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September 16, 2013

Pickens rips SI for digging up old dirt

STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma State University’s biggest financial contributor has criticized the Sports Illustrated investigation into the school’s football program for focusing on corruption that happened a decade ago.

Oil mogul T. Boone Pickens, an alum who has donated more than $500 million to the school and whose name adorns its 60,000-seat stadium, said many of the  improprieties cited by the magazine are “not reflective of OSU today.”

Pickens welcomed the scrutiny the SI series has aroused, including investigations by the NCAA, the Big 12 and OSU itself of the football program. He said it was an opportunity for the school to show it is “a different university today. It is a better university” than described by SI.

His statement – notable for its defense only of the current OSU football program – was featured on a website (response.okstate.edu) created by the school to respond to the SI series. The report has detailed illicit cash payments to players, academic dishonesty, toothless drug policies and the use of sex to induce recruits from 2001 to 2011.

The SI investigation was based on interviews with 64 former players and some 40 football staff, many of whom commented on the record and even allowed their statements to be videotaped for use on the magazine’s website.

Wednesday’s installment of the series dealt with academic misconduct, including players receiving passing grades for work they didn’t do or classes they didn’t attend in order to keep them eligible for game day.

It also included comments from a former OSU defensive back, Victor Johnson, that football players were humorously surprised when  receiver Dez Bryant, now a star with the Dallas Cowboys, was named second-team academic All-Big 12 in 2008 for his scholarship achievement.

“You didn’t have no choice but to laugh at it,” Johnson is quoted as telling SI. Johnson said it was well known that tutors did a majority of Bryant’s course work, and that when he went to class, he was always accompanied by a member of the football staff.

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