SI's back with part 3 of their investigation into Oklahoma St. Today's topic: Drugs
It is unclear when marijuana use became so pervasive that a player like Alexander would feel excluded for not smoking. Andre McGill, a quarterback in 2000 and '01, says it coincided with the arrival of Les Miles, but that is at least anecdotally false. Players from earlier years say that marijuana was used before Miles was named coach in December 2000, though they say it increased during his tenure. A Stillwater law enforcement official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media, says that when officers called Miles to tell him about players with drug problems, his usual response was, "What do you want me to do?" Rodrick Johnson, a linebacker and defensive end from 2004 to '07, says of Miles's approach, "As long as you were performing on the field, he could care less what you did off the field."
In a written response Miles said, "This is an outsider's view or perhaps from a disgruntled player who wanted playing time but could not earn it. Yes, I wanted our players to perform on the field, but they had to perform socially and academically too or they would not see the field." Miles added, "I backed the police 100% and did support law enforcement by asking what I could do to provide assistance."
It goes on to describe drug use by various players and OSU's lax drug policy. One of the more interesting bits is the story of the "Weed Circle", a weekly meeting of players that was supposed to be a counseling session, but turned into a catch-all for a bunch of players who had a habit, but needed to avoid suspension.
In itself, the existence of the Weed Circle was not improper. Within Oklahoma State's policy is a relatively rare clause; SI could find versions of it in only six of the 54 other BCS schools whose complete drug-testing policies are online. It states that a player will not incur a strike as long as he is in counseling and as long as subsequent tests reveal a gradual decline in usage. The aim is to allow players to get help and not penalize them as the drugs exit their system.
Oklahoma State players, however, told SI that while in counseling they tested positive with elevated levels and went unpunished. Further, many schools' drug policies specify the maximum amount of time a player can spend in counseling (typically 30 days), but Oklahoma State's had no limit -- some Cowboys remained in counseling for entire seasons or longer. Girtman says that while he was in the Weed Circle for most of the 2003-04 school year, he never reduced his marijuana use, and he tested with elevated levels and suffered no penalty.
A licensed alcohol and drug counselor ran the Weed Circle from 2003 to at least '06. In previous years the counselor met one-on-one with players who tested positive; they say those sessions were productive. But the counselor's attempts to create a meaningful group program were less successful, as players say they often attended the sessions under the influence and many weren't interested in addressing the issues behind their use. They say they saw the sessions as a gathering of friends who enjoyed getting high. "It was like a brotherhood," says Chijuan Mack.
In the early years of the Weed Circle, players say that Miles dropped in on sessions. Shaw says Miles heard the counselor ask the players questions such as, When was the last time you guys smoked? A primary reason universities employ drug counselors from outside the athletic department is so athletes feel they can talk freely. "Having a coach involved jeopardizes what you are trying to accomplish with counseling," says an official who oversees a drug program at another BCS school.
In a written statement Miles said he only stopped by "to be supportive and help players with issues."
Aside from imagining Miles getting hot-boxed in a player's counseling session, there isn't much to glean from today's report, other than the shocking truth that college kids use drugs and college football players have better access to it. As for what it means for Miles, there's actually less here than the other reports. OSU's drug issues clearly didn't start or end with him, and Miles has a strong history of dealing with players who have drug problems at LSU.
Reaction continues to pour in from various directions, but the most interesting that I've read comes from Russ Cornelius, an OSU walk-on who was twice cut from the team. He shares his views on what went on in a very candid an honest seeming way that is probably closer to the truth than anything anyone else has said so far.
Miles addressed the media on the SEC coaches teleconference and in his usual after practice session on Wednesday and took a few questions about the Okie St situation. He didn't say much, continuing to deny that he had any involvement and that he would be making a fuller statement on the mater once all of the report is out.