NCAA must impose stricter sanctions as deterrent
More than a dozen former Oklahoma State University football players told Sports Illustrated that members of OSU’s Orange Pride, the hostess program for football recruits, had sex with recruits during official campus visits.
This is a flagrant recuiting violation, and it exposes yet another failure on the part of the NCAA to properly investigate and punish violators, which would deter other schools from cheating. The minor penalties passed down from the NCAA allow schools to profit enough — OSU jumped from a 3-8 season in 2000 to finishing as the third-ranked team nationally in 2011 — that breaking the rules has become worth it even if the perpetrators are eventually caught and receive inconsequential fines or the loss of a few scholarships.
The Sports Illustrated report was compiled over a 10-month investigation in which reporters interviewed 64 former OSU football players who played between 1999 and 2011, former and current football staffers and former members of Orange Pride. The report was released in five segments, and the final segment was released on Tuesday.
According to the report, former athletes said that between 15 and 20 football players received monetary bonuses under the table each year; some players made between $2,000 and $10,000 in one year, but the stars could make up to $25,000 a year.
Not bad considering they were already receiving free tuition, room and board to play games.
Former players also admitted to receiving free marijuana and participating in various cases of academic misconduct, such as having tutors complete homework and even take tests for them.
These violations won’t come as a shock to most college sports fans — money, cheating and drugs are disturbingly common in college athletics, and the NCAA seems unable to stop it. But sex with recruits?
OSU’s Orange Pride is a group made up exclusively of female undergraduates who, according to their website, “donate their time and efforts to assist with recruiting for Oklahoma State and the football program.”
Time and effort typically aren’t synonymous with sex, but in this case, former players and former members of Orange Pride admitted this kind of activity occurred over the course of several years.
This isn’t the first time such a scandal has been uncovered, yet the NCAA has failed to act in a way that could prevent it from happening again. The University of Colorado at Boulder had sex scandals involving recruits become public in 2004, and in 2003, Arizona State University’s all-women hostess program was accused of taking recruits to college parties, and on occasion having sex with them.
“It’s something that, number one, I would never do,” said Matt Dudek, the director of on-campus recruiting and player personnel at the UA, “and number two, it’s something coach [Rich] Rodriguez would never do with the reputation the University of Arizona has.”
The UA does not have a group similar to Orange Pride, though Dudek does have a recruiting academy of seven men and nine women who assist with the logistical aspects of on-campus recruiting.
However, the academy does not have extensive interactions with recruits.
After the accusations against ASU, the NCAA had 10 years to investigate other hostess programs across the country — yet it was a magazine that uncovered the truth about the Orange Pride.
OSU has reportedly contacted the NCAA and will investigate the claims with the help of an “independent expert in NCAA matters,” OSU President Burns Hargis said. Admittedly, these reports will be difficult to confirm, but the investigation should be taken out of the hands of OSU officials.
If the NCAA is able to confirm these reports, the punishment needs to be harsh enough that other schools are deterred from engaging in similar violations. The reputation of college football is at stake, and the NCAA needs to demonstrate that it has control over what happens on their watch.
Nathaniel Drake is the opinions editor. Follow him on Twitter.com/nsdrake.