The hiring of this position was guaranteed by Oklahoma State officials including Hargis and athletic director Mike Holder before the first installment of the Sports Illustrated "investigative" series "The Dirty Game" was even released.
Oklahoma State officials had a warning that the series was coming from both independent sources and a visit from two of the members of the Sports Illustrated team that worked on the series.
As Mike Holder said, a major part of the fallout of the series, especially considering the many factual errors in the story and the severe lack of documentation, was separating fact from fiction. Much of the information in the series was explained to have taken place primarily between 2001 and 2007.
“While the articles do not implicate any current coaches or players to have direct involvement in any alleged misconduct, we have a responsibility to confront these disturbing reports head on and with complete transparency,” Hargis said.
“With the strong support of the OSU Board of Regents, I have authorized a thorough and expeditious investigation. To assure that the investigation is unwavering in its pursuit of the truth, the university has retained Charles E. Smrt, a veteran NCAA enforcement officer and one of the foremost experts in the compliance field, to serve as lead independent investigator,” Hargis said.
Tucker Link, chairman of the OSU/A&M Board of Regents, said, “The OSU Regents treat this matter with the utmost seriousness and fully endorse the selection of Mr. Smrt to conduct the investigation. We must determine, based on credible sources and confirmed facts, whether the claims made in a series of Sports Illustrated articles have any truth to them.
“But let there be no doubt, the OSU Board of Regents does not and will not condone illegal, immoral and unethical conduct or conduct that violates applicable rules,” Link said. “We will work with President Hargis to take appropriate action based on what the investigation determines should the claims prove to have any merit.”
Smrt said, “I appreciate the unfettered access and cooperation that President Hargis has offered to help me carry out my review. He has asked me to pursue the facts wherever they may lead. I assured him that I will do so, and that I will conduct the review with care and urgency.”
Smrt is president and founder of The Compliance Group, a Lenexa, Kan.-based consulting firm that specializes in compliance audits and the review of information concerning potential NCAA violations. Prior to founding The Compliance Group in 1999, Smrt was on the NCAA enforcement staff for almost 18 years as Director of Enforcement and Director of Enforcement Supervisor for the NCAA in Overland Park, Kan.
Oddly enough, Smrt was with the NCAA during the investigation into Oklahoma State in the mid-1980s that resulted in the football program suffering the second most severe penalties in NCAA history right behind the death penalty handed out to SMU. It is that period of OSU football that the most recent success has worked to distance itself from in performance.
However, having played at Oklahoma State at that time and coached during the period in which the penalties stifled the football program, Mike Gundy has preached from his first day as head coach that he will not permit cheating or breaking of NCAA rules. He has seen the result.
Gundy said, “I support a quick and complete review. I am proud of our football program. And I can assure everyone we are committed as coaches and staff to winning the right way.”
Holder said that even though some have called into question aspects of the story, he applauds the Board of Regents and Hargis for undertaking a comprehensive review.
“We welcome the scrutiny,” Holder said.