Part 2 of series says OSU lax on players
Part 2 of a Sports Illustrated investigative report brought more allegations of improper conduct within the Oklahoma State football program while LSU coach Les Miles was in charge of it from 2001 to 2004.
The installment that was posted on the magazine’s website Wednesday morning alleged rampant academic misconduct, and Miles addressed the report in three different media availabilities later in the day.
Miles didn’t address many of the details in the report, but repeatedly said the Cowboys program operated within the rules and said “at some point I’m going to have my say.”
When given the opportunity to address the allegations on his weekly radio show Wednesday night, Miles replied, “It’s a story from 13 years ago. We were developing a young program and worked hard. I’m very proud of the things we did there. Our staff and players performed in a very strong manner.
“I don’t think any football program is perfect,” Miles continued, “but I promise you we did right things there.”
SI said the alleged systemic academic misconduct took root upon Miles’ arrival and continued under his successor, Mike Gundy, one of Miles’ assistants who was promoted to head coach when LSU hired Miles after the 2004 season.
The report claims 13 Oklahoma State student-athletes who played between 2000 and 2011 said they were involved in some form of academic misconduct, and 16 others were named by teammates as also having had schoolwork done for them. Several players identified by their former teammates as having gotten improper credit denied the allegations.
Miles said Wednesday night that he addressed the ongoing magazine report with his eighth-ranked team, which plays Kent State on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
“I said, frankly, that ‘I’ve treated you the same,’ ” Miles said after practice. “ ‘You guys know me.’ If there was any impropriety, they sure as heck would know it. I think they understand it, I think they understand the distraction and I think they’re ready to get going. I don’t think that there’s anything that our guys are carrying with them.”
During his opening statement on the Southeastern Conference’s weekly coaches teleconference Wednesday morning, Miles issued a stern rebuke of any allegations of academic improprieties and other claims made in the magazine’s reporting, in a response similar in tone to Saturday, when he denied wrongdoing during his time at Oklahoma State.
“I can tell you that staff, families and friends and anybody that sat in our meeting rooms knew that this thing was done right,” Miles said.
According to Wednesday’s installment, “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 installment begins with an anecdote claiming that Miles would often end team meetings throughout his tenure with the Cowboys by saying, “Academics first, football second.” But, according to the report, 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,” Doug Bond, a Cowboys offensive lineman from 2002 to 2004, is quoted as saying in the story. “So the thought process was that you’re going to school just so you can play football.”
According to SI, Miles said the “one-finger, two-finger gesture” happened just once, in “a moment of humor,” adding, “I always said, and I always meant, that academics was the most important thing.”
The overriding allegation in the second installment is that while Miles was the Oklahoma State coach, players could and often would receive passing grades and be advanced out of courses despite doing little to no work just to ensure they remained eligible to play football.
On the conference call Wednesday, Miles seemingly alluded to players making claims of academic misconduct as having potentially having an agenda coloring their statements to the magazine’s reporters.
“I revered my time in Stillwater,” Miles said. “Did we work hard? You betcha. Did we make tough decisions about starting lineups? You betcha.
“But every guy was encouraged to get his degree, to stay the course and to fight. I can tell you that people commenting on the state of the program weren’t there long enough to figure it out. They heard me tell them: Attend class, do the right things and heard me routinely.”
LSU has often touted the fact that in the last two years under Miles, the university’s football program had the second-highest graduation rate in the SEC, behind Vanderbilt.
Making his weekly appearance Wednesday afternoon on Sirius/XM radio’s “College Football Playbook” show, Miles reiterated that he and his staff “did everything they could” to make sure they were doing things to support their players at Oklahoma State and in the right way.
“It’s the only way we know how to operate,” Miles said.
“We went in there, improved, improved the place and the service (for players) and we worked hard at developing people.”
When asked after practice if improper conduct could have happened within the Oklahoma State program without his knowledge, Miles replied, “We did things correctly and I have a very strong feeling that this thing was done right. But I wasn’t there at every place all the time. That being said, the things we did, we did right.”
In Part 2, Terry Henley, an academic adviser for Oklahoma State football since 2000, denied allegations that he scheduled players in easy classes and steered them to majors. He added that “there was never pressure (to cheat),” from Miles, but “he didn’t promote academics.”
LSU has said it will have no further comment on the allegations until the full series has been released in the coming days.
Miles said that when SI contacted him recently in regard to the report, “I had no idea that this would be anything like this.”
Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.