Denials flowing from ‘pathetic… pure garbage’ HBO report

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As expected, the fallout from Wednesday night’s HBO special on big-time college athletics — football in particular — has commenced in earnest, with very swift and extremely vehement denials coming from the “stars” of the Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel program.

In particular, current Auburn head coach Gene Chizik took aim at the cable network for airing one side of a story in which four Auburn players — Stanley McCloverTroy ReddickChaz Ramsey and Raven Gray — levied accusations that they were paid cash by alumni/boosters in exchange for their signatures on a Letter of Intent to attend Auburn or for their on-field performances.  Or both.  Chizik, who said he was never contacted by HBO for their story, was Auburn’s defensive coordinator from 2002-2004, the same time frame as two of the players featured in the piece.

Saying “I don’t have my head in the sand”, Chizik blasted HBO for their one-sided approach to the issues raised in the expose’.

“It’s sad to me, it’s very sad to me, that HBO is going to go ahead and air something that, really admittedly, they’ve got no proof on anything,” Chizik said.

“What’s disturbing to me is that they interviewed other former Auburn football players who had exactly the opposite to say but somehow or another that failed to make the air, unless I missed that section. So I’ve got other former players that are calling me who are still playing and who are great players who had absolutely no knowledge of any of that stuff. So it saddens me that somebody is going to air a show with basically one side being known.

I think that’s pathetic. And I think it’s pure garbage.

Lee Ziemba, who started more than 50 games with the Tigers from 2007-2010, blasted the “bum” players via Twitter Tuesday as well.  While his message was somewhat softened yesterday, he still questioned both the accusers and their accusations.

“These guys obviously have some kind of beef with Auburn,” Ziemba told the Opelika-Auburn News on Wednesday. “I played here four years, was recruited by the same folks they were and never saw a dime out of any of it.

“I played in the same games, walked out of the same locker room and never got one of those ‘money handshakes.’ If any of that had been going on, I would have known about it.”

While the denials from Auburn are to be expected, it remains to be seen what type of NCAA fallout these allegations may trigger.  Ahead of the show yesterday evening, the SEC released a statement saying they are “aware of some of the information to be aired” and that their “staff will pursue the allegations in a timely manner.”  In their own statement, Auburn acknowledged that they have “contacted both the NCAA and Southeastern Conference as soon as these allegations surfaced”, as well as “engaging outside counsel to investigate this matter and will spare no resources to find the truth.”

The NCAA’s statute of limitations is four years — not five as we’d previously written — and two of the ex-Auburn players fall outside of that window.  However, the other two are within that time frame, which would allow the NCAA to commence digging.  There are, though, exceptions to that four-year time frame that could allow the NCAA to go as far back as they want or need to.

NCAA Bylaw 32.6.3 outlines a four-year statute of limitations on violations, but there are exceptions. Two could apply in this case. They involve: “Allegations … to indicate a pattern of willful violations on the part of the institution or individual involved, which began before but continued into the four-year period. Allegations that indicate a blatant disregard for the NCAA’s fundamental recruiting, extra-benefit, academic or ethical-conduct regulations.”

A Florida attorney who specializes in NCAA enforcement cases told AuburnVersus.com that he would be surprised if, based on the allegations, the NCAA didn’t go back further than the normal four-year statute of limitations would dictate.

“If the enforcement staff can determine there’s a pattern of willful intent to violate the rules, they then go beyond that statute of limitations,” said Michael Buckner, an attorney from Pompano Beach, Fla., that specializes in NCAA enforcement cases. “It doesn’t happen often. But I would be surprised if the enforcement staff did not at least look into those allegations, even if they did occur beyond the four-year statute of limitations.”

Given the whole Cam Newton imbroglio, which begat a deeper NCAA look into Auburn’s recruiting practices, there’s little doubt that the NCAA will dig into these latest allegations and turn over any rock related to the Auburn football program.  The thing is, how much credence should be given to this quartet of players, one of whom had filed a lawsuit against his former school?

We’re far from qualified to give an answer to that question; we’ll let those on the enforcement staff more versed in these matters to decide the veracity of the claims.  However, one former Auburn player very concisely summed up where our feelings on this entire mess may be headed.

“There’s just a lot of guys that have dealt with things as far as how their career went, and a lot of that is reflected in how they felt they got treated by Auburn,” T.J. Jackson, a former teammate of McClover and Reddick, told the Opelika-Auburn News on Tuesday night. “Not being ugly to those guys, but if you were going to pay some people, there were probably a lot of people (on those teams) that should have been paid before those guys.”

Regardless of where the truth actually lies, there’s no doubt that we have yet to hear the last of this situation.  The question then becomes: will the current Auburn Four be the lone wolves crying financial foul play, or will “people that should have been paid before those guys” surface as well?

Stay tuned and strap in, I guess, as this off-field game is, unfortunately, far from over.

Report: Oregon State paying search firm up to $200k to find new head football coach

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We’re all in the wrong business.

Earlier this month, Gary Andersen abruptly stepped down as Oregon State’s head football coach.  While cornerbacks coach Cory Hall was named interim head coach, the football program is on the hunt for a permanent replacement.

To aid in that search, OSU has hired the search firm of DH International, Inc.  And, according to information obtained by The Oregonian, that Chicago-based company could potentially get paid for its efforts.

DHR International, Inc. will conduct the search for a fee that “shall not exceed $200,000,” although Oregon State redacted the value of each fee installment in its response to a public records request.

The newspaper also wrote that “[athletic director Rick] Barnes… previously worked with DHR International when finding a new athletic director when he left Pitt for OSU.” It was DH International that also recommended Barnes for the Pitt job.

Alabama WR Donnie Lee Jr. charged with domestic violence, dismissed

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That didn’t take long.  At all.

According to WBRC-TV in Tuscaloosa, Donnie Lee Jr. was arrested early Thursday morning on one count of third-degree domestic violence.  It’s alleged that a verbal confrontation turned physical and resulted in his girlfriend sustaining unspecified injuries.

From the television station’s report:

Police responded to a domestic call in the 900 block of 12th Street around 1 a.m.

The arrest report states there was a verbal disagreement between Lee and a female he was dating. The disagreement resulted in a physical altercation and caused injuries.

Lee is — or was — a senior walk-on for the Crimson Tide.  He suffered a torn ACL during summer camp earlier this year, making it an easy decision for the football program to dismiss him from the team, which they did shortly after word of the situation surfaced.

“Donnie Lee Jr., a walk-on who has not been participating in team activities since a knee injury in August, has been dismissed from our football team and is no longer part of our program,” a statement from head coach Nick Saban began. “This behavior will not be tolerated from anyone and is not representative of our football program.”

Phil Fulmer can feel Butch Jones’ hot-seat pain

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With each passing week, the heat underneath Butch Jones‘ coaching seat only intensifies. One former Tennessee head coach, for what it’s worth, can feel the pain of a man who many feel will join him in the ex-UT coach’s club sooner rather than later.

Phil Fulmer, who played his college football for the Vols, was the head coach at his alma mater from 1992 to 2008, finishing with a 152-52 record, nine double-digit win seasons, two conference championships, six division titles and one national championship. Despite that success, Fulmer was fired following a 5-7 2008 season.

Butch Jones, in the midst of his fifth season at the school, has a 33-24 overall record and a 14-21 mark in SEC play, including an 0-3 start this season. The Vols have yet to place higher than tied for second in the SEC East under Jones, one of myriad factors that have him facing the firing squad at season’s end, if not before.

Asked this week about the storm of criticism enveloping the beleaguered coach, the former coach commiserated with one of his Rocky Top predecessors.

“I understand exactly where he is,” Fulmer told the Citizen Tribune of Morristown, Tenn. “It’s a tough time for him. …

“Nobody ever promised anybody that every day is going to be good. Everybody has difficulties, it’s just that in athletics, and particularly at a place like Tennessee, it is so exposed.”

When asked about quality replacements should the trigger be pulled on Jones, Fulmer told the paper “I wouldn’t begin to go there.”

“There’s so much football to be played and that’s not my responsibility anyway,” Fulmer said, adding, “My hope is that the players will run out, and make a good year out of it.”

For the record, the Vols are 56-51 and are on their third head coach since Fulmer was fired. That’s the worst 10-year stretch, winning percentage-wise, for the football program since the early 1900s.

Florida loses starting DE to season-ending hip surgery

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The injury-plagued career of Jordan Sherit (pictured, right) has come to an end because of, you guessed it, another injury.

Sherit suffered an injury in last Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M that dropped Florida 1½ games behind Georgia in the SEC’s East division.  Wednesday, Jim McElwain confirmed that the starting defensive end will miss the remainder of the year after undergoing season-ending hip surgery because of the injury sustained in that game.

As this is the lineman’s final season of eligibility, the collegiate portion of his playing career is over as well.

It’s a bad deal, man,” the head coach said of the situation.

Sherit’s 2.5 sacks are currently second on the Gators, while his five tackles for loss are tied for third.  The redshirt senior missed a handful of games in the 2014 and 2016 seasons because of a variety of injuries.  He also missed the last half of his senior season of high school because of a torn ACL