The third portion of a Sports Illustrated report alleges the use and sale of drugs was rampant within the Oklahoma State University football program and treatment policies were lax and based on preferential treatment when LSU coach Les Miles helmed the one-time Big 12 Conference doormat.
The installment, which was posted on the magazine’s website around 8:30 a.m. Thursday, reported the Cowboys “had one of the nation’s most lenient policies” when it came to drug testing and punishments for players that violated its protocols. In addition, the magazine said more than 40 players described a system — between 2001 and 2012 under Miles and current coach Mike Gundy — where punishments were based in part on a player’s performance.
“It was tied to how well you could produce,” said Jonathan Cruz, an offensive lineman on the 2002 team coached by Miles. “If you could produce on Saturday, things could be overlooked.”
Miles issued a written statement to the magazine deeming the details described to be “an outsider’s view or perhaps a disgruntled player who wanted playing time but could not earn it.”
“Yes, I wanted our players to perform on the field, but they had to perform socially and academically too or they would not see the field,” Miles wrote in his response to the magazine. “I backed the police 100 percent and did support law enforcement by asking what I could do to provide assistance.”
That would seem to conform with the same tenor Miles used multiple times Wednesday to address Sports Illustrated’s findings after a 10-month investigation.
“We were developing a young program and worked hard,” Miles said during his weekly radio show Wednesday night. “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, but I promise you we did things right there.”
The magazine alleges Miles’ time at Oklahoma State was rife with players engaging in the use of marijuana, along with allegations players sold narcotics to Cowboys teammates and others.
A player on Miles’ 2001 team told the magazine he made roughly $1,000 week selling marijuana. Thirty former players told Sports Illustrated they used drugs while on the team, which included members of Miles’ teams such as Cruz, McGill, Allen, Tatum Bell (2000-2003), defensive back Ricky Coxeff (2003-2004), linebacker Victor DeGrate (2003-2006), linebacker Ahmed Dawson (2000), defensive tackle Brad Girtman (2003-2004), defensive lineman Richard Murphy (2000-2001), running back Seymore Shaw (2002-2004) and safety Thomas Wright (2002-2004).
Yet, the work by Sports Illustrated has come under some scrutiny in the past two days.
The Tulsa World pointed out that 24 of the players listed in Thursday’s installment had been booted from the roster, left the program or transferred to other schools.
Additionally, ESPN reported inconsistencies in information provided by former safety Fath’ Carter, who was quoted extensively in the magazine’s stories about a range of misconduct and improprieties inside the Oklahaoma State program.
Documents obtained by ESPN showed Carter misrepresented claims he graduated from OSU and attended class with former running back Tatum Bell, in which the players received failing grades because their eligibility ended. Carter, who attended the school from 2000 until 2005, said he earned a degree in education, but records show he did not.
Carter also told SI that he and Bell were in the same class and got A’s and then had the same instructor again for a class in 2004 but got F’s. Records cited by ESPN showed Bell wasn’t at Oklahoma State in 2004. A transcript provided by Bell to ESPN showed he withdrew from school after the 2003 fall semester.
The drug use described in the Sports Illustrated piece isn’t solely limited to Miles stint in Stillwater, but spread into the current tenure of Gundy, who took over in 2005 after Miles left for LSU.
Drug use by players has been an issue dealt with by Miles at points during his nine seasons at LSU.
Two of the most prominent cases involved one of Miles’ most celebrated recruits, quarterback Ryan Perrillioux, and one of his most celebrated players, 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu.
Miles dismissed Perrilloux from the team on May 2, 2008, despite the fact Perrilloux was being counted on to be LSU’s starting quarterback for the upcoming season after Matt Flynn graduated.
Perrilloux, the MVP of the 2007 Southeastern Conference Championship Game, was suspended at least three times before Miles sent him packing. According to an ESPN report at the time, it was because he failed a drug test.
Mathieu was dismissed from the team on Aug. 10, 2012, reportedly for failing multiple drug tests. The All-American cornerback and kick returner, now with the Arizona Cardinals, was suspended during the 2011 season in a disciplinary action in line with a second failed test under LSU’s substance abuse policy. He later told ESPN the Magazine ahead of the NFL draft that he failed multiple drug tests while in Baton Rouge.
Tiger Rag reported that punter Brad Wing was suspended for last season’s Chick-fil-A Bowl because of a failed drug test, and missed LSU’s 2012 season opener against North Texas for the same reason. Wing then opted to turn pro but was cut during preseason camp by the Philadelphia Eagles after signing as a free agent.
The magazine’s reporting also indicates favorable treatment to star players who violated Oklahoma State’s drug-use policy.
The magazine describes a period in 2003 when a group of Cowboys players — usually more than six — met at 7 p.m. in a classroom for counseling sessions for players who had failed drug tests for marijuana. Not every player, though, was admitted to the group, which was reserved for top stars or prospects on the roster. There was a perk: Players could use marijuana without penalty if they attended, the magazine reported.
However, players told the magazine group sessions weren’t productive because players showed up under the influence and weren’t interested in resolving addiction.
“It was like a brotherhood,” former wide receiver Chijuan Mack, who is also a Baton Rouge native and Woodlawn High School graduate, said to the magazine.
The Oklahoma State athletic department has a “four-strike” drug policy, the magazine reported. A first positive test results in no penalty; a second leads to an immediate suspension of 10 percent of the regular season; a third, an immediate suspension of 50 percent. After a fourth positive test, the player is kicked off the team.
In the early years, players said that Miles dropped in on sessions, according to the magazine, and would ask players when was the last time they smoked marijuana.
In a written statement to the magazine, Miles said he only stopped by “to be supportive and help players with issues.”