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The sport of jaywalking: Oklahoma State football and the risks we take

If everyone cheats, then no one cheats.

Brett Deering

Don't worry about the law. They can't arrest us all.

Rapper Bubba Sparxxx is not known as a man of wisdom. But that quote is dense with truth.

You can jaywalk by yourself, or you can wait for someone else to do it. You're in no danger of a citation if you're part of a crowd of jaywalkers, and you're in far less danger of being hit by a car. The theory of safety in numbers holds, especially when it comes to breaking laws everyone else is breaking as well.

We can feel shame for Oklahoma State's football program as we read Sports Illustrated's five-part exposé by George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans, which began Tuesday morning. We can wish for someone to do something about what the first installment describes, which is an alleged pay-for-performance system also including no-show offseason jobs. We can note no prominent players who left the school on decent terms were quoted as sources*. We can wait for the NCAA. We can wonder what Evans has against Oklahoma State and when Dohrmann will root out Gundy's fixed raffle schemes of the 1990s. These are all options.

* Update: Many, many former players are denying the story's claims on Twitter and local radio in Stillwater, including players you've heard of. The most frequent criticism: the reputations of the players cited by SI.

SI's story so far shouldn't necessarily be met with dismissals, even in our enlightened era. It reads like the New Orleans Saints' bounty scheme, but even more brazen, with cash allegedly being handed in plain sight to nominal amateurs in postgame locker rooms and on team airplanes.

The amount paid for a specific play was not always the same. For [defensive tackle Brad] Girtman [kicked off the team in 2005], quarterback hurries were worth $50, a tackle between $75 to $100 and a sack from $200 to $250. Echoing his teammates' claim, Girtman says the rates were told to him by assistant Joe DeForest, who ran the special teams and secondary under coach Les Miles from 2001 to '04, and was the associate head coach, special teams coordinator and safeties coach under current coach Mike Gundy from 2005 to '11. When players met with their position coaches after games, according to Girtman, DeForest would go from group to group and discuss with the players what they had done. "Your stats definitely dictated how much you were getting," Girtman says. [...]

Girtman, [cornerback Calvin] Mickens and [pass-rusher Rodrick] Johnson told SI they received bonus payments, and seven other players say they were aware of payouts. Another dozen Cowboys -- including Williams, running back Tatum Bell (2000 to '03), wide receiver Adarius Bowman (2005 to '07), defensive end Victor -DeGrate (2003 to '06), quarterback Josh Fields (2001 to '03) and safety Vernon Grant (2002 to '04) -- were identified by teammates as having received bonuses. Teammates say they knew those players were paid because they witnessed them being handed money and/or those players openly discussed their bonuses.

The list of alleged exchanges is lengthy and descriptive, much of it coming from apparently disgruntled former players (that's important). It reaches LSU (Les Miles was Oklahoma State's head coach for much of the time span at hand), West Virginia (DeForest), and Texas (running backs coach Larry Porter is accused of handing a player $5,000).

If you're a rival fan celebrating what you think is about to happen to Oklahoma State, LSU, Texas, or West Virginia, know that you're only celebrating a well-written, well-reported list of details. You are not celebrating the fact that your university couldn't be accused of the same things. Also, no one will get in any trouble whatsoever.

From here on out, let's assume for the sake of argument that everything in SI's story is accurate.

Spencer Hall on OSU: Great story, in service of what?

Even though the alleged involvement of coaches goes beyond the usual charges of overeager boosterism, there are no receipts or video. Maybe Johnny Manziel made money off his name, and maybe so did Brad Girtman in 2003, just as Bear Bryant's recruits allegedly did when he arrived at Texas A&M in 1954. Just like hundreds of players who shed blood before the NCAA's establishment and hundreds more who played before the NCAA really began punishing schools. If these things happened, then money changed hands and was spent on goods and services. That's the whole deal.

Today, we should assume these things happen at football schools all across the country, though the reported level of boldness here is a rare feat. I do not know how to say this so it doesn't sound like know-it-all cynicism, and that's not at all a slam of SI's work. It's another reminder that the current structure of college sports does not match the reality of college sports. The market is finding a way, and many people do not like the way it's finding, but it's the market.

When you're jaywalking as part of a crowd, don't walk bloodside. That's an EMT term from at least one part of the country. It refers to the person who was the first to be struck in an accident. If your car is hit on the passenger side, then the passengers were sitting bloodside. It would've been better for them to not be sitting there.

By the time the NCAA's final decree on Miami arrives, the Canes will likely have been waiting almost two and a half years. Right now, the Miami Hurricanes are still walking bloodside. Based on the likely public response (outside our corner of the internet, at least) to SI's Oklahoma State series, the Cowboys will be jostled toward traffic once Miami has passed.

Expect results on the field to be more immediate that whatever it is we're waiting for the NCAA to do. The sport's governing body might literally never do anything about OSU, seeing as it's losing its best investigators to the institutions it's supposed to be investigating and is set to be overhauled in under a year's time anyway. Head coach Mike Gundy, already courted by a larger football program last year, could exit for a better job without ever being implicated. The Cowboys could volunteer to skip a bowl game or two. The possibility of NCAA action could force OSU to apply the Miami blueprint: grovel, cooperate, wait for the public tide to turn, and then openly defy. But that's it.

"It was just like in life when you work," former Oklahoma State defensive back Thomas Wright, who was also booted in 2005, is quoted as saying by SI. "The better the job you do, the more money you make."

Jaywalking is a crime. It happens every minute in every city in the world. You've done it a hundred times. It happens because the governing structure cannot ever perfectly fit the nature of foot traffic. According to human nature, it has to happen.

You don't spend your weekly paycheck on jewelry. Oklahoma State players, according to SI, did not spend their money on jewelry either. They spent it on food.

More from SB Nation:

Five-part SI investigation into Oklahoma State football coming out

Spencer Hall recaps Week 2, and Mack Brown needs a home

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