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.
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.