In the latest installment of its multipart report on the Oklahoma State football program, Sports Illustrated depicts a program run rampant with drug use and lax enforcement policies among coaches and officials at the school dating back to the 2001 season.
Much like Wednesday's report on grade-fixing and the coaches favoring star players, former Oklahoma State players told Sports Illustrated that while lesser players might get suspended or kicked off the team for a positive drug test, star players would go unpunished.
"I was kind of in disbelief that people could do the things that they were doing," said Jonathan Cruz, an offensive lineman on the 2002 team. "It was tied to how well you could produce. If you could produce on Saturday, things could be overlooked."
Among the specific allegations made by former players to Sports Illustrated:
- Oklahoma State players would sometimes smoke marijuana before games. According to running back Herschel Sims, there were so many players smoking marijuana before Oklahoma State's Fiesta Bowl win against Stanford in 2012 that "we probably would have lost about 15-20 people who actually played" had the school suspended players who tested positive.
- Three former players told Sports Illustrated that they sold marijuana while on the team, while some players reported teammates selling drugs on the team. All in all, there was an admitted or alleged dealer on the team in 10 of 12 seasons.
- Thirty former players told SI that they used marijuana while on the team.
- Oklahoma State coaches often joked with players about their drug use. Mike Gundy is alleged to have pantomimed smoking a joint to his players, while other coaches would make remarks about how they thought players would work harder if they believed they were getting marijuana as a reward.
- Marijuana was the most common drug amongst players, but SI reports players also used cocaine, drank codeine syrup, hydrocodone prescribed by team doctors and sometimes dipped marijuana in formaldehyde.
- While most schools have a three-strike drug policy, Oklahoma State has a four-strike policy that requires a player to test positive four times before being dismissed. Also, if that player is in counseling, a positive test will not count as a strike against him.
- That counseling included something called the "Weed Circle" in the 2003 season where a group of teammates would meet on Tuesday nights in a classroom. According to former Cowboy Thomas Wright all the players in the "Weed Circle" had tested positive but were sent to the counseling session instead of being punished "as long as you were performing."
Much like Wednesday's report on grade-fixing at the school, while these allegations are obviously a bad look for the Oklahoma State program, they aren't nearly as dangerous to it -- from an NCAA perspective -- as the pay-for-play allegations that were released on Tuesday.
All in all it shouldn't come as a major surprise that college football players are using drugs like marijuana. Their drug use typically mirrors the drug use found among other students at the school. Based on the allegations made in the story the real problem at Oklahoma State would be the way the school has handled the drug use by its players, punishing some for the same transgressions it might let others slide for.
An interesting wrinkle was added to this story Thursday afternoon when ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported some inaccuracies in the story of Fath' Carter, a former Oklahoma State safety quoted frequently in the SI series.
Carter told Sports Illustrated he graduated with a degree in education. Citing documents from the school's registrar office, ESPN reported that Carter attended OSU from 2000-05 but never graduated.
Carter also told SI that he and Tatum Bell received A's from an instructor when they were playing, then received an F from the same instructor in 2004. Bell told ESPN that Carter lied about their time together in school.
"Not only did he lie about me attending those classes, he's trying to degrade everybody," Bell said. "I never received a dime from anybody."
There are still two more parts of Sports Illustrated's series to come. The fourth installment, titled "The Sex," will be released on Friday with the final installment, "The Fallout," released Tuesday.