Oklahoma State taking blemishes seriously, even if you aren't

A faction of college football seems fatigued by the garden variety of NCAA impropriety that Sports Illustrated is exposing about Oklahoma State this week.

Policing of players receiving cash and hooking up with team hostesses seems as antiquated as the NCAA rules that regulate them, they say. If the amateurism model is broken, why shouldn’t players indulge? I get it.

But though you might not take the downpour on Oklahoma State’s campus seriously, the Cowboys certainly do.

Until the NCAA rules are rewritten, this story matters. OSU knows it. Suggesting coaches facilitated payments to players is far from a few $500 booster handshakes.  

On Tuesday, Oklahoma State launched “response.okstate.edu,” a bizarre yet effective arrangement of statements from OSU higher-ups (including President Burns Hargis) intermingled with tweets from ESPN’s Jason Whitlock and former players debunking SI’s reporting.

When asked about the site Tuesday night, an OSU spokesman said the school is not commenting at this time.

Athletic director Mike Holder on Monday delivered what seemed like an earnest statement on how the university will approach the reports.

The Cowboys tried to get in front of the story over the weekend by telling local media they were aware of SI’s reporting and didn’t expect major NCAA violation implications with the current staff (hard to tell if that last part will hold).

OSU has made clear it’s all-in, concerned with the allegations and planning to be transparent.

Whether that transparency goes both ways is still uncertain. Will the website highlight only those who rip the SI reports or actually provide information on what the school has gathered internally -- separating fact from fiction, as Holder put it?

Today’s NCAA enforcement instills the fear of a marshmallow. But if there’s proof former coaches -- Mike Gundy, Les Miles, assistants Joe DeForest and Larry Porter -- facilitated payments, Oklahoma State could have a serious case to navigate.

Maybe Miles should know that, too. His OSU tenure feels like decades ago, and nearly is, but that doesn’t mean the voices in SI’s series of stories running this week should be discounted. He’s part of this now, whatever the results. The yet-to-be-released academic fraud segment could be the most explosive.

This story makes me wonder how much Gundy knew of SI snooping around when he was flirting with Tennessee in December. Maybe nothing, but seems like a fair question to ask.

After talking with a few former coaches about this story on Tuesday, they say this -- a coach might not know everything that’s going on in a program, but they know what’s going on in a program. In other words, a coach must choose to be naïve or proactive when it comes to whispers of cheating.

We still don’t know much of the background, but if half the stuff SI is alleging actually happened, it would it be hard to believe paranoid coaches -- trained to follow every detail in their program -- wouldn’t be aware of it all?

Public sentiment aside, NCAA guidelines are enacted by the schools. They essentially want to be policed.

Knock Sports Illustrated’s reporting if you want, but after talking with more than 60 OSU sources on record, there’s some heat here. Former players supporting OSU are questioning the sourcing -- players who got in trouble with the team or whose careers at OSU didn’t last -- and that’s fair. But SI still has a large sample size and talked to a lot of people. That shouldn’t be ignored.

OSU isn’t.

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