SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: Special Report On Oklahoma State Football: Part 1 — The Money

Source: George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans / Sports Illustrated

Calvin Mickens was elated. The freshman cornerback from Beaumont, Texas, had just appeared in his first college game, Oklahoma State’s 2005 season-opening 15-10 home victory over Montana State, and he had performed well, forcing a fumble, breaking up a pass and making two tackles. In the locker room, as Mickens and his teammates shed their gear, a man he had never seen before approached and handed him cash. “I was like, Wow, this is the life!” Mickens says. “I’m 18, playing football, and I just got $200.”

Mickens says he received several similar postgame handoffs from other boosters during his first season in Stillwater. After a 62-23 loss at Texas A&M in which he had an interception, Mickens recalls getting $800 in the locker room from a different man. At the time he didn’t consider that he was violating NCAA rules. He saw other teammates receiving similar gratuities and assumed they were the perks of playing for a big-time program.

In separate interviews seven other former Cowboys told SI they received cash payments; 29 other OSU players were named by teammates as having also taken money. Those payments, which stretched from 2001 to at least ’11, were primarily delivered three ways: a de facto bonus system based on performances on the field, managed by an assistant coach; direct payments to players from boosters and coaches independent of performance; and no-show and sham jobs — including work related to the renovation of Boone Pickens Stadium — that involved at least one assistant coach and several boosters. “They figure if a player shines and you pat him on the back in an obtainable way, he’s going to do whatever he can to keep getting that paper,” says Javius Townsend, a redshirt offensive lineman during the 2010 season, who says he did not take payments but knew of others who did.

Some players received $2,000 annually and others around $10,000, multiple players told SI; a few stars allegedly received $25,000 or more. Often lost in the discussion about whether college football players should receive more than room, board and a scholarship is that some already are compensated, in violation of NCAA rules. At a school like Oklahoma State the desire to create a national-title contender spawned a widespread bonus program, and it paid dividends: Since 2002 the Cowboys have had 10 winning seasons out of 11, and in 2011 finished No. 3 in the country, the highest final ranking in the program’s 111-year history. “It was just like in life when you work,” says Thomas Wright, a defensive back from 2002 to ’04. “The better the job you do, the more money you make.”

To read this article in its entirety visit Sports Illustrated.

Protected with SiteGuarding.com Antivirus