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Oklahoma State cleared of major violations following SI report

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PM Update: Sports Illustrated has sent the following statement responding to Oklahoma State's statement:

“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.”

Thirteen months ago, Sports Illustrated hit Oklahoma State with a highly-publicized, five-part series entitled "The Dirty Game."

The report accused Oklahoma State of paying players, encouraging female hostesses to provide sexual favors to recruits, academic fraud and rampant drug use. Basically anything and everything that would be included in an Oliver Stone movie about a college football program.

Oklahoma State was taken aback by the allegations at the time, and athletics director Mike Holder sounded understandably concerned in his initial statement before the report was released. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to read these stories, however many days that it takes, catch my breath and then we’ll start working through the process,” Holder said. “Everybody out there, it’s time to cowboy up."

Then, over the course of the next year, Holder's tune changed. Oklahoma State commissioned an independent study done by The Compliance Group, an appropriately named consulting firm run by former NCAA enforcement staffer Chuck Smrt, while the NCAA conducted its own investigation, and the initial feedback was good for Oklahoma State. "I think what comes out will kind of speak for itself, good or bad. It's been my position all along — if we are who we think we are, then this would ultimately be a good thing. The day of reckoning is coming. I don't know when, but it's coming," Holder told the Tulsa World last month.

On Tuesday, the group's findings were released after conducting nearly 100 interviews and reviewing approximately 50,000 emails. Instead of a massive rule-breaking and cover-up operation, the Compliance Group found the same dirty laundry in the possession of nearly every Power Five program in America.

- Oklahoma State failed to adequately adhere to the university's drug policy on five failed tests over the course of six years (from 2007-13). OSU had 94 positive tests involving 60 athletes over that span.

- Orange Pride, the support program accused of sexual misconduct, instead was guilty of being run through the football program instead of the university admissions office, and thus was not technically allowed to speak with recruits or their families about the university.

The school was guilty of a failure to monitor in both of the above cases and the NCAA will issue a notice of allegations regarding the three possible Level II violations, but otherwise that's it. The Miami Sharks were not reincarnated in Stillwater.

Oklahoma State created a landing page to provide its joint statement with the NCAA -

“In the aftermath of the Sports Illustrated series, the right thing to do was examine the program. I have attempted to operate our program with integrity and have reinforced to our coaching staff the importance of compliance with NCAA rules," Holder said in a statement. "If we had any shortfalls, I wanted to know. While I am pleased, but not surprised, that the claims in Sports Illustrated were fundamentally unfounded, we continue to work with the athletics administration to ensure a clear understanding and application of our policies. From the moment I was chosen to coach my alma mater, I have made decisions to create a NCAA compliant environment, while ensuring student-athlete welfare. I love my players and want them to succeed in life by making good decisions and respecting the rules."

Though this is undoubtedly a proud day for Oklahoma State to officially have this year-long saga behind them, head coach Mike Gundy summarized the entire saga best back in November: “I think it helped us in recruiting,” Gundy said at the time. “It benefited our program.”