Sports Illustrated Alleges Massive Academic Fraud at Okie State

By DJ Byrnes on September 11, 2013 at 10:34a

Unless you find $500 handshakes or sex and marijuana use in college as scandalous, this always promised to be the most scandalous part of Sports Illustrated's investigation. Academics are supposed to be the holy grail of college sports; the education of young men is supposed to be sacrosanct, even in comparison to wins on the gridiron.

Yet, that wasn't the case at Oklahoma State, say multiple former players who played from 2000 to 2011. Like yesterday, this story starts with our old friend Leslie Miles. From the article: 

As Miles said, "Academics first," he would hold up two fingers. And as he said, "Football second," he would hold up one. "You heard his words but you saw what he was doing," says Doug Bond, a Cowboys offensive lineman from 2002 to '04. "So the thought process was that you're going to school just so you can play football."

That's pretty duplicitous, even given the standards I'm applying to a snakeoil salesman like Les Miles. Can't you just see the smug, I'm-oh-so-clever look on his face when he did this? (Miles, for his part, denies the allegations and says the finger gesture was meant as "a moment of humor.") As you can imagine, some players were all too willing to take that lesson to heart, and Oklahoma State staff was willing to facilitate that:

Given the coach's message to his players, it is not surprising that 13 Cowboys who played between 2000 and '11 told SI that they participated in some form of academic misconduct, and 16 others were named by teammates as also having had schoolwork done for them. Players said that they routinely had their coursework completed by tutors or university staff members, that they were provided with answers to exams before taking them, and that they received passing grades despite doing little or no work. Players also allege that the academic counselor for football scheduled them in classes with exceptionally lax professors and pigeonholed them into majors without consulting them. "The philosophy, the main focus [of the program], was to keep [the best players] eligible through any means necessary," says Fath' Carter, a safety from 2000 to '03. "The goal was not to educate but to get them the passing grades they needed to keep playing. That's the only thing it was about."

Then there's this nugget which strikes at the heart of the NCAA punishing schools long after dirty coaches have skated into the sunset:

Terry Henley, an academic adviser for football since 2000, denies the players' allegations that he scheduled them in easy classes and steered them to majors, but concedes that academics weren't a priority for Miles. "There was never pressure [to cheat], but Miles was like most coaches who want to be somewhere else," said Henley. "They're going to do what they need to do for two or three years, and they're not going to have to deal with whatever the fallout is. So, no, he didn't promote academics."

You know who does have to deal with the fallout? Honest kids who are recruited into the program who did no such wrongdoing. They get punished long after these coaches have pulled the ripcord on their golden parachute and are landing softly in greener pastures.

Some former players allege they were teammates with functional illiterates, and Miles pushed admission standards down for players of higher athletic abilities. (Dez Bryant, who was second-team Academic All-Big 12 in 2008, had those accolades laughed at by former teammates who said most of his coursework was done by a tutor.)

Like yesterday's article, the common theme is Les Miles showed up, relaxed some standards, and Mike Gundy was more than willing to carry on that torch after Miles went to LSU. If there's something the NCAA should hammer Oklahoma State on, it's this. Given their response to North Carolina's similar scandal, however, I'm not holding my breath.


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droessl's picture

I'm trying to think of an effective way for the NCAA to punish the coaches and administrators that break the rules rather than the kids who were free of any wrongdoing. That, to me, seems to be the best way to avoid habitual line-steppers like Les Miles from tucking and running once the damage is done. 
However, I don't know that colleges would sign on to give the NCAA any further jurisdiction to meddle with their affairs. 

AndyVance's picture

The only way, apparently, is by slapping the "show cause" penalty as they did with Tressel. That farce of an enforcement debacle effectively ended his D-I coaching career. Will anything remotely like that happen to the likes of Miles? Not in a million years.

cronimi's picture

Dammit! I basically just wrote the same thing. Guess you're a faster typist, Andy. Or I'm too verbose. Or both.

AndyVance's picture

It happens :)
Your comments, below, about going to the NFL is right on the money, and one of the reasons I have little but disdain for Pete Carroll and Chip Kelly. Tressel took his lumps, and his career was over - those guys were "smart enough" to ride out of town just ahead of the Sheriff, and they're making millions and laughing all the way to the bank.
It's not right, and it irks the hell out of me.

cronimi's picture

NCAA has the penalty in its quiver already: The Show-Cause. That follows the individual around like a rap sheet. I don't know if it's ever been given to someone who's already employed by another member institution, but we sure know it can be given out even when one is no longer at the institution in trouble (see Tressel, Jim).
If the NCAA were willing to impose a show-cause on someone who's left the offending institution for a different one, then it would have real teeth and would be a pretty big disincentive to coaches who play fast and loose with the rules. It'd be much harder to stay one step ahead of the law if the law could actually follow up to your new job. You could always jump to the pros (see Carroll, Pete; Kelly, Chip), but there are far fewer options there.

droessl's picture

Your second paragraph is what I was trying to get at. Some sort of penalty applied to a coach/AD after they've left town in a hurry. 

cajunbuckeye's picture

I have to spread the blame equally. Institutions, coaches, players, boosters, are all to blame. The ancients had their mythical beasts and we have college football. They used to sacrifice virgins and we place moral and ethics on the alter. It has gotten to be a win at all costs, but it isn't anything new. Corruption has been around since the dawn of time and it is not going away anytime soon. There are no easy answers and the police (NCAA) appear to be in bed with the criminals. In the end, you hope your team is doing it the right way, but in reality, your never really sure.

An angry fan...rooting for an angry team...led by angry coaches

OSU_ALUM_05's picture

This raises an interesting point I never really considered before.  If you're at a lower rated school working your way up the coaching ladder you have every incentive to cheat like mad until you get to a "destination" program.  The train wreck doesn't follow the coach so why should he care - just follow the NCAA coaching mantra:
*repeat lying as necessary

Yeti's have feelings too.

Michael Citro's picture

Given their response to North Carolina's similar scandal, however, I'm not holding my breath.


BED's picture

This.  NCAA has ZERO credibility.

The Ohio State University, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2006
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Class of 2009

ih8rolltyde's picture

I feel like I'm watching a giant house of cards fall, and I don't know if its funny or sad.

****igan smells like old water that hot dogs were boiled in.  FACT

gobucks96's picture

depends on which team you cheer for....

kb1's picture

If anyone listens to Dez Bryant talk, its pretty obvious he isnt academic anything....He was there to play ball, and thats what he did. Not a whole lot different than what goes on everywhere as far as Im concerned. Half these athletes we watch every Saturday wouldnt be in college if it wasnt for football, and thats a fact.

BuddhaBuck's picture

Dez Bryant, who was second-team Academic All-Big 12 in 2008....

Don't text while driving.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Are they laughing or having a seizure?

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

BuddhaBuck's picture

Green Arrow is definitely having a seizure.

Don't text while driving.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I guess that's the only way people will notice him.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Hovenaut's picture

I wonder if Mark Emmert has a subscription to Sports Illustrated, he seems like an educated man.

Idaho Helga's picture

He only looks at the swimsuit issue.

ChazBuckeye's picture

At least it's another OSU that's under investigation this time.  I have a feeling there are many layers to this one too btw.   We'll see what the NCAA two to three years.

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Kurt's picture

Why aren't they just investigating LSU?

BME_Buckeye's picture

What is there to investigate? 

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.


cajunbuckeye's picture

Let's start with the fake field goal attempt on 4th and 12 against Alabama last year. That was a crime.

An angry fan...rooting for an angry team...led by angry coaches

Brutus's picture

I'd like to think things are different at our OSU, but who can say for sure.  We've had guys in the past spout off about impropriety here, but those guys usually had an ax to grind, like Ray Small and even Clarrett for a time, so it was easy to dismiss them.  The only difference I see with this story is that SI found 13 Ray Smalls from OK State so it lends some credibility.  Still, if I'm going to believe it about OK State, I can't really not believe it about Ohio State or any other program for that matter.  RDubs linked to an article by Jason Whitlock yesterday which pretty much sums up exactly how I feel about this.  Big time college football is dirty to the core and there are a number of factors that contribute to this.  This should no longer be the story.  The story should be that the NCAA, which is supposedly there to make sure stuff like this doesn't happen and then ensures that the problem gets fixed, is entirely inept, and in many cases, just looks the other way because the problem is just too big to fix. I'm not going to express faux outrage at the situation at OK State, especially when the holier-than-thou NCAA continually sits by and does nothing.  I'm not saying we should be ok with $500 handshakes or kids getting passing grades for doing nothing, but at the end of the day, if the NCAA does nothing in the face of so much evidence at all these other programs (Oregon, A&M, UNC), why should I care. 

BME_Buckeye's picture

You know who does have to deal with the fallout? Honest kids who are recruited into the program who did no such wrongdoing. They get punished long after these coaches have pulled the ripcord on their golden parachute and are landing softly in greener pastures.

Maybe I'm not getting this but can the staff member who posted this or another 11w user explain this fallout and dealing with consequences. There has been no punishments handed down either before this situation was highlighted or now. That is, unless this statement is made in a general context of other situation (i.e. like PSU). The honest kids either way have nothing to deal with as of now. 

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.


cronimi's picture

I took it to mean generally. Not unlike the innocent Buckeye players missing out on a bowl game last season (although JT didn't exactly get the greener pastures that Les, Pete Carroll, Coach Cal, etc. have gotten when they've departed).

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

I'm assuming that what was said about honest kids having to deal with the fallout is conditional on whether or not Oklahoma State gets sanctioned by the NCAA. 

Class of 2010.

razrback16's picture

Les Miles & Mike Gundy should receive direct punishment from the NCAA, not OSU or the kids playing there who had nothing to do with the scandal.

BuddhaBuck's picture

Stop thinking logically. It's not NCAA-like.

Don't text while driving.

Grayskullsession's picture

Tabloid journalism at its finest. Always good for a laugh. I'm not surprised by anything outlined in the article, but I take it with a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE grain of salt looking at the authors of the article.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

Jugdish's picture

Damn. I see them getting the same horrible and inhumane treatment as UNC. The shame of it all.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

BuckGnome's picture

George Dohrmann can go suck an egg.
That is all.

CharlieBuckeye's picture

Ladies and gentlemen - Nothing to see here.  The excitement is over. Moving on now.
Mantra of the NCAA- National Cowards Association of America

"To have a great life simply follow this rule:  Do not bring undo conflict into your life..."

Charlie Baker - OSU - 1986

YTOWNBUCKI's picture

I'm on the train of punishing individuals rather than institutions.  The caveat to that is, of course, whether or not the institution covered it up or even worse facilitated it.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors

Go get your shine box, Gumar!

toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

Isn't Les Miles a "Michigan Man"?

unholy bucknut's picture

Oklahoma St isn't in the SEC old Slive can't save these cats I think they're boned.

headina's picture

The ncaa should penalize coaches via fines. Money is the only thing that is going to talk to the culprits. Could you imagine a $100k or more fine for a violation? If Suh can get fined that for a low block, miles should be fined $500k for this disgraceful injustice to what a student athlete is/should be. Also, if the violation causes a coach to leave or be fired he should have a salary cap set for x amount of years wherever he goes. An example would be Miles can only make $700k a year for 3 years or something along those lines. The remaining balance of what his full salary would have been should go towards scholarships for non athletes. I know the ncaa probably doesn't have the jurisdiction (or balls) to do it so I am most likely rambling for nothing. 


AndyVance's picture

The first part of your suggestion - about fines - might be workable, but the second part is a pipe dream. You're correct - the NCAA doesn't have that sort of jurisdictional power, I don't think - and even if they did, I think that sort of measure would finally push the major FBS conferences to tell the NCAA to get out of D-I football because they're going to do their own thing.

Knarcisi's picture

Miles is at LSU.  Emmert was at LSU. Don't think for a fucking second this is going anywhere. 

gobucks96's picture

If they can't punish Miami by now, what do you expect on this?

Dr. House's picture

so question lets say I was an athlete in college (i wasn't) and while scheduling classes I used ratemyprof to make my semester easier would I be in trouble according to what ever rules the ncaa is pulling from their backside?

40 Degrees North's picture

Oh my, T. Boone Pickens latest retweet from Dennis Miller is going to leave a mark. The media will not like it.

AndyVance's picture

Yeah, I think they're really fired T. Boone up now... Not going to be a good thing for SI to have one of the wealthiest men in America pissed of at you.

WC Buckeye's picture

Ya know - Leslie isn't the first guy to leave a lingering stench in his wake, nor are messrs Carroll or Kelly. Look at Lou Holtz's trail of tears as an even more striking example (Miami (OH), William & Mary, Minnesota, Arkansas, Notre Dame, and South Carolina were all in varying degrees of NCAA hot water very shortly after he left each of them), and he won't be the last, one, either. What all of the scumbag coaches learn from successive and progressively more in-depth NCAA investigations and rulings is how better to skirt the rules. This is true whether we're talking about academics, recruiting, or any other aspect of dealing with student athletes.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.