Oklahoma State has received an NCAA notice of allegations about three possible Level II violations concerning alleged improprieties in the program, but the school and the NCAA said Tuesday that allegations raised by a Sports Illustrated series were "fundamentally unfounded."
An SI series in September 2013 alleged several potential NCAA violations but did not directly implicate any current coaches or players. ESPN later discovered, through university documents, multiple inaccuracies with SI's report.
The NCAA's Committee on Infractions will determine the penalties for Oklahoma State. A source familiar with the NCAA's process told ESPN that the Cowboys would probably only lose a scholarship or two for two years.
A review by the NCAA's enforcement staff and Chuck Smrt, an outside consultant and former NCAA official hired by OSU, reviewed about 50,000 emails and interviewed nearly 100 individuals involved with Oklahoma State's football program, including current and former coaches, administrators, student-athletes, students and prospects. A few individuals outside the university refused to cooperate.
"The claims in the Sports Illustrated articles were so at odds with my experiences with our football program, Coach [Mike] Gundy and [athletic director] Mike Holder," Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis told ESPN. "They were so salacious and sensational, but I wanted to get a very in-depth look at this. Maybe I was naïve or didn't know. That's why we hired Chuck. I wanted to know."
What the 13-month investigation discovered was three potential rules violations:
• In an eight-year span, five football players tested positive for a banned substance but were permitted to play without first going through the required disciplinary actions mandated by the school's drug testing policy.
• Orange Pride, a group of female students, served as hosts during prospective students' official and unofficial visits in an eight-year span.
• Failure to monitor the above two potential rules violations.
Smrt was paid $221,000 to conduct the investigation into dozens of allegations made by the SI report.
"I am gratified and frankly relieved fundamental claims by Sports Illustrated have been discredited," Hargis said.
The following allegations by SI were discredited, according to Hargis and the NCAA enforcement staff:
• That coaching staff members or boosters were involved in paying student-athletes for athletic achievements, including so-called "big hits."
• That OSU's academic staff personnel were involved in academic improprieties.
• That members of OSU's Orange Pride student support group were involved in, or encouraged to engage in, sexual activities with prospects.
• That members of the coaching staff were arranging sexual activities for recruits.
• That more talented student-athletes were being exempted from the drug testing program or its penalties.
• That a Stillwater resident overpaid student-athletes for work performed or paid for work not performed.
SI released a statement Tuesday: "Sports Illustrated firmly stands behind its comprehensive series on the Oklahoma State program. The investigation by the NCAA and an outside consultant hired by Oklahoma State was limited in scope but nonetheless revealed multiple NCAA violations including a 'failure to monitor.' Nowhere does the report say our work is fundamentally unfounded and in fact it points to its own limitations in its ability to corroborate SI's findings."
The Committee on Infractions is expected to meet about Oklahoma State's case in the next 3-4 months.