MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The first installment of Sports Illustrated’s investigative series torching the culture of Oklahoma State’s football program was released Tuesday and, as was forewarned, it characterizes Joe DeForest as the man of who passed cash to players or pointed them toward boosters with deeper pockets.
Two crucial questions are facing DeForest’s current employer:
1. Are the allegations from his OSU days valid?
2. And if so, have any of these practices continued in Morgantown?
Obviously, if No. 2 is true, expect DeForest to be removed from the staff and the WVU compliance folks to begin eating dinner at the office. And if either question ends with “yes,” then West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen must begin the uncomfortable task of proving plausible deniability; after all, he worked with DeForest for a season in Stillwater and vouched for him becoming the highest-paid assistant at West Virginia.
Before sampling SI’s allegations—all of which were brought forth by former Oklahoma State players, and refuted by some as well—here was DeForest’s response:
“I have never paid a player for on-field performance. I have been coaching college football for almost 24 years, and I have built a reputation of being one of the best special teams coordinators and college recruiters in the country based on hard work and integrity.”
The thing needed to lend credibility to such pieces is finding multiple ex-players to provide details regarding how the payments occurred. What’s more, these players can’t solely be ax grinders who were chased off from the program. While SI’s 10-month investigation turned up numerous sources, many had grounds for disgruntlement. Players such as Brad Girtman, who played defensive tackle from 2003-04 before being dismissed:
Girtman says that when he arrived in Stillwater in the summer of 2003, DeForest handed him a debit card with $5,000 on it, which was periodically refilled. Ricky Coxeff, a cornerback in 2003 and ’04, says he waited in the car on several occasions as (Darrent) Williams and (Tatum) Bell visited DeForest at his home and then returned with cash.
Shaw says he accompanied Williams to DeForest’s home on a few occasions and witnessed DeForest giving Williams money for jobs he didn’t do. “We’d go over to the house, and [Williams] would fake like he’s starting up a lawn mower … so people could see him,” Shaw says. “[Then he'd] cut it off. [He'd] start up a Weed Eater. Cut it off. [For that he'd get] $400, $500, $600.”
It must be emphasized that Mike Gundy suspended Shaw in June 2005 after the player was charged with first-degree burglary and larceny and misdemeanor counts of domestic abuse. Shaw subsequently transferred to Division II Central Oklahoma. At least three other players sourced by SI were booted off the team as well, so absorb their accusations in full context.
Linebacker-defensive end Rodrick Johnson (2004 to ’07) told SI it was openly discussed among teammates that DeForest set rewards of between $100 to $500 for a big play on special teams. Cornerback-wide receiver Chris Wright (2001 to ’03) says he saw DeForest hand stacks of bills to certain players. “It depends on who the player was, how many yards they ran for, how many catches they made, how many touchdowns they scored, how many tackles,” says Wright, who says he did not take money. “It all depends on performance.”
DeForest told SI he compensated players who worked at his home based upon “fair market value based on services rendered.” However, OSU told the magazine it does not have a record of clearing a player to work for the assistant. Hard to believe DeForest deemed this a wise idea, even though it doesn’t appear to run afoul of NCAA rules.
Finally, some ex-players are voicing their disregard for the Sports Illustrated report, and The Oklahoman compiled this tweet-thread of outrage. It’s worth a look.
Hear Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman newspaper assess the fallout: