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Miles, Gundy not implicated in Oklahoma State shenanigans? Come on now

OklahomState v Mississippi State

Oklahoma State v Mississippi State

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Updated: September 11, 2013 11:00PM

By now, you’ve probably heard the allegations that Oklahoma State served as a cash machine for some of its football players, with bogus jobs, academic misconduct and enthusiastic “hostesses” thrown in, perhaps to give the program that sleazy feel of yesteryear.

And by now you’ve probably heard coaches who once worked at that fine institution of higher learning proclaim their ignorance of the nefarious things that might have gone on there.

Sorry, fellas, but you lost the ability to convincingly assert your oblivion, oh, about 1,000 college-football scandals ago.

So when Illinois coach Tim Beckman says he’s “shocked” that there might have been skullduggery going on at Oklahoma State while he was an assistant there, I just smile. Not because I believe he’s guilty of anything but because, as a group, college football coaches are responsible for about 90 percent of the nation’s snake-oil production. “Shocked’’ should not be the first word that comes to anyone’s mind.

LSU coach Les Miles, Oklahoma State’s coach from 2001 to ’04, said, “We have always done things right.’’ The benefit of the doubt is stowed with my baseball-card collection from second grade.

Sports Illustrated chronicles a system of payments starting when Miles arrived in Stillwater, Okla., but the magazine does not implicate him. Same with current coach Mike Gundy, though the payments from people associated with the program reportedly took place on his watch, too.

I’m sorry to lump all college football coaches together, but, alas, a lump it is, large enough that you’d need Sherpas and oxygen masks to get to the summit.

Here’s where I’m at with these people: I laughed when Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald took offense at the Cal coach’s implication that NU’s defensive players feigned injury to slow down the Bears’ offense. I laughed at the idea of a coach trying to sell himself as being above that sort of thing. In my world, every coach is slopping around in it. A college coach bending the rules? Yeah, like the rest of us breathe. (I risk a shunning by fellow Medill School of Journalism grads for questioning St. Pat in any way.)

If I’m like this on the small stuff, you can imagine where my trust level is at with Oklahoma State.

It’s impossible to believe that the head coaches there did not have an inkling of what was going on during the period of alleged payments and academic impropriety. Head coaches try to know as much about what is going on with their players as possible, in order to head off any problems. It’s very difficult to believe that Miles or Gundy wouldn’t know if one of their assistants was handing out cash rewards for on-field performance, as SI alleges former Cowboys assistant Joe DeForest did.

Gundy might be as innocent as a newborn here, but this also might be a matter of karma. During a 2007 news conference, he famously lashed out at a columnist who had questioned his quarterback’s maturity. That emotional display wasn’t put on just to protect the player. It was Gundy’s way of getting fans on his side and getting himself some cheap attention. It worked. Here was the noble coach fighting for his player against that easy opponent, the media.

Guess what? SI alleges that the quarterback Gundy defended, Bobby Reid, received money for his play while in Stillwater. When Reid lost his starting job, the money reportedly stopped flowing his way.

I don’t know what else we’ll learn from SI’s five-part series on Oklahoma State, but if coaches and boosters did indeed pay players, it’s not a leap to think there might be allegations on the way of players being paid to choose the school over others.

There is something creepy about the job security of grown men being tied to whether talented 18-year-olds decide to come to their school. There is something wrong with the idea of men making millions of dollars a year while the “student-athletes” don’t make a dime outside of tuition.

These are people who use the term “young men’’ as a shield, who are thinking about their next job and who lead lives of such rigidity that they schedule their sneezes.

Alabama faces Johnny Football on Saturday, and it is bigger than any scandal. That’s Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback who got a flimsy half-game suspension after an NCAA investigation into whether he received money for autographs.

I’m sure his coach thought the suspension was morally reprehensible. He’s a coach, after all.

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