“… I lied to …them and I shouldn’t have….and I’m not suspended for the rest of the season….I’m sorry osu!!”
Bryant’s meeting with Deion Sanders did not qualify as a rules violation, a source indicated, but when an NCAA investigator initially asked about the meeting, Bryant apparently denied that it had occurred.
“What got (Bryant) in trouble was not being truthful with the NCAA,” the source said.
OSU already has begun the process of applying to the NCAA for Bryant’s reinstatement, but another source reported that Bryant definitely will not play in the 15th-ranked Cowboys’ Big 12 opener on Saturday. OSU visits Texas A&M. Depending on the NCAA’s reaction time, the second source said, Bryant’s ineligibility could be short-term — no more than the Texas A&M game — or could extend through the rest of the 2009 season.
Sanders, a former star cornerback who played for five NFL teams, resides in the Dallas area and is associated with sports agent Eugene Parker. As a player, Sanders was Parker’s client. Sanders reportedly has served as a consultant to former Texas Tech All-American wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who is a Parker client and a first-round draft pick of the 49ers this year. After missing the 49ers’ first four games due to a contract holdout, Crabtree and San Francisco finally reached an agreement on Wednesday.
Contacted on Wednesday by The New York Times, Sanders was quoted as saying, “The kid (Bryant) panicked, man. He panicked. He thought it was a violation to come over to my house and it isn’t. He said no, that he hadn’t been over here, and I (told the NCAA), yeah, he had been over here. I don’t lie and he panicked.”
The Times reported that Bryant jogged and talked with Sanders at a Dallas-area fitness facility. Bryant and his girlfriend reportedly had dinner with Sanders and his wife at Sanders’ home.
The NCAA might have been alerted to the Bryant-Sanders interaction because of a rule prohibiting student-athletes from entering into any type of agreement with an agent until their eligibility has been exhausted. NCAA Bylaw 12.3 states that “a student-athlete may not agree verbally or in writing to be represented by an athlete agent in the present or in the future.”
There is no known allegation of Bryant and Sanders having had any dialogue that would be deemed impermissible by the NCAA.
The Cowboys face Texas A&M without two-thirds of what had been hailed as perhaps the premier quarterback-running back-wide receiver combination in college football. Quarterback Zac Robinson is healthy, but running back Kendall Hunter has missed two games with an ankle-foot injury and may not play against the Aggies.
Referring to Bryant’s ineligibility, OSU coach Mike Gundy was quoted in a university press release: “We are certainly disappointed, but we are moving forward as we would with any challenge during the season.”
Gundy was not available for comment otherwise.
Bryant did not play in OSU’s most recent game, a 56-6 victory over Grambling State on Sept. 26. It was believed that his inactivity was related to a sore hamstring, but he may have been held out because of the NCAA investigation and the potential for problems that could have arisen if Bryant had participated.
On Wednesday, OSU released the following comment from Bryant: “I made a mistake by not being entirely truthful when meeting with the NCAA. I sincerely regret my mistake and apologize to my teammates, coaches, OSU fans and the NCAA.”
Bryant, a junior, has 17 receptions for 323 yards and four touchdowns this season. Last season, he had 87 receptions for 1,480 yards and a school-record 19 touchdowns. Mel Kiper Jr., who analyzes college football talent for ESPN, currently has Bryant listed as the No. 8 prospect overall for the 2010 NFL draft. As a junior, Bryant is eligible for early entry in the draft.
An ex-NFL player with whom Bryant apparently had contact — Sanders, as Bryant has admitted — is not affiliated with Oklahoma State and the incident does not involve anyone associated with the university, the athletic program or the school’s alumni, donors or boosters, the school said. The school did not provide additional details of the incident, citing an ongoing investigation.
According to OSU, Bryant violated NCAA Bylaw 10.1, which addresses “unethical conduct” and “knowingly furnishing the NCAA or the individual’s institution false or misleading information concerning the individual’s involvement in or knowledge of matters relevant to a possible violation of an NCAA regulation.”