The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 19, 2013

Lack of documentation makes SI series hard to prove

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Oklahoma State University officials responded appropriately by hiring former Director of NCAA Enforcement Charles E. Smrt to lead an independent investigation into recent misconduct allegations.

Sports Illustrated’s first-day report in “The Dirty Game” series sent shockwaves throughout Stillwater.

The respected magazine, which knows how sex sells in its annual Swimsuit Issue, devoted individual segments to drugs and sex on campus.

Much of the series focused on what happened between 2001-2007, mainly during the Les Miles era.

The tease of the initial story got everyone’s attention, but the series lasted too long and had too many holes.

The experience was reminiscent of an engrossing movie trailer that draws your attention, but ends up showing only the good parts of a film.

Journalists live in glass houses and shouldn’t throw stones.

We certainly have made mistakes and realize readers are quick to question our motives.

And it’s common for quoted sources to claim inaccuracy or lack of context for controversial stories.

Early on, the SI series didn’t provide enough disclosure that many disgruntled players were either kicked off the team or quit as Mike Gundy cleaned house.

Cowboy fans also felt OSU’s program was singled-out for its contemporary rise to national prominence.

Also, SI didn’t do itself any favors by releasing the fourth installment late with obvious editing errors. (Again, we realize the hypocrisy of glass houses here.)

Using anonymous sources can be a slippery slope.

You have to weigh the public’s right to know versus potential ax-grinding.

Whenever possible, you should corroborate with multiple sources and confirm with documentation.

Speaking of documented sources, a recent Yahoo Sports investigation with documents and text messages revealed impermissible benefits to five Southeastern Conference players.

Although more people probably read SI’s OSU probe, those allegations will be harder for NCAA investigators to pursue due to the lack of documentation.