Dr. Duane Gill, the head of Oklahoma State's sociology department, says no one from Sports Illustrated contacted him or anyone in his department about claims made by former safety Fath' Carter in the magazine's fisking of the Cowboys' football program. If they had, they'd have found that one of their key anecdotes—it's about how football players were getting favorable grades as long as they were eligible—doesn't hold up.
"You're the first person to contact me from the outside," Gill told me over the phone a few minutes ago.
Carter told SI he had received a degree in education from OSU by returning to enroll after his eligibility expired. ESPN has already confirmed that OSU's registrar's office has no record of Carter earning a degree. Carter also told SI he had been steered by an advisor into majoring in sociology while he still had athletic eligibility, the implication being that majoring in sociology was something of a joke.
But according to Gill, no one from Sports Illustrated bothered to corroborate Carter's claim by running it past anyone in the sociology department.
"It's either a faulty recollection or outright lying," Gill said. "If anybody would have taken the time to look at the academic record, they would see that it doesn't match what Carter claimed."
Gill, who has been at OSU since the summer of 2009, did acknowledge that "there was a problem" with perceived leniency within the sociology department back in the early 1990s, but the gap was closed when course requirements were tightened in the mid-'90s.
The department's undergraduate advisor, who Gill said has been at the school for 20 years, prepared a written response to Carter's claims that Gill shared with Deadspin. This is an unedited paragraph from that written response:
Were students "funneled" into certain programs, especially sociology? Yes, mostly because of NCAA regulations to keep students eligible - partially because they had to have certain percentages of the hours count toward a degree; our degrees had flexibility and approx 20 elective hours. When students transferred from another college / university, some of their hours would count on our degrees (electives) where they might not count under other degrees. In addition, although we did have a 2.5 gpa in the major requirement to graduate, we did not have specific course grades required. That meant that a student could take Soc classes and make Ds and remain eligible, although they would not graduate because Ds would not give them the 2.5 required. That requirement was changed (some time between 1995 - 1999) to include the requirement that all Soc classes and the Stat course required in the major must be a C or higher and the student must have a 2.5 or higher to graduate. This meant that student athletes who made Ds in Soc /Stat would have to retake those courses and would not count as completed toward their degree. When we did this, the number of student athletes declaring sociology was greatly reduced.
Carter played at Oklahoma State from 2000 to until his eligibility expired after the 2003 season. He told SI that he and running back Tatum Bell had two classes together, and that they both received A's in both. Carter also claimed that in 2004, after they were no longer eligible football players, he and Bell took another course with the same instructor, and were failed. "I'd guess that there was pressure [on the instructor] to give us those A's when we were playing, but not when we weren't," Carter said, according to SI.
According to the undergraduate advisor, though, Carter and Bell never had two classes in which both got A's. And while they did have a class together in the spring of 2004, the academic record shows that they both withdrew, not that their instructor gave them an F. [Update: ESPN, which viewed Bell's transcript with Bell's permission, reported that Bell withdrew after the 2004 Cotton Bowl, and that he said he "never enrolled" in 2004.] The advisor said they had one class together in which they got A's, but that they did not have the same instructor in 2004.
We have not seen the transcripts referenced here by Oklahoma State officials, so it is possible the school may be lying. But it would have been nice for Sports Illustrated to have at least checked with actual academics in the part of its series called "The Academics."
Photo: Associated Press