Gundy gave receiver Bo Bowling a second chance.
In February 2009, Stillwater Police arrested Bowling on drug charges — felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and misdemeanor charges of possession of controlled dangerous substances. Gundy suspended Bowling. He wasn’t on OSU’s roster in 2009.
The Tonkawa native eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. He received a one-year deferred sentence with credit for the 30 days he spent in county jail.
Bowling’s arrest leads Thursday’s installment of the Sports Illustrated five-part expose, “The Dirty Game,” which chronicles Oklahoma State University’s football team 10-year rise from also-rans to Big 12 and Fiesta Bowl champions.
The Sports Illustrated story reveals widespread marijuana use among players, drug dealing and coaches turning a blind eye to drug abuse problems.
The use of marijuana and other drugs by college football players coincides with increase illicit drug use on campuses throughout the United States.
The 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed 22 percent of full-time college students between 18 and 22 used illicit drugs. Nearly 24 percent of male full-time college students were marijuana users.
The survey indicated marijuana was the preferred illicit drug in all age groups with 18.1 million users, up from 14.5 million in 2007.
Former player Thomas Wright told SI drugs were prevalent throughout Stillwater. After a game against Kansas, Wright and other players went to a party at a Stillwater apartment complex and snorted cocaine.
“Everybody was doing it,” Wright told SI. “It was a cocaine party.”
Bowling’s 2009 troubles served as a wakeup call for the former Tonkawa High standout. During his legal troubles, Bowling paid his own way to stay in school. He made the grades to stay eligible.
Finally, a humbled Bowling approached Gundy and asked to rejoin the team. Gundy gave Bowling a second chance.
“I have no reservations about giving a young man a second chance, especially when they are under tight restraints,” Gundy said in 2010. “I think Bo Bowling learned lessons and I think he is a better man because of it. He will have to do certain things and will be under a tight rein. Mistakes happen and it shouldn’t mean the end of a young man’s life or career.”
In 2010, Bowling caught 42 passes, third on the team. He helped the Pokes to an 11-2 season and an Alamo Bowl victory. Bowling said it was a good way to end his senior year.
It wasn’t an end to his fooball career. Bowling credited Gundy’s second chance for an opportunity to play for the Montreal Allouettes in the Canadian Football League. He spent two seasons in the CFL. Ligament damage in his ankle caused Bowling to retire prior to the start of the 2013 season.
“I can’t thank coach Gundy enough,” Bowling told the NewsPress in June 2011.
Bowling described his second chance as a success story on Thursday. He didn’t get any special treatment from the team. He returned to the OSU team as a walk on.
“The steps I took to get back were hard,” Bowling said.
The Sports Illustrated article outlined the athletic department’s drug policy. The policy revised May 1, 2012, gives players four chances with increasing tougher sanctions for positive drug test results. It also lets individual head coaches to install tougher standards.
“Student-athletes may seek counseling for drug and alcohol issues privately through University Counseling Services; by a declaration of Safe Harbor or as required as the result of a positive test result,” according to the policy.
The university also follows NCAA drug testing guidelines. Eighteen OSU players were randomly tested by the NCAA prior to the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. One tested positive for marijuana use and was suspended.
Oklahoma State requires drug counseling sessions are required after a positive test. A University Counseling Services substance use counselor or athletic department life counselor may conduct the sessions
According to the SI article, numerous football players attended a group counseling session that quickly received the name, Weed Circle. Players who attended the sessions could continue to use marijuana without penalty.
As long as a student athlete remains in counseling, positive results will not count as another strike as long as results indicate a decline in use, according to OSU student athlete drug policy.
Thirty former OSU players who were members of the program from 2001 to 2011 told SI they used marijuana during their playing days.
Calvin Mickens played cornerback from 2005 to 2007. In the SI article, he said marijuana use was rampant among players. He claims to have been part of the Weed Circle for most of the 2005 season. After testing positive again for drug use in 2006, Mickens said his only punishment was a return to the circle.
Joel Tudman has been Life Issue/Social Development Counselor for OSU’s football program since 2007. The SI article said Tudman has no formal training in drug counseling. The reporters also indicated Tudman’s resume and bio may have included inaccuracies.
Former linebacker Marcus Richardson told SI he failed a drug test in 2007 — the only year he was on the team. Richardson told SI Tudman suggested a marijuana regimen to gradual reduce his use.
“I felt like, OK., this is set up where I can smoke. So, I just kept smoking,” Richardson said in the SI article.
Tudman denied he advised players to continue to use marijuana.
“My job is to make sure, that when that kid tests positive ... that he gets to zero. So, in order for him to get to zero, that means the drug use has to decline and stop,” Tudman told SI.
Chris Day is associate editor for the Stillwater NewsPress.