By Chris Day
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER – Oklahoma State University officials hired former Director of NCAA Enforcement Charles E. Smrt to lead an independent investigation into misconduct allegations raised in a Sports Illustrated five-part expose of the university’s football program.
The SI series ended Monday, a day earlier than originally announced, with the online publication of an article that focused on former players who lost their scholarships for violating team rules, arrests or injuries. Previous articles examined illegal payments to players, academic misconduct, drug use and sales by players and the use of sex to entice recruits to OSU.
The accusations outlined in the SI series, “The Dirty Game,” primarily happened between 2001-2007.
Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis and the OSU/A&M Board of Regents jointly announced Smrt’s appointment.
“With the strong support of the OSU Board of Regents, I have authorized a thorough and expeditious investigation. To assure that the investigation is unwavering in its pursuit of the truth, the university has retained Charles E. Smrt, a veteran NCAA enforcement officer and one of the foremost experts in the compliance field, to serve as lead independent investigator,” Hargis said.
Regents Chairman Tucker Link said the Regents endorsed Smrt’s selection. The Regents don’t condone illegal, immoral conduct or NCAA rules violations.
“We must determine, based on credible sources and confirmed facts, whether the claims made in a series of Sports Illustrated articles have any truth to them,” Link said.
Smrt is president and founder of The Compliance Group, a Lenexa, Kan.-based consulting firm that specializes in compliance audits and reviews of information concerning potential NCAA violations.
At the NCAA, Smrt was responsible for the overall coordination of the major infractions process. He also drafted many of the NCAA’s enforcement procedures and assisted in their interpretation. He was present at more than 100 hearings before the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
Oklahoma State University will cooperate fully with Smrt’s investigation, Hargis said.
“I appreciate the unfettered access and cooperation that President Hargis has offered to help me carry out my review. He has asked me to pursue the facts wherever they my lead, I assured him that I will do so, and that I will conduct the review with care and urgency,” Smrt said.
The undefeated and 11th-ranked Oklahoma State University football will have a light week of practice because the Pokes don’t play this weekend. The Cowboys will start the Big 12 portion of its season on Sept. 28 against West Virginia in Morgantown, W. Va.
Oklahoma State University coach Mike Gundy said he supported a quick and thorough investigation.
“I am proud of our football program. I can assure everyone we are committed as coaches and staff to winning the right way,” Gundy said.
Monday’s Sports Illustrated article focused on six players who were dismissed from the OSU football team between 2003 and 2011.
Receiver Artrell Woods fractured two vertebrate during a training accident in July 2007. He was hospitalized and eventually rejoined the team after months of rehabilitation for spring practice in 2008.
The SI story reads: “But eight months earlier he had lost feeling in the lower half of his body, and with it his explosiveness. At the same time the school was trotting him out for interviews, building hype for his return.”
Woods caught a 7-yard pass on Nov. 1 during a 57-19 route of Iowa State. OSU fans gave him a standing ovation.
In 2009, Gundy told Woods he didn’t like his attitude and didn’t see a football future for him in Stillwater, Woods said. The university designated him a medical non-counter, meaning he could keep his scholarship and earn a degree from OSU, but wouldn’t play football. Woods stayed through fall 2009 before transferring to the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, where he would complete his play again.
Today, SI reports Woods is a part-time waiter at a chain restaurant in Bryan, Texas. He lives with his mother and her foster children.
“He concedes that he drinks too much and smokes too much marijuana. He is spending more and more time with what he calls “hustlers,” people he knows he should avoid and he though he left behind when he went to Oklahoma State,” according to the SI article.
The magazine also focused on former running back Herschel Sims, who was dismissed from the squad after removing money from a teammate’s bank account. Sims was charged with forgery in June 2012. He pleaded guilty in October, receiving an 18-month deferred sentence.
Sims is on the football roster at Abilene Christian University. The SI article says “The (OSU) coaches sold the promise of helping troubled young men, but seldom bothered to learn what troubled them.”
Sims’ stepfather received a 25-year sentence for child abuse. His mother received an eight-year sentence for not reporting the child abuse. Sims bounced around between foster homes and the homes of relatives, according to the SI article. He spent a year with his grandmother in a rough part of Los Angeles.
“I used to beg my grandma to move back to Texas. There were so many (shootings),” Sims told SI.
Monday’s final article quotes an unidentified former assistant coach under Gundy as saying the players are basically used like a commodity.
Between 2002 and 2010, 43.5 percent of the players enrolled in OSU’s football program left school before exhausting their five years of eligibility, SI reported.
“Once they’re no longer of any use, they’re gone,” SI quoted the anonymous coach as saying.
– Chris Day is the associate editor of the Stillwater NewsPress.