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WVU: DeForest probe to be done ‘quickly’

MORGANTOWN - West Virginia's in-house investigation into the accusations against Joe DeForest will be done "quickly, but thoroughly'' and will concentrate only on the period since DeForest was hired by WVU, a source told the Gazette Monday.

The university was notified in general of the allegations last week by one of the Sports Illustrated writers working on the piece, which will begin this morning on SI.com and continue in five parts.

DeForest, West Virginia's special teams coach, is a key figure in the Sports Illustrated investigative report, alleging a broad range of improprieties at Oklahoma State while he was an assistant coach there. DeForest is accused of running a bonus program that paid Cowboys players for specific plays.

The report also alleges that both coaches and boosters paid athletes at Oklahoma State, including paying them for jobs not performed or overpaying them, in addition to the pay-for-plays accusations. According to SI, players were paid as much as $500 at a time for game performances and as much as $10,000 a year in various ways.

It also alleges academic fraud, drug use and hostesses in the Orange Pride program providing sex to recruits. DeForest, according to the report, was involved in influencing those hostesses in addition to paying players.

The alleged improprieties occurred primarily between 2001 and 2007 under head coaches Les Miles and Mike Gundy, but continued in some fashion as late as 2011. DeForest was an assistant coach at Oklahoma State during all of that period, primarily as a safeties coach and special teams coordinator.

DeForest, who was hired by WVU coach Dana Holgorsen in January of 2012 as his defensive coordinator and associate head coach, denied the accusations to The Oklahoman newspaper when the story broke Saturday, but has not spoken to the media since then. At least one report claims that DeForest said that he paid players for work at his house, not for on-field performance.

West Virginia officials began their investigation Monday by speaking to current players on the WVU football team. In the coming days they are expected to contact former players who played since DeForest arrived at West Virginia. That's a fairly short list given that he arrived in January of 2012 and has been at the school just one full season.

The players are being questioned about several of the accusations leveled at both DeForest and Oklahoma State. That would include being paid for play, as well as perhaps being paid for bogus jobs. WVU does not have a hostess program.

The source said as far as WVU is concerned, the football program is clean, but will investigate nonetheless.

Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder held a press conference Monday to address the allegations and told reporters that until he sees the Sports Illustrated report, he doesn't know everything. The school has notified the NCAA.

"I don't know a lot of specifics," Holder said in a story in the Tulsa World. "I know a little bit. I know enough to be very concerned. . . . [SI's reporting team] believe what they're about to write to be true.

"Our goal is to separate fact from fiction and then we can start dealing with it. We've already notified the NCAA and they're going to assign an investigator to this. We'll reach out and get someone to stand with that investigator to go through the facts.''

Holder also said Monday that he had reached out to the other Big 12 athletic directors to let them know what was going on. WVU athletic director Oliver Luck confirmed that he had talked to Holder, but wouldn't say anything more about the situation than he did Saturday, when he announced the school's own investigation.

Holgorsen, who was at Oklahoma State in 2010 but has not been implicated in the scandal there, also refused to go into it.

"Oliver Luck has commented on that and I have no further comment,'' Holgorsen said Monday on the Big 12's weekly football coaches' teleconference. "We're moving forward and we're getting ready for Georgia State.''

DeForest was hired prior to the 2012 season as West Virginia's defensive coordinator. He had been an assistant at OSU the previous 11 years and coached the safeties and special teams. He was given by far the largest contract ever awarded to a WVU assistant coach, $500,000 a year, although that figure is now matched by Keith Patterson, who succeeded DeForest as WVU's defensive coordinator.

Patterson was elevated because the defense under DeForest was among the worst in the country last season. Midway through the season, the two switched places during games - Patterson moving to the field and DeForest to the press box - and between the regular season and the bowl game, Patterson was elevated to the coordinator's spot.

DeForest is now just the team's special teams coach, one of only about a dozen assistants in the country who hold that position as a full-time job and almost certainly the highest-paid of that group. He also retained his title as associate head coach.

Until sometime this winter, DeForest was not working under a formal contract. He worked under only a term sheet his first season. But at some point during the offseason, he signed a formal contract, one that is thought to be for three years retroactive to his hiring. This would be the second year of the contract. He still is paid $500,000.

If that contract, which was not immediately available, is like most standard contracts signed by WVU assistant coaches, DeForest could be fired for a variety of reasons, including NCAA violations or "misconduct [that] . . . brings discredit to the university or harms the university's reputation.'' Nowhere in those contracts, however, does it mention prior misdeeds.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

Georgia State at WVU

  • When: Noon Saturday
  • TV: ROOT Sports 
  • Line: WVU by 39
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