SI’s latest details drug use at OSU

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In one of the most shocking developments yet in Sports Illustrated‘s expose’ on the Oklahoma State football program, the magazine has revealed that college football players are very similar to the student population at large: they (gasp!) like weed.

OK, that’s a bit flippant as the latest piece’s central focus slants toward the lax nature of the OSU football program when it came to the “drug culture” among football players in Stillwater.  And there are cursory mentions of cocaine use.  By and large, though, we’re talking about weed, man.  Weed.  Not meth.  Not crack.  We’re talking about weed.

Regardless, here are some of the highlights (get it? Highlights?) from part three of SI’s five-part series on OSU football:

  • SI leads with the story of Bo Bowling, the former OSU wide receiver initially charged with, among other things, felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in February of 2009 and was subsequently suspended indefinitely.  He was allowed to return to the team in May of 2010 — missing an entire season — after the felony was reduced to a misdemeanor.  SI took issue with the manner in which head coach Mike Gundy dealt with Bowling, writing that “[t]here was no internal investigation to ascertain whether Bowling’s alleged drug dealing involved teammates or if the steroids in his home indicated wider issues of performance-enhancing drugs on the team.”
  • Directly from the report: “Three former players admitted to SI that they dealt marijuana while members of the 2001, ’04 and ’06 teams. Players from seven other seasons between 2001 and ’12 were accused by teammates (or, in the case of Bowling, by police) of also dealing drugs, meaning the program hosted an alleged or admitted drug dealer in 10 of the last 12 seasons.”
  • There was a so-called “Weed Circle,” which consisted of “stars or top prospects” who had tested positive for marijuana but were not subject to penalties from the school, provided they performed on the field and attended these “counseling sessions” off of it. “We all smoked and pissed hot, but the coaches were like, As long as you’re performing, we’ll send you to [the Weed Circle],” Thomas Wright, cornerback from 2002-04, was quoted as saying.
  • Former defensive back Andrew Alexander claimed that he had never tried marijuana prior to his arrival in Stillwater, but essentially became a pothead so that he could fit in with all of his teammates who were smoking weed.
  • Former defensive end William Bell claimed he made $300-$400 a week selling weed.  Another unamed ex-Cowboy told SI he made $100 a week selling it to teammates and others.
  • Bell and Thomas Wright (2002-04) claimed they and other teammates smoked weed prior to football games.  The same two players also claimed they witnessed teammates snorting cocaine.
  • Multiple claims of assistant coaches under both Les Miles and Mike Gundy openly joking about a player’s drug use.  Included is an anecdote for running back Seymore Shaw (2002-04) about his offensive coordinator: “Gundy, at the time the team’s offensive coordinator, would walk past him in practice and, when Shaw was in the training room, put his fingers to his lips and laughingly pantomime taking a drag off a joint.”
  • Speaking of humor, one player allegedly drank bleach in an attempt to rid his body of weed ahead of a drug test.

As was the case with the first two installments in the series, the third piece is already coming under fire. Actually, it came under fire before it even hit the Internet.

Early on in part three, ex-linebacker Donnell Williams declared that “drugs were everywhere” around the OSU football program. In an interview with an Oklahoma City television station before the latest release, however, Williams claimed the following:

Williams told me Evans wanted to know who used and sold drugs but that his only answer was, “drugs are everywhere,” as in the world, not the football program. He said that was the only thing he said about drugs.

“Evans” is Thayer Evans, the SI writer who contributed to the expose’ and who has come under arguably even more fire for his tactics than OSU football has for its alleged actions.

For those who even care anymore, part four will be released tomorrow morning and will deal with young people having sex.  So there’s that, which is nice.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

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The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

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When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.