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Sports Illustrated investigation could hurt OSU recruiting

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
September 20, 2013

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Sports Illustrated closely examined Oklahoma State’s football program in a five part investigation, and they found some potential problems – an assistant who didn’t clear payments to players for work, a drug program more lenient than most and a drug counselor who had no training in that. The NCAA will likely come in and investigate the allegations, on top of the school’s independent investigation. The impact could be widespread, or narrow. And the same could go for recruiting.

“It was great. I visited all the facilities, the dorm room, everything, so it was a great visit. The coaches were nice and the players were upfront with me. So I just felt comfortable and felt at home.”

“It’s shocking because when I went down there all these reports were coming out, it’s just opposite of what I’ve seen and opposite of what was told to me.”

Chris Hardeman first committed to LSU, but switched to the Cowboys recently. He’s one of the more heralded recruits who are supposed to wear the orange and black in 2014.When he first heard about the Sports Illustrated series he called up some coaches at OSU to find out what was going on.

“They told me that to just trust in them and stuff like that. I had a great conversation with my position coach about the whole thing, Coach Malone, and he really let me know what was going on.”

The series divided opinion in Oklahoma, and nationally. It focused on the hidden side to college sports – the money, girls, drugs, academics and treatment of players who no longer are useful on the field. Many looked for the smoking gun on the OSU program itself, and didn’t find it. Rather, Sports Illustrated seemed to redirect the series after it was finished, arguing it was about illustrating the broad problems in marrying education and sports, when millions are at stake.

“The parents and high school coaches read this stuff. What schools will do is they’ll contact the adults in the situation and say do you want to send your son there? Look at this. They’ll be printed copies of these articles going out to recruits, with highlighted passages saying ‘Look at this, is this where you want to send your son?’”

Mike Farrell is a national recruiting analyst for, one of the most prominent recruiting services in the country. He says most kids and many in the industry are simply tired of these kinds of stories. But there’s still the NCAA to consider.

“The ones that are resolved quickly, you recover from. But if it’s a drawn out process, it can really damage you, because it’s going to be used against you in recruiting in every aspect, for as long as the scandal continues.”

Mason Rudolph  is another 2014 commit for the Cowboys.

“I talked to Coach Yurcich, we talked for about 20 minutes just about our seasons and these allegations, the Sports Illustrated stuff.  He really didn’t know a whole lot about it, like I didn’t, and so he just kinda filled me in on what he was being told. It was good.”

He says his recruitment was by the book. He watched the Spring Game along with a hostess from Orange Pride and a graduate assistant, and said it was just like a visit to any other school. But that doesn’t mean kids at his high school aren’t teasing Rudolph.

“Teammates or whatever, guys joking around, ‘What’s going on there man? What’d you do over there?’ I just kinda shake it off, because I didn’t really have anything to do with that side of things. So yeah, it’s been kind of annoying.”

“People make jokes like how much did they pay you? And stuff like that. But I know the truth. I wasn’t paid anything to commit to Oklahoma State.”

Both Mason and Chris Hardeman say they’re not going anywhere. They’re willing to answer the questions once they get on campus, and willing to take any heat from guys before they arrive in Stillwater. Some of it is more than teasing though. Other Division I programs are already pestering them…

“Some coaches have contacted my head coach. My dad is the coach at my school, so they can contact him also since he’s the coach at my school. I really haven’t asked who or what school it is because I’m really just focused on my senior season and getting ready to go to Oklahoma State in eight months.”

So the current recruiting class appears like it’s locked in, at least as much as it can be at this point in the process. And even if it isn’t, changes in commitments are common before kids have to put pen to paper. Mike Farrell, again with Rivals, says the real concern is the impact beyond this year.

“So now, you’re looking at these 2015 kids, and you’re trying to tell them this isn’t a big deal, and that’s hard to do.”

And with all the money in college sports, it may be hard to believe that many think the NCAA enforcement office is already understaffed. With a long investigation still open at powerhouse Miami, plus one possibly starting at a number of SEC schools after a Yahoo Sports report, they’ll be stretched even more. It could take a while for OSU to find out what’s happening.

“Okay, if you did it, hammer them. If they didn’t do it, let them go. But this could be something we’re still talking about in 2 years.”

According to Farrell and others in the recruiting world, it could be difficult to lure top flight players to a program that’s still under the cloud of an NCAA investigation, with no end in sight.

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