Well, that was certainly fast.
A day after a “report” emerged that an Alabama supporter had “bought” the talents of UA signee Brent Calloway, the school has concluded its investigation. Whether the SEC and/or NCAA sees this as the end of the saga remains to be seen.
According to both the Birmingham News and TideSports.com, a trip by school officials to Calloway’s hometown of Russellville Friday and subsequent interviews with those close to the linebacker resulted in UA finding no NCAA violations had occurred. Thus, the school does not plan on filing a report with the NCAA.
At the center of the “controversy” created by Rivals.com‘s Auburn website is a man by the name of Darren Woodruff. The website levied serious allegations earlier in the week that Woodruff, president of a chemical company and a self-professed Alabama supporter, had given a car to Calloway as well as cash to the recruit and at least one member of his family as an enticement to sign with UA.
Tide officials spoke with Woodruff during their trip to Russellville and uncovered several key distinctions regarding whether Woodruff is a “booster” or merely a really, really big fan of the football program.
Alabama learned that Woodruff drove Calloway to the majority of the school’s home football games in 2009, during his junior year, on unofficial visits. That could be considered an NCAA violation if Woodruff were found to be a representative of Alabama’s athletics interests.
But Alabama also learned that Woodruff is not a graduate of the school and has not donated money to the school’s athletics department or purchased season tickets. Any one of those characteristics could identify a person as a booster.
NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199 says a school may provide up to three complimentary passes to a home football game (as long as they’re in the general seating section) for a prospect on an unofficial visit and two guests.
In addition, Alabama learned that Woodruff’s relationship with Calloway began when Calloway transferred to Russellville High School for the ninth grade, which would predate Calloway’s status as a major college football prospect.
That can be an important distinction when the NCAA decides whether a contact made by an individual is impermissible.
NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52 lists exceptions to the general rule that prohibits recruiting contacts by a booster. One of those exceptions is an “established family friend or neighbor, it being understood that such contacts are not made for recruiting purposes and are not initiated by a member of the institution’s coaching staff.”
Woodruff himself spoke to TideSports.com, and reiterated what UA officials uncovered.
“I’m not an alumnus, I’ve never bought a ticket from them and I’ve never given them a dime of my money,” Woodruff told the website. “I attended games as a guest of Brent when he was a junior. I did it because he didn’t have a coach that would take him.”
Woodruff also shared an interesting tidbit that sheds some additional light on the motives behind his relationship with Calloway.
Calloway isn’t the only youth Woodruff has helped. Former Russellville student Aaron Hollingsworth, whose house burned down almost two years ago, currently lives with the Woodruffs. Hollingsworth is not a Russellville athlete and has no high school eligibility remaining.
“I’m just passionate about helping young people,” Woodruff said.
On the surface, and at least at the moment, this whole imbroglio seems to be nothing more than a website flinging mud in the general direction of their hated in-state rivals. As far as Alabama is concerned, nothing has stuck that would constitute an NCAA violation. As we said earlier, though, whether their conference or the governing body of collegiate athletics agrees that nothing impermissible occurred remains to be seen.