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"Isolated incidents," says Duncan. "Isolated incidents," says the university's interim president, David Swank. "A few individuals are tarnishing the program."
Is it just a few bad apples or could that "Sooner attitude" be contributing to the ills plaguing Oklahoma? The evidence suggests that the Sooner football program is an ethical wasteland. Oklahoma churns out good football teams, but can it churn out good people, too? Sadly, in recent years the monster has generated more than its share of athletes who have run into trouble after they've left Norman. Some examples:
•On Feb. 10, Jimbo Elrod, an All-America defensive end in 1975, was ordered to stand trial in Muskogee, Okla., on a charge of stealing a pickup truck. He also faces marijuana and cocaine possession charges.
•Greg Roberts, an offensive guard who was the Out-land Trophy winner in 1978, is charged in Tampa with racketeering and drug-related offenses. Authorities allege that Roberts is "the principal operator...of a distribution ring that brought drugs from Miami for sale in the Tampa area." In 1982 Roberts and former teammate David Overstreet, who was killed in 1984 while driving drunk, were charged with raping an Oklahoma coed. The woman dropped her complaint shortly after.
•John Truitt, a defensive end from 1980 to '83, was arrested in Oklahoma City last April for possession of cocaine. Truitt, who was in town to see the annual Red-White intrasquad game, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute. He was sentenced to probation.
•Stanley Wilson, a running back for the Sooners from 1979 to '82 and a member of the Cincinnati Bengals for the past six seasons, has a history of drug abuse that culminated in his suspension from this year's Super Bowl. He was discovered apparently strung out in his Miami hotel room the day before the game.
Then there are the boosters. In December the NCAA ordered the athletic department to disassociate itself from booster William Lambert for five years. The NCAA had determined that Lambert had given linebacker Kert Kaspar the free use of a car and had paid him $6,400 for summer work that was never performed. Lambert, an oil man in Lindsay, Okla., told The Daily Oklahoman that he had employed an estimated 100 to 150 Sooner players and assistant coaches during a period of 15 years in the 1970s and '80s. This abundance of goodwill toward Oklahoma football came after Lambert's release from federal prison, where he served a four-year sentence for possession of $300,000 in stolen stock certificates.
Ordinarily a school can look to its board of regents for guidance, but many people at Oklahoma, including a number of faculty members, view the state's seven-member board as ineffectual in overseeing the athletic department. This benign neglect turned into what appeared to be blatant contempt for the school's academic standards in the fall of 1987, when the board intervened in the case of Joe Brett Reynolds, a wrestler. Reynolds had been expelled for having another student take one of his final exams and for falsifying a student ID card in an attempted cover-up. Oklahoma provost Joan Wad-low kicked Reynolds out of school and said that he could apply for readmission in two years. Reynolds retained former university legal counsel Stan Ward as his lawyer and petitioned the regents for a lesser sentence.
Frank Horton, who was president of the university at the time, lobbied against a reduction. After all, Wadlow had been lenient with Reynolds: Of 28 students expelled for academic misconduct since 1981, only two had been granted permission to reapply after two years. "The [student] code states that expulsion is usually intended to be permanent," Horton said.
At a hearing before the regents, Ward compared Reynolds's punishment to SMU football's death penalty, imposed on that school in 1987. Reynolds's plea found sympathetic ears. Charles Sarratt, a onetime Sooner quarterback, wondered if Reynolds might have been entrapped by the professor. The board voted 5-2 to, in effect, reduce the suspension to 11 months.