Sanders ready to lead Oklahoma State to new heights

spencer sanders
Nathan J. Fish/USA TODAY NETWORK
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STILLWATER, Okla. — Spencer Sanders enters his fourth year as the starting quarterback at Oklahoma State, and he’s happy right where he is.

“Family, culture, I like the guys I am surrounded by,” Sanders said Saturday at the Cowboys’ preseason media day. “I’ve fell in love with every group that they’ve brought in since I’ve been here. I love my five guys up front. I love my running backs, all my receivers. I even love the other side of the ball. We’re all friends on this team.”

The redshirt junior from Denton, Texas, has made 32 starts for the Cowboys, 10 more than any of his teammates on the offense. His 24 wins as a starting quarterback are the third-most in the history of a program that’s produced NFL quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Mason Rudolph. Last season, Sanders joined Weeden as the only quarterbacks in school history to receive all-conference, first-team recognition after leading the Cowboys to a No. 7 national ranking.

Sanders also is one of only two players in Oklahoma State history to record more than 6,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards. His experience and success at football’s most important position is a huge reason Oklahoma State – coming off a 12-2 campaign that ended with a Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame – has high expectations for the 2022 season.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, Sanders doesn’t think the grass is greener elsewhere.

“It just kind of came together that first year I was here – I just felt welcome,” he said. “I am excited to be here. If I didn’t want to be here, I wouldn’t. This is where I want to be. This is where I should be.”

In 2019, Sanders set an Oklahoma State freshman record with 2,065 passing yards to go with 16 touchdowns, rushed for 628 yards and two scores, and was named the Big 12 Conference’s offensive freshman of the year despite missing the final two games due to injury. He missed two full games and significant portions of two others in 2020 but still finished with 2,007 yards and 14 touchdowns passing and 269 yards and two touchdowns rushing.

Last season, he was the anchor of a young offense that steadily improved, finishing with 2,839 yards and 20 touchdowns passing and 668 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing. His 3,507 yards of total offense and his per-game offensive average of 269.8 yards both led the Big 12.

Coach Mike Gundy, himself a starter at quarterback at OSU for four years in the 1980s, appreciates what he has in Sanders.

“There is no substitute for experience and reps,” Gundy said. “He is really good at what we do. He can run any play in our system. All of our really fast plays that we have – I think we have 47 of them – he can run them without being coached at this point, in my opinion. We have a really simple offense, except for the quarterback. The quarterback takes time. Once they get it, they all of a sudden get better.

“It’s much more difficult to play quarterback now than when I played, so that experience is really important. And he’s tough. He’s been beat up. He’s been hit on, so he gets it and he’s OK.”

His teammates say Sanders’ leadership and skill set are invaluable.

“Having a guy who’s experienced who knows how to push a team and knows how to win games like that boosts everybody around him,” freshman wide receiver Bryson Green said. “There is a comfort level having a guy back there who’s been in situations you’ve never been in before. He can guide you on the right path.”

Dominic Richardson, a sophomore who figures to be Oklahoma State’s primary running back, said the speedy Sanders has taught him a thing or two about running.

“He is very explosive,” Richardson said. “He’s a dual threat, for sure. He has it all and he’s not scared to get hit. He makes things happen.”

Sanders will still have a season of eligibility remaining after this season, should he choose to take it, so the potential is there to be a five-year starter.

He’s not thinking ahead.

“I feel like every year is a new year for me,” Sanders said. “I’m always excited to go out and practice with my teammates. I love being around those guys. I love getting better as a team and going out there and playing and competing as a team and winning together and losing together.

“I’m just happy to be around these guys. These guys bring the best out of me. Hopefully, we can get back in the game and get that championship.”

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.