SI reports disturbing fallout of Oklahoma State players

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Several former Oklahoma State football players have lived troubled lives since leaving the program over the course of the last decade.
Sports Illustrated concluded its five-part series of its 10-month investigation into the rise of the Cowboys' football program by profiling former players who left feeling hurt, used and abandoned.
The last installment was published online Monday.
Previously, SI's series uncovered illicit payments, widespread academic fraud, a negligent drug policy and a double standard of treatment based on performance.
In the final installment, the magazine focused on what it considers the disregard Oklahoma State showed for players after their services were no longer needed.
Former Oklahoma State wide receiver Artrell Woods waits tables part-time and lives with his mother and her foster children. He told SI that he drinks too much alcohol, smokes too much marijuana and hangs with the wrong people. He thought he left those things behind when he went to Oklahoma State in 2006. Since leaving college, he is in constant pain from a back injury he got while playing for the Cowboys but does not have health insurance.
Others like Woods are in and out of prison, homeless, addicted to drugs, unemployed, and at least two have tried to kill themselves.
Many of Oklahoma State players SI spoke to said they were terrible students in high school, unprepared for college, and had committed crimes. In the past decade, a significant number of these players were forced to leave Oklahoma State and return to the neighborhoods from which they were trying to escape.
A former Oklahoma State assistant coach who worked under head coach Mike Gundy said, "They're basically being used. Once they're no longer of any use, they're gone."
Between 2002 -- former coach Les Miles' first full recruiting class at Oklahoma State -- and 2010, 43.5 percent of the players enrolled at the school left before using their five years of eligibility. Miles currently coaches LSU.
Oklahoma State disputes the number because it does not include players whose careers ended for medical reasons.
Kevin White was part of the Cowboys' 2005 recruiting class that saw 36.4 percent of its members leave the program early. The running back appeared in 10 games as a freshman after he made the move to linebacker. An introvert, White said Gundy made fun of him and picked on him in team meetings. "You talk just as much as my four-year-old son," White said Gundy told him, "and that's not a lot." White also said an athletics staff member suggested that he see a therapist, who determined there was nothing wrong.
A year later, White was kicked off the team after he was a passenger in a car that got pulled over by police and searched. Everyone in the car was charged with marijuana possession except White, and the school reportedly had a history of overlooking drug charges.
Gundy would not comment to SI.
About two years later, White considered enrolling at West Texas A&M and needed a transcript from Oklahoma State. He said he was told that he owed hundreds of dollars for miscellaneous charges, including a sofa he had allegedly stolen from his dormitory.
"I got on a bus," White said. "How am I going to take a couch on a bus?"
He never took a college class because he could not have his transcript released until he paid his debt.
White works at a company owned by his uncle installing industrial battery systems at server farms and other places.
In 2003, reserve offensive lineman Jonathan Cruz had his scholarship revoked due to academic troubles but other players who were more prominent with similar issues avoided that by having a significant amount of their schoolwork done for them.
After attempting suicide, Cruz said he became addicted to cocaine. He later enrolled at Division II Northeastern State in Tahlequah, Okla., and got sober. He currently teaches and coaches at a high school near Dallas.
In 2005, defensive back Thomas Wright tried to kill himself the day that Gundy dismissed him from the team for an undisclosed team rule violation.
"I took a whole bunch of prescription pills and bought a 20-pack (of beer) and got on the highway and drove," Wright said. "I couldn't stop crying. I didn't even want to live anymore."
Wright has been in and out of prison since leaving Oklahoma State, mainly for alcohol-related offenses. He lives with his parents in Sweeny, Texas, and said he regularly attends substance-abuse meetings.
Herschel Sims, who came from an abusive home, signed as a running back with Oklahoma State in 2011. Coaches sold him on the family atmosphere the school provided but never asked him why he went from foster home to foster home growing up or searched into his background.
Sims and many other players said they felt like the coaching staff only cared about what they did on the field.
Sims was charged with two felony counts of second-degree forgery after an incident in which he withdrew $700 from a roommate's checking account. He pleaded guilty and receive a deferred sentence.
Oklahoma State's football program generates more than $41 million but never offered counseling for Simms.
Gundy dismissed him from the team.
"I wasn't playing much and I wasn't helping out the team much so it was easy for them to let me go," Sims said. "It was just all about football. They didn't care about anything I was going through."
Sims is currently a junior at Abilene (Texas) Christian.
"They care a lot here," he said.
Several prominent players were able to avoid being dismissed from the team after pleading guilty to crimes. Jamie Blatnick was a major contributor at defensive end in 2010 despite pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault and battery charge after he hit a former teammate in the face with a beer bottle. Wide receiver Bo Bowling also played a significant role that year after he pleaded guilty to two drug-possession charges. Chris Collins was a regular at linebacker in 2006 despite later pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. He also played in 2007.
As for Woods, he transferred to Central Oklahoma in 2010 and finally told a counselor about his desire to design video games. He was told the courses he took for three years at Oklahoma State would still require several more years of college. Since he could not afford it, he is pursuing a degree in general studies.
He believes Oklahoma State still owes him money for his pain.

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