Sex, Money, and College Football
In the beginning of September, Sports Illustrated launched the first of a five part series labeled “The Dirty Game”. The story covers Oklahoma State University’s football program from 2000-2011, exposing recruiting tactics, academic fraud, improper benefits, drugs, and even sex. As the piece is drawing more and more skepticism in the weeks since its release, the public reaction has been a bit hard to judge.
As [then] coach Les Miles, now at LSU, and current coach Mike Gundy have come out and spoken against the allegations, there has been little attention brought to the “scandal” since its original public debut. While the OSU allegations are the biggest from the month, they are not the only ones. The previous week, before SI released its story, Yahoo sports had published a story about allegations relating to players from Alabama and Tennessee, who had also [allegedly] taken “improper” benefits. Yahoo’s story was one of petty cash, players meeting agents, and far less excitement, than that of OSU. Since both of the stories’ original release, the public perception has been lackluster.
Much of the skepticism around the SI story comes from how the story is presented as a whole. Critics have claimed Sports Illustrated has become more of the storyline, than the actual story itself. Another large criticism is that of the interviewees, the players who have “admitted” to the sex, money, and drugs that were all part of the program, never finished their time with the university. While some of these players say that the university turned its back on them as players, many people are finding it hard to take the credibility of those interviewed in a serious manner, and see them as angry disgruntled players who now want to lash out against OSU.
One theory to why there has been such a lack of public response is based on how desensitized we as a public have become. With the SI piece being laid out in five parts, each labeled: “The Money,” “The Academics,” “The Drugs,” “The Sex,” and “The Fallout” many expected an explosive story about the behind-the-scenes corruption in college programs. As the story unfolded, many of what was unveiled, wasn’t anything new or unexpected. The most interesting part from “The Sex” article is the allegation of OSU setting up its own escort service in order to recruit players. While the story in itself seems juicy and exciting [no pun intended], many people have found it comedic. Not comedic in the sense of women being used as a tool, but in the sense of sex was used as a shock factor in general. While some choose to turn a blind eye to the reality of the misogyny in college sports, it is well known that players have used their popularity as power in attracting women.
Hollywood movies such as “Blue Chips” and “He Got Game” have shined a light on the sexual culture that comes with college athletics. Although the movies are fictional, many have seen sex almost as an understood culture that not only comes with college athletics, but college in general. Whether you view it right or wrong, it is the reality of the day and age we live in. Current coach Mike Gundy openly acknowledges the concept of sex in sports, through his reaction of the SI story, accusing Sports Illustrated of “Sensationalizing a small number of alleged sexual encounters between recruits and hostesses.” (SI.com). On September 11th, 2013, Scott Van Pelt had an open discussion on his radio show “SVP & Russillo” in relation to how “hostess” programs go by different names, but more importantly how women are used to draw the attention of 18-19 year old men all over the country. When speaking upon other allegations, including being guided to take easier classes, co-host Ryan Russillo responded, “Welcome to college”.
The truth is we as a public cannot be upset at the allegations that have come out in the past month. The ones at fault are not SI, not OSU, or other power programs in the nation. Anyone in the public choosing to have false outrage, at this point is also choosing to be naïve to a college culture of drugs, sex, women, and questionable academic progress, which is only amplified in the world of college sports. Students are guided to take easier classes all the time in order to make it to graduation. What we fail to remember is the fact we as students are all here to master our craft. Some students just have the craft of catching a ball and making billions of dollars for the university in which they attend. After the public is done looking in the mirror, the spotlight needs to be shined on the NCAA as an entity. The NCAA, a non-profit organization, makes billions of dollars each year off of college football alone. It more than enough power to investigate the body of programs it oversees. Seemingly enough for years these allegations didn’t come out sooner about Oklahoma State.
OSU went from a 2-win season, to winning the Big XII in less than a decade, a true rags-to-riches storyline. If the allegations are true, and Oklahoma State was running such a powerful program including drugs, fraud, and sex, why wasn’t this exposed earlier? Of course these are all allegations, and are to be investigated, but again, this isn’t about OSU. What the Sports Illustrated story sheds light on truly is the blind eye the NCAA has turned in order to make money, and the blind eye we turn as a culture, simply to be entertained. Don’t get me wrong, sex happens, money gets exchanged, and surely there are drugs happening in college sports. Are their programs being built with those as the foundation, I highly doubt it. One assumption that can easily be made is no one really seems to care. The main argument for not caring is the lack of proper NCAA response a.k.a “nothing will ever change”. This is because as long as entertainment is successful, ratings are up, ads are sold, and money is made…..there is no reason to change anything. The public won’t care they just want the final product. Just like the false outrage that comes from finding out where your clothes are made, and how a meal made it to your plate, all that matters is the final product. Take a look in the mirror America, this is your sport.