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Shame: Big-money sports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Universities -- supposedly centers for high-quality learning -- are degraded when they're dominated by outsize athletics programs that overshadow academics and pay coaches vastly more than professors. Scandal after scandal erupts as big-time sports schools recruit top players and are caught pretending they're genuine student amateurs.

The latest uproar involves Oklahoma State University, where coaches are accused of sneaking money to football stars, ignoring their drug use, faking their grades, performing their coursework and providing them with sexual "hostesses."

Sports Illustrated interviewed 64 past OSU players and unleashed a devastating five-day indictment. The report says new coach Les Miles transformed OSU from a game-losing school into a football powerhouse by spending millions for the best players money could buy.

"In 2011-12, the football program spent $26.2 million -- more than any other Big 12 team -- and grossed $41.1 million," the magazine said. It alleges:

• OSU had a "bonus" system through which assistant coach Joe DeForest gave sums up to $500 to players who performed well in a game.

• DeForest also gave players debit cards containing up to $5,000, which later were replenished -- and paid them for "pretend" work at his home.

• "In addition, boosters and at least two assistant coaches funneled money to players through direct payments and a system of no-show and sham jobs. Some players say they collected more than $10,000 annually in under-the-table payments."

• Tutors completed course assignments for players, and professors gave them grades they didn't earn, to keep them eligible to play.

• Hostesses in a troupe called Orange Pride entertained players, and a few provided sex.

"Illicit payments, toothless drug policies, academic dishonesty and even the use of sex to induce recruits comport with the most cynical perception of big-time sports programs," the magazine said.

Coach DeForest was brought to West Virginia University in 2012 for a whopper salary of $500,000. He denies all the allegations. WVU is investigating him -- but only for his actions since arriving in this state. Apparently, the university doesn't care if he misbehaved previously.

As we said, universities are tainted when sports grow too big and become a school's chief identity.


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