By Elizabeth Nicholas
Special to the NewsPress
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A former Oklahoma State standout tight end is speaking out against illegal payments, academic fraud, drug tests and sex as words being used to describe the OSU football program.
Billy Bajema, Super Bowl winning Baltimore Ravens tight end, said he saw no such corruption take place during his time at OSU.
“Basically, I read through that Sports Illustrated article and there wasn’t a single thing in there that I saw during my time at Oklahoma State,” Bajema said.
Bajema was a member of the OSU football team from 2001 to 2004. The allegations in the Sports Illustrated five-part expose, The Dirty Game’ reportedly occurred between 2001 and 2007. A few of the allegations occurred after 2007.
After speaking with his Cowboy teammates, Bajema said they were as shocked as he was at the allegations.
“I’ve spoken with quite a few of the guys I played with and none of them saw any of that go on, either,” Bajema said.
Bajama said none of the sources for the stories against the program are men who enjoyed their time at OSU.
“The picture it paints is not how it was at all,” Bajema said. “They’re only talking to guys who have been kicked out of the program or were unhappy with their time at Oklahoma State.”
It’s hard for him to see his alma mater being shown in a negative light, Bajema said.
“As a former player and OSU grad, I love my school,” he said. “I’m proud of the kind of legacy that has been left with the football program. It’s so difficult to hear that stuff, because it’s a name that we all care about as Oklahoma State people.”
The first day of the series focused on illegal payments to players by boosters and assistant coaches.
“There were accusations of players getting paid by the coaches for certain things,” Bajema said. “Such as getting envelopes of money from boosters, or guys getting overpaid for little or no work.”
Bajema said he never saw any money exchange hands from boosters to players or coaches to players.
Seeing coach Mike Gundy and former coach Les Miles portrayed in a negative light is hard for Bajema, he said.
“I don’t think any of these allegations are a reflection of coach Gundy,” Bajema said. “I think, if anything, they’re more a reflection of the guys interviewed for the article. When I was there, Gundy recruited me and he was our offensive coordinator. I never saw anything in his character that any of the allegations would’ve happened under his watch.”
Bajema also said he never saw anything in Les Miles’ character that would suggest he would run a program with these types of things going on.
“I have respect for (Miles) and the way he operated,” he said.
Academic fraud and drug use were issues SI focused on in days 2 and 3.
The academic staff helped student athletes excel in the classroom. Tutors were provided as needed, he said.
“We had access to that, but we didn’t have access to free grades or passes in classes that I ever observed.”
The coaching staff didn’t let players use or abuse recreational drugs, Bajema said. He didn’t see a subculture of drug abuse when he was a player at OSU.
“I mean, a lot of this is just out of no where,” Bajema said.
Bajema said he assumes some players may have been using illicit drugs. If its a problem in society, it could be a problem on the team.
“I never saw anyone get away with anything or have people cover up drug use for them,” he said.
Friday’s SI article looks into allegations some Orange Pride hostesses engaged in sexual activities with recruits, which is an NCAA rules violation.
Bajema said that accusation is hard to fathom. The tight end hosted recruits when he was a player and never saw an Orange Pride hostess act inappropriately.
“They were instructed to be professional and not to mess around with recruits and just to keep it professional,” Bajema said.
He never heard or saw any inappropriate activities between hostesses in recruits, he said.
“I think it’s important that we do not try to cover anything up,” he said. “We need to figure out the truth and not let our school be talked about in untruthful ways. I’m sure it will all sort itself out, but the culture of the program described in the article bears no resemblance to the culture of the program during my time.”
Elizabeth Nicholas is a journalism student at Oklahoma State University.