Last Modified: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 6:09 PM
In the world of college athletics, where there is smoke there is always ... questions and few answers.
So it is once again.
This time it is Oklahoma State that finds itself under the microscope, and LSU coach Les Miles as well.
Sports Illustrated is in the middle of a series of articles telling wild stories of academic fraud, payments to players and eventually sex being given to recruits.
Who would have believed Stillwater, Okla., was the Las Vegas of the Heartland.
It sure makes for a good read, but so did “Peyton Place.”
The truth will likely never come out.
Sports Illustrated has former OSU players going on the record to tell stories of horror under the current coaching staff and the one before. Miles was the head coach before the current group.
He is named front and center by the players who seemed more than willing to talk. Of course, Miles and the rest of the Oklahoma State group say those players have an ax to grind with the school and are now telling tales to make all look bad.
This could also be the case. We have seen more than a few smear campaigns in college athletics.
This is the classic case of he said, he said. Or better, they said, they said.
Fingers are being pointed in all directions, at all parties, from all angles.
In the end, this will come down to whom do you believe.
For the record, none of this should come as a surprise. We have seen these stories before. You can write one almost every year, especially if you want to go back a decade or so.
Have we heard of such things in the past at other schools? Of course.
Are there drugs on college campuses and do some players use them? Yes.
Have players in the past been given grades for class work they never did? Yes.
Have there been cases of players being paid to play at a certain school? Of course.
And have recruits been treated “fondly” on their trips to campus? By all means, yes.
Been there, heard that.
Yes, the SI series makes for great reading but the fallout will not likely be much. It never is.
Remember, the University of Miami is still being investigated for wrong doings by a booster. Who knows when the NCAA will finally rule on that.
It took years for the NCAA to finally penalize USC for its wrongs in the Reggie Bush era.
By the time the school was punished, Bush was making millions in New Orleans, head coach Pete Carroll was making even more in Seattle and the players who where ultimately hurt by the sanctions were in junior high or high school at the time of the indiscretions.
That’s leadership, NCAA style.
Meanwhile, the Johnny Manziel issue was cleared up in less than a week.
NCAA justice can be both swift, and it appears swept under the rug for a few years. So don’t expect any answers right now.
Miles, for his part, came out Wednesday and proclaimed he ran and runs a clean program. Miles defended himself during the weekly conference call of SEC head coaches.
He pointed the finger back at those saying such things, claiming those players “weren’t there long enough to figure it out.”
Well, they either know something or they don’t.
Interestingly, the money man behind the Oklahoma State football program, who is not named in the SI story, has not come to the defense of all the folks at OSU.
In a statement, T. Boone Pickens instead said the story is an old one and that things have been cleaned up.
“There have been wholesale changes at the school in recent years in leadership and facilities. During that time, I have given more than $500 million to OSU, for athletics and academics. Have I gotten my money’s worth? You bet.”
You don’t have to have a clean up if you don’t already have a mess.
Pickens is right, most of the stuff in the series does come from before 2008, but there are a few things after under current head coach Mike Gundy’s watch.
Does that mean the NCAA is going to come calling to Baton Rouge, or that Miles is right and the players who spoke up are wrong?
More questions, no answers.
Fact is, much like baseball and the steroids issue, nothing should shock us anymore. We have been told story after story and seen the messenger get blamed for everything. We just don’t know whom or what to believe.
Like baseball, the NCAA has not been able to clean up its game despite telling us all how hard it has tried.
Major League Baseball didn’t address the steroids issue until players themselves started to complain and long after a good portion of the money earned by all during the era had been spent.
Only then did the game really look in the mirror and see it had a problem.
The NCAA, and college presidents in particular, are the same. They are not going to kill the golden goose until it stops laying those piles of cash at their feet every weekend.
Maybe then we will get to the truth.
Are OSU and Miles being targeted in a smear campaign by players who feel they didn’t get enough playing time while in Stillwater? Maybe.
Or is it that Sports Illustrated has uncovered a story that paints a real picture of the ugly side of college athletics? Maybe.
Truth is, we don’t know.
So who do you believe?
Then there is this: what if both are right?
Maybe then the NCAA might just point the finger back at itself for letting it come to this.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org