Oklahoma State will be distracted by allegations


The Oklahoma State Cowboys, who were picked as the best team in the Big 12 in the conference’s preseason poll, are in the middle of a huge NCAA scandal after Sports Illustrated accused the program of an array of violations.

While sanctions and negative publicity are sure to hit the program due to the allegations, the Cowboys will suffer most on the field this season. This scandal is a black cloud that will hover over the team and ultimately strike them down at some point or another. Such was the case for previous programs that were hit by scandals of this magnitude.

Arguably the biggest scandal to ever hit a college football team happened in 2011, when Pennsylvania State University was rocked by the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The scandal hurt the Nittany Lions both on and off the field.

After the Sandusky scandal broke in early November, Penn State went 1-3 the rest of the season with its only win against Ohio State. The stress of a turbulent season finally boiled over in the team’s appearance in the TicketCity Bowl, where they lost 30-14 to the Houston Cougars.

Just before the bowl game, then-starting quarterback Matt McGloin got in a fight with then-junior wide receiver Curtis Drake. McGloin ended up missing the game due to fight-related injuries.

That fight was the final blow in a season that saw the mighty Joe Paterno fired in disgrace and saw the Nittany Lions finish the season just 9-4 after starting 8-1.

The University of Southern California Trojans also faced a scandal that has since humbled the football program. When it was revealed that former superstar running back Reggie Bush took illegal benefits during his time at USC, the Trojans were forced into a two-year bowl ban and a scholarship reduction.

Then in 2012, when the Trojans finally moved past their sanctioned period and entered the season as the No. 1 team in the country in the polls, USC went just 7-5 and is now in a rebuilding phase. The Cowboys are now facing a scandal of similar proportions, one that may derail a once-promising season.

After this past week’s game between Oklahoma State and Lamar, in which the Cowboys won 59-3, the Oklahoma State athletic department told the members of the media covering game that no questions about the Sports Illustrated scandal would be answered. The athletic department went on to say that the interviews would end if questions were asked about it.

That statement alone shows that the Cowboys are in damage control mode to protect their image rather than focusing on the action on the field. That mindset is sure to trickle down to the coaches and players.

Mike Gundy, the head football coach at Oklahoma State, has surely had a talk with his team about the allegations, and how to handle them with the media and other people around the community.

When a coach has to shift his focus to damage control due to a public relations crisis, it inevitably takes away from the already hard enough task of preparing for games in the highly competitive Big 12. There’s just simply no way that the Cowboys can win the Big 12 while also dealing with such a monumental controversy.

At some point this season, the Cowboys will slip up in a game they aren’t supposed to. This could start a chain reaction that will ultimately cause Oklahoma State to go down in a blaze of shame.

If this is the outcome, fans in Stillwater, Okla. will be sure to point to the NCAA allegations as the reason why the 2013 season didn’t live up to its promise.