10 thoughts on the first SI story

Written by Kyle Porter
Photo Attribution: USATSI

Photo Attribution: USATSI

I sat in a coffee shop this morning from the early hours, getting some work done, preparing for the day, telling myself I would worry about the Sports Illustrated story when it dropped.

Then at 7:40 AM I got on SI.com and hit refresh approximately 1,033,000 times in the next 22 minutes.[1. 8:02 is not 8:00, SI!] Then I froze for the next three hours. I went on with BBJ and said some stuff (who knows what it was?) and just sat there staring at Twitter and all the comments and tweets and everything rolling in.

Where do you even start to try and get your arms around this?

Then I realized that this is day one and we have four more of these and I’m going to need an intravenous coffee IV the way Zac Robinson needed a wide receiver not named Dez back in 2009.

Let’s jump in..

1. First things first: “[former player] is a terrible person therefore what [former player] said could not have happened” does not employ an ounce of logic. Do former players who got kicked off the team have a motive for talking? Sure, but that doesn’t make what happened (or didn’t happen) more or less true. Whatever happened, happened and stuff like the tweet below doesn’t change facts.

2. All of that being said, the two clear-cut corners we have right now are pretty fascinating. You have the Brad Girtman “I’m all in on the fact that this happened” camp and the Josh Fields “there is no way in HELL this ever happened” camp. Both could be true, of course, because not everybody knows everything but the heavy-handedness with which former players responded in defense of the program says quite a bit.

Guys who had no real motive to respond — Cooper Bassett, Andre Sexton, etc. — just torched the article and gained nothing from what they said. I wasn’t there (obviously) and so I don’t know what happened but it feels like that should mean something in terms of there being a full-blown system of this happening in place.

3. I’ll lay out the two things OSU should be worried out in No. 3 and No. 4. First, are there any boosters or coaches who will confirm any of the allegations? Because right now it’s “he said, he said” but if it becomes “he said, he also said” then that’s really bad.

Also, was there a paper trail? Brad Girtman says Joe DeForest gave him a $5,000 debit card which means there should be some kind of evidence somewhere. I would think SI has it or they wouldn’t include that detail in the story.

4. My biggest question thus far — and I don’t feel like this was really answered by Part I — is “was this systematic and if so, did coaches know about it and condone it?” I feel like that’s the information the NCAA will be after and unless there’s a paper trail I’m not sure they’ll ever get it.

5. I have a funny feeling Tatum Bell’s Twitter feed will not be used when the NCAA comes to OSU and says “OK, what’s your defense?”

6. Let’s talk about Thayer, shall we? I don’t know if you heard Jason Whitlock on the Sports Animal today but he absolutely torched Thayer on the air. Called him a hack, an OU homer, and wondered aloud if he could spell “cat.” Audio here.

That’s a big thing SI has going against it — you know, given his history of ridiculous and biased behavior towards Oklahoma State. I’m not saying Thayer and Brad Girtman hang out on the weekends or anything but it doesn’t feel like that’s a massive leap. The problem with this, of course, is I’m not totally sure whether or not George Dohrmann (or Jon Wertheim, for that matter) would stick his name on it if he wasn’t 100% on the facts. That part lingers..

7. One of my followers on Twitter (Jeff Enkelman) put what he believes to be SI’s motive pretty succinctly. He said SI is “kind of sacrificing OSU at the NCAA alter to try and jump start change.” It really did feel like SI was using OSU as a microcosm for the culture of the NCAA as a whole. “These dudes are poor and starving which is why they received money which is why you need to change, NCAA!”

The motive for SI in this is that if (when?) it buries the NCAA it suddenly has the attention of what is currently a fractured online and print audience. There’s a crap load of people who would pledge allegiance to the entity that finally puts a dagger into the NCAA and SI knows that.

8. I’ve seen a lot on the four-year statute of limitations limiting the NCAA in how it can punish Oklahoma State. Again, this can be removed by the NCAA if it can¬†prove a pattern of willful violations.¬†I’m not saying that’s just the case, just a friendly reminder.

9. Two math questions. One, who was doing the calculations on QB hurries, sacks, etc. and then dividing up the money appropriately? Was it a grad assistant? If so, that would be a heck of a podcast! Two, where was all this money kept and how much was there? Was Huell prominently involved? It feels like Huell has to have been prominently involved.

10. After just five hours of madness I think I’ve changed my mind about 239 times on this.

Admittedly I think there are way too many details for all of this to be false. Hell, I’m not sure Brad Girtman is even smart enough to fabricate half the stuff he says in the piece so at least some of it probably has to be true. But I also think OSU is in a decent position to defend a lot of this — or so it seems based on reaction. I think Franny said it even better than I can (and I’ll leave you with this for now):

  • Sean Flanagan

    Kyle, has CBS cut you some slack from your real job? Cause this is really killing my productivity and probably will for the rest of the week.

  • Sam Snelling

    Great piece.

    I think what will ultimately hurt SI is the credibility of Thayer, some of the statements senior management is saying, and most of all, the credibility of those who were interviewed. I can’t comment on the validity of anything that was/will be in any of the series, but, I think you were spot on with a “he said, he said” argument.

    Watch SI’s preliminary interview with the players about money: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/video/ncaaf-video/20130910/oklahoma-state-football-players-sound-off-payments-money.sportsillustrated/?sct=hp_t2_a1&eref=sihp

    After watching those former players “guess” about what was going on… and comparing it to how certain the writing was in the article… I can’t help but to think how legitimate will all of the facts be?

    Lastly, let’s not forget what the *real* motivation behind SI’s articles are… PAGEVIEWS. I would expect nothing less than SI editing each and every piece to be be as controversial as possible. I am more interested in how the school will respond after the “academics” article than anything else. Most of all I hope our players keep their head on straight for this weekend.

    • Brian S.

      In the 4 minute video overview of the project, Dohrmann was quick to offer that Thayer initiated the project.

      • TeaTown Cowboy

        Then he is obviously as big of a DOOFUS as Thayer for putting his name on this piece. His reputation will be in tatters after this IMO.

  • themostexcellentorange

    You gotta hand it to Thayer Evans. Either way, if all the allegations are true or false, this was probably a dream project for him–an enormous OU homer getting to write the biggest OSU takedown ever.

  • Charles Strawn

    Good article, Kyle- I remember similar thoughts when the Ohio State mess was happening… the challenge is to find out what (if anything) is wrong and address it.

    Along those lines, be careful taking everything Dohrmann says as gospel. His work in the tOSU article was spotty at best.

  • OSU-Bill

    Short qualifier on the NCAA 4-year “statute of limitations.” It must be a “a pattern of willful violations” that continues into the 4-year lookback period. From a purely legal defensive standpoint (and ignoring the moral issues–Ha, college football!), OSU doesn’t have to prove that EVERYTHING stated is a lie, it just has to provide that everything within the last 4 years is a lie.

  • OSU-Bill

    Also, concerning #7, if true, what incentive does the NCAA have to push this very far? As long as there are substantial holes in the story, the NCAA can dismiss the report or hand out a light sentence without having to consider reform of the whole system.

  • seandooley

    I know Fran that maybe EVERYTHING isn’t necessarily false, but if you debunk most of it, it destroys the credibility of the rest does it not? Maybe there is some truth, but I gaurantee a school like LSU or Alabama would have more to hide than OSU ever would. Where were all those 5star recruits going? Ultimately, I don’t know what happened, so i’ll reserve judgment til everything is out.

  • Brian S.

    As stated, it really comes down to #3 and #4. Will a booster come forward and corroborate the stories by admitting to paying players, and is there any physical evidence to support the transactions.

    • OSUaggie

      I agree with Brian. Corroboration from a believable source is a whole different can of worms for OSU. At this point, 90+% of what we’ve seen is coming from former players that are somewhat discredited by their “departure methodologies” from OSU football. I think it’s fascinating that Dohrmann quickly credited Thayer as the project originator; a tidbit that does *NOT* help SI’s position toward unbiased journalism. We’re just going to have to wait and see if the evidence source improves or continues to look really spotty at best…..

  • Ryan

    You’re wrong on point 1. If all you have is witness testimony, the first thing you do is discredit the witnesses, any way you can, even better when you can discredit the investigator too.

  • Michael Houston

    Kyle, keep up the great work! As always, you are a breath of fresh, honest air. It is appreciated.

  • Jack Robinson

    Whitlock hit the nail on the head. The NCAA is the issue here, not OkState. I am disappointed that they chose my school to drive the wedge, but I can say with 80% certainty based on historical events that Evans was behind that. It could’ve been a bigger program, to say this happens at a mid-range school and doesn’t happen at programs like Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, USC, or even OU is just as ignorant as saying the article is 100% false. I don’t like it, but this IS and always HAS BEEN college football. I don’t see it changing until the system itself is changed.

  • TJ

    While certainly some part can be true, for instance the FCA speaking engagement part, Tally could have believed this wasn’t an infraction and had done, to the NCAA probably not a huge deal depending on the money? Also I could see some of the players not being monitored well enough and thus skipping out but still getting paid, again I doubt a huge NCAA thing. But the coaches handing out money in the open and all that really grandiose stuff. Im sorry i call BS, that is what most of the players are saying is BS I think anyway.

    • graceruth

      Dad actually works alongside anyone who works for him…and most of the work is done for people in the community not at our “ranch”. Not sure when 5 acres and a house built 31 years ago became a ranch. Dad would never pay someone who didnt work and frequently asks guys who are lazy to not come back.

  • CTC

    After reading the entire article from a legal prospective, I don’t feel like there is any weight to any of the claims. Half the quotes aren’t claimed and 90% of the statements don’t have quotes attached. I think it is a really poor piece of journalism that appears rushed and undocumented. I don’t think this will go anywhere but am eager to read parts 2-5.