Ex-Oklahoma State players continue assailing SI report

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As expected, the backlash against Sports Illustrated‘s expose on the Oklahoma State football program has been swift, relentless and quite vocal.

OSU mega-booster T. Boone Pickens expressed disappointment in the “sensational allegations” leveled by SI against the program to which he’s donated hundreds of millions of dollars, intimating that the credibility of the writers is more in question than the OSU of today.  Former players by the dozen took to social media and the press to defend a program they were part of, claiming to a man that there was nothing to the allegations in the first in a series of reports alleging illicit payments to multiple players.

One of those who spoke up was former Oklahoma State quarterback Aso Pogi, who was one of several sources quoted by name in the SI piece.  In the article, it’s claimed by Pogi himself that he and a teammate lived at the ranch of an OSU booster rent-free one summer.  In a subsequent radio interview, however, an incredulous Pogi claimed that he was misquoted and his statements were taken out of context by the writers.

Just straight-up,” Pogi said when asked during a radio interview yesterday if he was asked leading questions by the writers or “straight-up” misquoted. “For example, the quote I said that, ‘Wow, it’s a big deal, because I was the starting quarterback,’ that was in reference to, as he was quoting off all of the allegations, I was repeating it back to him. So he would make allegations about OSU about football players and I’m sitting there just kind of like, ‘Wow, this is crazy. You mean this was going on?’

“So I’m just basically repeating what he’s saying, and then I said, ‘Man, that would have been a big deal, because I was the starting quarterback.’ That is the way it was actually being said. And then he took that quote and said, ‘It’s a big deal, because I was the starting quarterback.'”

Pogi also claimed during the course of the radio interview that he never personally witnessed any player being paid by a coach or booster for his performance on the football field. “There was none of this stuff going on… none of that was going on in my time, never saw anything like it,” Pogi said in a transcript provided by the Daily Oklahoman.

Continuing a theme from former players, Pogi also alluded to “low-character guys” who gave on-the-record quotes.  Tulsa World wrote that “[o]f the 12 former players who either pointed fingers or admitted guilt, nine either were kicked out of school, dismissed from the program, transferred for playing time issues or just quit. Of those, several had criminal records.”

That’s just a small sampling of the backlash against George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans, the SI writers whose names are attached to the series.  Evans in particular has been then subject of an intense backlash — see Whitlock, Jason — although Dohrmann, thanks to his piece a couple of years back on the Ohio State football program, hasn’t been spared public scrutiny.  Dohrmann defended the investigative work that he and Evans did to the Daily Oklahoman, telling the paper that he found the players the two spoke to be “[v[ery credible, or we wouldn’t write these things.”

As to Pogi’s claims that he was misquoted, Dohrmann stated that all of the interviews went through several layers of editorial review before the green light was given.

“All those people who say they’ve been misquoted, their conversations were recorded,” Dohrmann said. “I’ve heard them, editors here have heard them, lawyers here have heard them. We are absolutely comfortable that they were quoted accurately.”

The back and forth between the two sides of the issue will continue today, with Part 2 being released in short order.

UTSA-Texas State series rebranded H-E-B I-35 Showdown

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For those not familiar with HEB Grocery Company, it’s a grocery giant founded in Kerrville, Texas, in 1905 by a man named Florence Butt. H-E-B now owns nearly 400 stores stretching across south and central Texas and central Mexico. H-E-B essentially owns the San Antonio area and leases back to its million-plus residents, so it makes sense that when UTSA and Texas State wanted to brand their rivalry, they turned to H-E-B.

Starting this season, the UTSA-Texas State series will now be known as the H-E-B I-35 Showdown

Cue the AD boilerplate!

“We’re thrilled that H-E-B has become the title sponsor for the I-35 rivalry football games between UTSA and Texas State,” UTSA Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Lynn Hickey said. “No matter the sport, both fan bases always show up in strong support when the Roadrunners and the Bobcats get together on the playing fields. This newly-branded name for the football games this season and next will only add to the rich history between the two schools.”
 
“It is great to have H-E-B supporting the I-35 football series between Texas State and UTSA,” Texas State Director of Athletics Larry Teis said. “H-E-B has a great relationship with the state of Texas and both universities. We have continued to play UTSA in other sports and the rivalry is strong for our student-athletes and fans.”

The two schools are natural gridiron rivals. They sit just 50 miles apart — connected by Interstate 35, of course — and compete for athletes and regular students alike. The Roadrunners and Bobcats have been Olympics sports rivals for years, primarily as members of the Southland Conference. Each football program is (obviously) in FBS now and have met only once, a 38-31 UTSA win in 2012, since the Roadrunners’ program launched in 2011.

The series will resume Sept. 23 in San Marcos, with Texas State making a return visit to San Antonio on Sept. 22, 2018.

Hugh Freeze reportedly made at least a dozen calls to escort services as Ole Miss coach

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Former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze dialed “at least 12” numbers associated with escort services through online advertisements, according to a review of open records obtained by ESPN.com. The calls took place over a 33-month period, stretching from April 2014 through January 2017, and typically lasted two minutes or less.

Those calls appear to be what Ole Miss chancellor Jeffrey Vitter referenced as “a pattern of personal misconduct” on the night he resigned. The calls are the second phone related-issue connected to Freeze’s dismissal. He also made at least 200 calls to a booster that is under NCAA investigation.

There are two puzzling aspects to Freeze’s calls to escort services: A) that he made the calls on a university-owned cell phone in the first place, and B) that Freeze did not redact the calls from the records request, since other private calls were removed from the public review of his 39,000 calls as the Rebels’ head coach.

“Any personal calls having no relation to UM business are not public records,” Ole Miss attorney Robert T. Jolly wrote in an email to ESPN. “Personal calls will be clearly marked and redacted from the documents released.”

Freeze went 39-25 in five seasons as the Ole Miss head coach, peaking with back-to-back wins over Alabama and a long-awaited Sugar Bowl victory to close the 2015 season but ending with a 5-7 mark and a self-imposed bowl ban for the 2017 season, which will be coached by interim Matt Luke. Ole Miss will sit before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on Sept. 11, with Freeze’s character and strict adherence to NCAA recruiting rules a cornerstone of the school’s defense.

Reports: Oklahoma State RB Jeff Carr to transfer

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Jeff Carr is planning to transfer from Oklahoma State, according to a report from Pokes sidelines reporter Robert Allen. That report has since been confirmed by the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman. Carr has since been removed from Oklahoma State’s online roster.

A junior, Carr was Oklahoma State’s most experienced running back but was passed on the depth chart by sophomore Justice Hill. Hill ran the ball 206 times for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, while Carr rushed 12 times for 83 yards and one score. His 6.92 yards per carry average led the team. Carr rushed 36 times for 142 yards and one score as a freshman in 2015. Carr also saw his touches as a kickoff returner (29 returns to three) and a receiver (11 catches to one) fall from 2015 to ’16.

After losing the Temple, Texas, native, Oklahoma State will have five running backs on scholarship — four freshmen and one sophomore, Hill.

Multiple outlets have reported Carr is headed to Texas A&M-Kingsville, a Division II school that will permit Carr to play immediately.

Georgia Southern names redshirt freshman Shai Werts starting QB

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Georgia Southern is rolling with a freshman at quarterback this season.

The Eagles have announced that redshirt freshman Shai Werts will be the club’s starting signal caller to begin the season. Werts beat out junior college transfer Kado Brown and junior LaBaron Anthony to win the job.

“I think Shai certainly came in and took the majority amount of snaps with the ones both in spring practice and in camp and I thought he did a great job,” head coach Tyson Summers said in a statement. “I think that you see him have a very clear understanding of what we want do on offense. I think you see him have a very clear understanding of what he’s got to work on to get better at and I think that he’s done a tremendous job from a leadership standpoint on the field and in the classroom and in the meeting room. He’s certainly one of the key leaders for our entire football team, not just in the quarterback room and not just the offense, so I’m very proud of Shai.”

Werts replaces Georgia Southern’s two departed quarterbacks in seniors Kevin Ellison and Fabian Upshaw. The pair combined to complete 112-of-190 passes (58.9 percent) for 1,485 yards (7.82 yards per attempt) with 12 touchdowns against five interceptions while rushing 208 times for 1,019 yards (4.9 per carry) with nine touchdowns. As a team, Georgia Southern ranked 101st nationally in yards per play and 78th in scoring.

A native of Clinton, S.C., Werts stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 190 pounds. He was named the HSSR-SCHSL Division I AA Offensive Player of the Year as a senior at Newberry High School.

“All the work I’ve been putting in, it’s finally paid off,” Werts said. “I called my mom and she just went crazy so I’m glad that she’s proud of me and I can’t wait to tell the rest of my family.”

Werts will kick off its season at No. 12 Auburn on Sept. 2 (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).