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September 10, 2013

Part 1: The Money drops on SI

With Sports Illustrated's series of tell-all stories on Oklahoma State football "The Dirty Game" launching on Tuesday, OStateIllustrated.com has conducted several interviews with ex-players, ex-coaches and former members of a co-ed recruiting support group. Two ex-players directly refuted claims made in Part 1 of the series entitled "The Money." They and others have also addressed the previews of additional allegations made in the remaining four parts in the series.

In "The Money," eight former Cowboy players told SI they received cash payments in a variety of ways during their playing days at the school. Those eight are: Calvin Mickens, Brad Girtman, Rodrick Johnson, Chris Wright, Seymore Shaw, Ricky Coxeff, Fath Carter, Aso Pogi and William Bell

Three other former players - Javius Townsend, Doug Bond and Thomas Wright other players indicated they knew of payment systems, but did not take cash themselves.

The dozen total players making allegations have a few common bonds.

With the lone exception of Townsend, all of the ex-players played at OSU in years between 1999 and 2008. Townsend left the school in 2010, his lone season as a Cowboy.

Another commonality is that all 12 had exceptionally short stints at the school. Two had single-season careers. Two had two-season careers. Pogi was the lone four-year player. The balance of seven all had three-year-or-shorter careers

The first return-fire bombshell came from one of the story's participants. Former linebacker Johnson claims that he made none of the statements attributed to him in "The Money" via his Facebook page, as well as launching an attack on one of the piece's two writers.

Thayer Evans, an Oklahoma native, has written numerous stories on Oklahoma State football in recent years. You can view a timeline with links and excerpts from those here

Former Cowboy running back Greg Gold told OState Illustrated that he was approached by SI for comment on a variety of alleged improprieties during his career (2002-05) at Oklahoma State.

"That guy (Evans) contacted me," Gold said. "He started off by asking about my career and if it wasn't disappointing given my rankings back when I was a recruit. My career at OSU didn't turn out the way I wanted, but here's the thing; it was because I had a terrible attitude back then. I recognize this and hold nothing against the school or my coaches. That's his thing; He wanted to find disgruntled ex-players who would 'dish' dirt on the school. Even though I'm not disgruntled and told him so, he kept pushing. He told me what some other ex-players had told him. I told him it was all a bunch of crap.

[The Corral: The whistleblowers and details of their Oklahoma State careers]

Gold was a three-star prospect on Rivals.com, and on numerous 2002 Texas Top 100 rankings. He entered the 2005 season as a senior who fully expected to win the starting running back job after Vernand Morency entered the NFL draft following the 2004 season. Instead, he was supplanted by true freshman Mike Hamilton. In his reserve role, Gold finished the 2005 season with 19 carries for 116 yards and zero scores. His rushing yards put him fourth on the team, behind Hamilton, fullback Julius Crosslin and quarterback Bobby Reid.

"That's never the way I wanted it to go, but looking back it came down to the fact that I had a sh**ty attitude back then," he said. "On top of that, I had a personality conflict with my position coach (Curtis Luper). We just never meshed. Part of that was on me, plus I had that attitude. So they started a guy that I was better than, but it was my fault."

In this morning's part one, specific accusations of "pay for work not performed" were made against Fellowship of Christian Athletes director John Talley. Former linebacker Andre Sexton, who played at OSU from 2005-09 vehemently denied that specific allegation.

"John Talley, an FCA member gave players a legit way to make money to and paid us hourly," Sexton said."I did hard-ass labor in the summer heat there and earned a standard wage he paid everyone."

Gold also commented very specifically on that allegation.

"John Talley would never do that. He is a stand-up man," Gold said. "He was always about hard work. Do your work, and then you get paid. I worked for him multiple times on his ranch and trust me, it was work. And it was honest work.

"We would go out there and work say two-to-five hours, and get paid eight or nine dollars an hour. It wasn't 60-bucks an hour. And it was hard manual labor."

From an NCAA-perspective, the allegations are primarily in a timeframe (1999-2008) that would fall out of the sanctioning body's interest. The lone outlier is Townsend and his single season in 2010. Left with nothing to go on but the word of a single-season player, the NCAA might not bother to look deeper into the allegations presented in Monday's story.

[Join the Discussion: T. Boone Pickens releases statement]

Additional allegations remain on the horizon. Three more days worth of them, to be exact. On Wednesday, the magazine will tackle "The Academics." Thursday is "The Drugs" and Friday is "The Sex." SI's teaser previews of those stories mention three players with claims. Two (Fath' Carter and Artrell Woods) were featured in Tuesday's story. The other fits the same profile. Linebacker Donnell Williams had a very short career at OSU that ended when he was permanently suspended by Mike Gundy.

Though more sordid allegations certainly loom on the horizon the rest of the week, the concern after day one would appear to be much more on the public relations front than possible NCAA troubles.

OStateIllustrated.com will continue to provide comprehensive coverage as the story develops. Most articles will be on the premium side, and The Corral message board is overflowing with insight and inside information.

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