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.