Sports Illustrated defends Oklahoma State coverage: ‘Stands behind the work’

When the dirt starts flying during one of these big investigations, it isn’t unusual for the news outlet to find itself on the firing line.

Such is the case with Sports Illustrated and its five-part series on Oklahoma State football.

Deadspin has done posts knocking down the SI package. Yesterday, ESPN’s Brett McMurphy also did a story that questioned the veracity of statements by one of the key players quoted by Sports Illustrated.

McMurphy writes:

Some aspects of the story of former Oklahoma State safety Fath’ Carter, who was quoted extensively in Sports Illustrated’s series about improprieties within the Cowboys’ football program, are inconsistent with information obtained by ESPN from a number of university documents.

Carter was one of the main sources quoted in SI’s five-part series that alleges players were paid by coaches and boosters and had an academic coordinator complete school work for them while at Oklahoma State.

Among the claims by Carter that are not supported by university documents were that he graduated from the school and attended classes in 2004 with running back Tatum Bell in which the professor gave them failing grades because their eligibility had expired.

Another discrepancy was from running back Dexter Pratt, who told SI that in his first semester, in 2009, every course he took was online. According to university records, Pratt took three online courses and two actual classes.

In response, Sports Illustrated issued the following statement.

“In its 10-month investigation of the Oklahoma State football program, Sports Illustrated spoke independently with more than sixty former players and eight former assistant coaches as well as members of the University’s administration. Interviews were recorded and subsequently reviewed by a team of editors and fact checkers. Sports Illustrated stands behind the work and the investigation.”

Yesterday, when the various stories came out, I heard from several people who said Jason Whitlock was right to question the credentials of Thayer Evans, who shared the double byline. However, as I wrote earlier, Whitlock was wrong to zero in on Evans, because these stories are much bigger than one person.

Pulitzer Prize winner George Dohrmann is the lead writer and executive editor Jon Wertheim is overseeing the project. Two of the best in the business with impeccable credentials.

Yet beyond them, Sports Illustrated, like any major magazine, goes through an extensive fact-checking process for all of its stories. Facts are examined many times, and I’m sure you could multiply it by three for this package.

Also, for a story of this nature, SI’s lawyers played a major role in vetting a package that includes major allegations. Lawyers are rigorous gate-keepers.

So no, this doesn’t validate Whitlock and other critics of SI here. I think the stories are strong.

Anyone who is shocked that a major college football program is skirting the rules should get a reality check.





13 thoughts on “Sports Illustrated defends Oklahoma State coverage: ‘Stands behind the work’

  1. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire….part 4 still not up yet. This could turn into an epic debacle for SportsIllustrated, if it hasn’t already.

    It certainly didn’t help that Yahoo Sports (again) crushed an investigative report this week, with documents and facts.

    • It’s troubling to see so many media reflexively rallying to the defense of their buddies in the media.

      Thayer Evans was the one doing the reporting. Why is it wrong to zero in on him?

      And the Pulitzer Prize winner apparently didn’t work hard enough to confirm the info he was told, as indicated by the ESPN story. Why is it wrong to ask questions of his reporting?

      Still haven’t seen you mention the former OSU QB who alleges shady reporting tactics that, if true, call into question the entire series.

      As a reporter yourself, you’re in the business of scrutiny. Thus you should embrace the desire to scrutinize a story that has some clear holes. Your assessment of this seems contaminated by your desire to stick it to Whitlock.

      Even this former SI fact-checker says the magazine’s process isn’t nearly what it used to be. Doubt we’ll see this mentioned on your blog:

  2. si,
    You are doing one of the things you accused OSU of doing, Denying in the face of proof. The major difference, you haven’t proven anything against OSU, other than they kicked a bunch of loud mouth knuckleheads off of the team. It’s been proven that your wonderful dohrmann didn’t know what the heck he was talking about in regards to Carter. Also, everyone’s been made aware of the bias and at the very least, unethical and shady reporting of theyer evans. Either you and dohrmann didn’t know of evans past, or you didn’t care. Either one lowers your credibility. Congratulations, sports illustrated is now a laughing stock. A tip, a Mea culpa would probably go a lot better than the continued denial of obvious truth.

  3. You think the stories are strong? Based on WHAT? The lack of credible sources? The quotes taken out of context? The allegations of outright lies and complete fabrications of quotes? Claim after claim that has been refuted?

    Which part of the story is it that leads you to believe that the story is “STRONG”? I am extremely curious to hear this!

    Do all schools skirt the rules? Absolutely. If a one time thief has stolen something in the past, then he surely is guilty of the recent theft accusation. If I one time did not support the President, I surely must be calling for his head now. If I used to eat meat, I simply cannot be a vegetarian!

  4. “Yet beyond them, Sports Illustrated, like any major magazine, goes through an extensive fact-checking process for all of its stories. Facts are examined many times, and I’m sure you could multiply it by three for this package.

    Also, for a story of this nature, SI’s lawyers played a major role in vetting a package that includes major allegations. Lawyers are rigorous gate-keepers.”

    So why have so many very basic facts been wrong?

    Why did the piece on academics say that Fath’ Carter was in class with Tatum Bell in 2004, yet Tatum Bell proved (via documentation, a seemingly very foreign concept to SI’s piece) he wasn’t even in Stillwater in 2004?

    Why did the piece claim Seymore Shaw cleaned rental houses for an impeccable lady, or, a “booster”, as SI labeled her, when the she didn’t even own rent houses?

    Why did the 2nd f’ing sentence of the entire series claim that Calvin Mickens received money after a game in which he caused a fumble when he didn’t cause a fumble in that game?

    The piece was based on Oklahoma State’s change of culture from “2001-2011”, yet quoted Fath’ Carter claiming he received money for multiple blocked punts in a game… that game happened in 2000, before Les Miles even arrived.

    Why are the majority of the named sources (not the fan base, the sources) all singing the same tune about Thayer Evans and his tactics in reference to being misquoted or having their words taken out of context?

    The story is completely bogus, and it’s baffling to me that the insular world of sports reporters all refuse to do anything but take the words in the story as they’re presented, especially when the amount of reaction from former players and others in and around the program paint a ridiculously different light on their experience in Stillwater. If Dohrmann wasn’t tagged in the byline, would reporters be reacting differently?

  5. So, if I undertsand you correctly, the fact checkers, editors, and award winning reporters from SI must be correct when they said:
    1) Shaw received payments in High School from an OSU booster after announcing his intent to play football for them (Shaw committed to OU not OSU, OU used its partial quallifier, OSU had one available and he enrolled just before the fall semester).
    2) Shaw cleaned base boards at Kay Norris’ rent houses and what overpaid for the work (Kay Norris never had rent houses in Stillwater)
    3) Fath Carter graduated from OSU, and later on the radio SI said that he in fact had two degrees (Proven by other reporters with actual paperwork that both are false)
    4) Fath Carter and Tatum Bell both received F’s from teachers because they were no longer on the football team (again real evidence proved that to be false).

    Those are just a couple of facts that reporter, editors, and fact checkers at SI should catch, but didn’t.

    There are several other ethical issues about how the interviews were conducted that are now coming to life, why not write about that?

    But it seems from your point of view that we are wrong to question the validty of the report simply because it came from SI and it took them 10 months.

    What a joke.

  6. I’d love to hear some of the audio from the player that said all his quotes were taken out of context. That he was just repeating reporter questions and then it came out as his quotes. SI – any rebuttal of that? Is OSU just lying their butts off now to try to save face or did any of the reporters utilize unethical tactics to get quotes for the story?

  7. you really don’t know whether they checked the facts or not do you? you don’t know their staffing? you just assume a big ol magazine like SI would probably do those things. the truth is there is nothing in this story that is earth shattering, even if some of it is true. The reality check is that this is a shoddy piece of journalism and a poorly disguised attempt to boost readership and clicks. I think it is safe to say Schechter and Dorhmann don’t have impeccable credentials anymore.

  8. But they didnt fact check… How can you call them credible? I don’t understand and articles like yours makes me question media more. Lets call this what it is – more thoughtless reporting by SI and it all needs to stop.

  9. Just because it goes through legal doesn’t mean that what you reported is true. The lawyers that you have is there to help you evade a lawsuits. Just because you can get away with reporting factual errors on technicalities doesn’t mean that what you wrote is fact. If you really stand by this story, why don’t you release these taped interviews that you claim to have

  10. Hmmm—SI’s rebuttal was ridiculous. Carter was “reported” incorrectly at least two times OR LIED….simple….and unlike this “investigative” series, Carter’s stuff is verifiable.

    Nobody is doubting that Dohrman WROTE the articles/ they are doubting the integrity and truth in what Evans PRESENTED to Dohrman. Simple, again.

    Evans has been on an OSU witch hunt for years —easily verifiable.
    Send your lawyers onto that little tidbit. Look up his previous articles, including using the words “chokie state”….it’s all easily out there to read….UNLIKE your “proof” about Ok State.

    Any finally, as a woman and a sports lover, ANY magazine that produces the soft porn edition that SI does, should just shut up about “objectifying:” women.

  11. The magnitude of the story does not come close the results being presented. The story was “investigated” for 10 months and rolled out with huge fan fare then delivers such hard hitting news as college girls sleep with football players, there are drugs on campus, jocks like easy classes and sometimes kids will take a couple of hundred dollars if you hand it to them. This is not news, this is college. Does this really match the hype expected from “two of the best” or is this sensationalism at its finest?

    Today’s sex scandal story is laid at the feet of the OSU Football program yet this disclaimer was a part of the impeccable reporting:

    “None of the more than 30 former players or the 14 former Orange Pride members who spoke to SI about the group had direct knowledge of a coach or athletic department staff member instructing a hostess to have sex with a recruit.”

    So why is this a OSU Football problem?

    The writer uses a NY Times investigation of LSU to support his finding. The same writer wrote the NY Times article.

    Three quarters of the players interview quit or were run off the team for the things this story is reporting. With the exception of a couple of these players, the rest are telling how Evans would ask general questions about college athletic but the story is misquoted into context of OSU specific issues.

    Solid names (FCA Leader, a deceased counselor) have been tarnished with the work of these “outstanding” reporters due to hearsay. Not hard evidence like shown in the Yahoo report on SEC this week.

    Sports Illustrated has sunk to the level of TMZ with this article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *