It’s been a solid four months or so since a new NCAA investigation has seen the light of day, so apparently the football investigative gods deemed we were long overdue.
According to Thayer Evans of FOXSports.com, Oklahoma State is in the midst of conducting an investigation into a Perkins, Okla., man who allegedly provided impermissible benefits to Cowboys football players, including All-American wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Gannon Mendez, who a school spokesperson said does not buy season tickets from OSU or donate to its athletic programs — i.e. he’s not a booster — has yet to cooperate with the university and refuses to answer questions about the allegations.
The players mentioned by name in Evans’ piece include Blackmon, senior wide receiver Hubert Anyiam and former running back Kendall Hunter. Anyiam’s girlfriend had been the babysitter of Mendez’s stepdaughter, and that situation appears to be the genesis of whatever relationship existed between Mendez and members of the football program.
The allegations of impermissible benefits include:
- At his stepdaughter’s birthday party last year, Mendez charged $50 for each item signed by Blackmon, Anyiam and Hunter and allegedly split the money 50-50 with the players.
- Mendez claimed to friends “that a person paid him $300 for a piece of paper on which Blackmon doodled, and the two split the money.”
- “Mendez also bragged to friends that he sold guest passes for Oklahoma State football games belonging to Cowboys players and split the money with them.” Another source told Evans that he gave the unnamed players all of the money from the sale of the guest passes.
- “Mendez also provided Oklahoma State football players with drinks and meals and took them golfing at The Golf Club at Cimarron Trails in Perkins.”
- Mendez bought a $5 drink at a bar for an unidentified player.
That last allegation was contained in an email and was what prompted the current investigation that’s uncovered other benefits that may be considered impermissible. A pair of Xbox 360 with Kinect video game systems that were Alamo Bowl gifts to players and were sold to university employees were self-reported and cleared up by OSU compliance officials.
Blackmon and Anyiam have denied any wrongdoing. As Hunter has already left for the NFL, he’s not compelled to talk to the school’s compliance officials.
OSU appears to have a couple of things going for it in this “case”. One, the school’s compliance department appears to have been proactive and cooperative in dealing with the situation. Two, Mendez is not officially associated with the university’s athletic programs, and he refuses to cooperate anyway. And, three, see Nos. 1 and 2.
Earlier this season, head coach Mike Gundy warned his players to steer clear of Mendez.
“We’re concerned about it,” associate athletics director of compliance Kevin Fite told Evans. “We’re concerned about it like we would any potential violation and we’ve reviewed it as best as we can. Without any additional information, it’s hard for us to take any further steps. Some of that would be some cooperation on the part of him. As a member of the community, I would think he would want to do what he could to help us.”
The school placed Mendez and some of his friends on a watch list, which effectively precludes him from using players guest passes for games.
During the course of the investigation, no major violations have been found. The school issued a statement late Thursday night in response to the report.
“Oklahoma State University has diligently explored the claims made in an anonymous email that was sent to the university, the media and others some five months ago. The majority of the claims appear to be unfounded. We did discover a secondary infraction that was reported to the NCAA and handled another issue internally through training.
“Based on the information we have gathered, we are satisfied with our findings. We will continue our review and will continue to keep the NCAA informed.”