Sports Illustrated's five-part exposé of Oklahoma State football is on shaky ground. Let's just (honestly) say we're having a hard time keeping up with all the former players denying their roles in the story or claiming they were misquoted, specifically by reporter Thayer Evans.
Ordinarily, with a story like this, you'll have a couple players who regret what they said. Here, it's an elevated number*.
Seymore Shaw, the 2002-2004 running back whose name is cited a dozen times in Part 1, has recanted and apologized for his comments. Shaw says he told Evans not to use his contributions before the story ran. Evans was under no particular obligation to discard Shaw's comments.
Doug Bond, an offensive lineman from 2002 to 2004 who was dismissed for his grades, is quoted in both parts published as of this writing. He's responsible for the "two fingers" anecdote used to illustrate former Cowboys head coach Les Miles' approach to academics. Bond indicates his references to cheating had to do with speculation on college football as a whole, not specifically with things he'd seen in Stillwater:
I told him I had never seen, never heard of, or never taken anything. I made that extremely clear. I said that probably nine or 10 times during the conversation, as well. I said during the conversation nine or 10 times that I wasn't blaming anybody for my dismissal. My thing was, I owned my mistakes and I've always owned up to that.
But for example, the sentence that he said, one of the quotes that was in there was, ‘They take care of their cats.' (referring to OSU boosters paying players).
The whole sentence in that deal was I was saying that if there are schools that do that around the country, I'm sure they take care of their cats. I've never seen that (at OSU). That was my statement. My statement was paraphrased and used in a way to make it seem like I knew that was going on. And I've never seen any of that. Are you kidding me?
Part 3 of the series, which releases at some point Thursday and focuses on drug use, features 2006 linebacker Donnell Williams as a prominent source, based on the teaser blurb posted on SI's website, which quotes Williams as saying, "Drugs were everywhere." According to Williams' side of the story, he indeed told Evans that drugs are everywhere -- as in, not just Oklahoma State.
Also, 2002-2005 running back Greg Gold says his interview with Evans wasn't used because he only had positive things to say about the university:
"Obviously, the guys that interviewed, or the sources, should I say, unfortunately they weren't smart enough to realize that and got caught into a trap," Gold said.
He said he told Evans the program ran a tight ship when it came to academics, and he denied that any player or recruit was ever paid for performance.
Previously, a former OSU quarterback said he was quoted out of context, a key source for Part 4 declares himself highly disgruntled with the Cowboys, another former player quoted claims Evans lied, former QB Brandon Weeden accused Evans of a Sooners bias, and many other former players expressed immediate outrage. This is in addition to the journalists and analysts who objected to portions of Part 1, specifically. In that last link is also a defense of the story by its writer, George Dohrmann.
The complaints from interviewees are either consistent or suspiciously organized, depending on your perspective. Several players have accused Evans of misleading them as to the point of the interview, then presenting quotes in dishonest ways. I wasn't there. I don't know. It's their word against his.
* We should be careful not to dismiss everything in these OSU stories just because questionable interview methods were allegedly used. If evidence of mistreatment of women and actual dangerous drug use are presented, then we've got serious issues demanding discussion.
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