Bryant ineligible for rest of season

Updated: November 5, 2009, 12:54 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

DeSOTO, Texas -- Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant will remain suspended for the remainder of the football season for lying to NCAA investigators.

The NCAA ruled Tuesday that the junior All-American will not be eligible to play until September 2010, possibly bringing his college career to an end if he enters the NFL draft.

Bryant said he's disappointed in the NCAA's decision to keep him ineligible for the rest of the 2009 season.

"But I respect the process," Bryant said Tuesday night. "I thank Oklahoma State for appealing the decision and look forward to when I can tell my side of the story."

Oklahoma State appealed the decision to the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee, but athletic department spokesman Kevin Klintworth declined further comment. The school announced on Oct. 7 Bryant was declared ineligible for lying to the NCAA about his relationship with former NFL star Deion Sanders.

"I just felt the manner in which I was interrogated by the NCAA was an experience I never had before," Bryant said. "The manner they asked the questions led me to believe that I did something wrong when in fact I had not. My mistake was not seeking advice prior to being interrogated and then turning around and not telling the truth."

Bryant has sat the last four games for the Cowboys (6-1, 3-0 in Big 12), who host No. 3 Texas on Saturday night in a game that could determine which team plays for the Big 12 title.

Bryant said while he waits out the appeal process he will go back to school and hopes to practice with his teammates.

At the time Bryant was first ruled ineligible, a person close to the receiver told ESPN's Joe Schad that if he were unable to regain eligibility to play sometime this season, he would enter the NFL draft.

That person said that Bryant in fact would plan to leave school and begin training for the NFL draft. Bryant is projected as a first-round pick.

"I'm not thinking about that," Bryant said. "I'm helping my team and continuing my course of study."

The NCAA said in a news release that Bryant's penalty actually constituted "relief" from even more severe penalties for breaking the agency's rules for ethical conduct and preferential treatment. Bryant could have been forced to miss as few as six games or be permanently ineligible.

The NCAA said mitigating factors presented in Oklahoma State's case resulted in a lighter penalty for Bryant. The decision was based on whether Bryant "actively and deliberately concealed, omitted or provided inaccurate or false information" to the NCAA and whether he had multiple chances to provide accurate information but did not do so.

E-mail exchanges between an Oklahoma State compliance official and the NCAA indicate that there was concern that Bryant's meeting with Sanders was a way to connect him to an agent, something Sanders has denied. Bryant claimed in a letter of apology to the NCAA that he jogged briefly with Sanders at a Texas athletics center without breaking a sweat and then went to Sanders' house for dinner but did not eat.

Oklahoma State said in its reinstatement request that it would classify the meeting as a violation of NCAA rules prohibiting preferential treatment.

Bryant caught 87 passes for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns last season while also scoring twice on punt returns. This season, Bryant led the team with 17 catches for 323 yards and four touchdowns through OSU's first three games.

While Bryant played in OSU's first three games, OSU compliance officials were investigating an apparent meeting he had with former NFL players Sanders and Omar Stoutmire that he later lied about to the NCAA. Bryant sent a letter with his initial application for reinstatement, asking to play again this season and that his "punishment is not so bad that I do not get to play football again at OSU."

Bryant had not commented publicly since the university ruled him ineligible because he "failed to openly disclose to the NCAA the full details of his interaction with a former NFL player not affiliated with OSU." Sanders later identified himself as that player, and Bryant also referred to him in his letter to the NCAA.

After his initial suspension, the university released a statement from Bryant saying "I made a mistake by not being entirely truthful when meeting with the NCAA."

Information from ESPN's Joe Schad and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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