This is bad for Sports Illustrated. McMurphy is one of the last people in college football media you want raising questions about you. He is right about things. To say his reputation as a journalist surpasses SI reporter Thayer Evans' would be an understatement.
After several days of former Oklahoma State players recanting and denying their roles in the story, including repeated attacks on Evans' interview methods, McMurphy reports school records show holes in the stories involving former safety Fath' Carter, running back Tatum Bell, and running back Dexter Pratt.
The reported issues are not foundational. McMurphy finds via university records that SI's description of transcript matters weren't correct. By themselves, these differences could be written off as minor.
But added to the swelling chorus of criticism from elsewhere, they're concerning. The amount of time poured into this story (which SI says took 10 months to create), the amount of promotional work (the series is being published in five parts, with a press release the week prior), and the reputation-staking going on (multiple SI staffers have described the story as impeccably edited) should've demanded examining the records ESPN reportedly discovered within two days.
And McMurphy isn't just fact-checking SI's report. He's fact-checking SI's response to the criticism raised against its report, including portions of author George Dohrmann's defense:
In Tuesday's SI report, Carter said he graduated from OSU with a degree in education. George Dorhmann, one of two SI reporters who reported the stories, also said on The Doug Gottlieb Show Tuesday that "Fath' (Carter) has two degrees from Oklahoma State, spoke on the record, recorded. I have no reason to believe he lied. And he's certainly not disgruntled."
Carter didn't have two degrees. Carter attended OSU from 2000-05 but never graduated at all from the school, according to the university's registrar office.