In the five or so days since all hell broke loose in the latest chapter of the long-running Alabama-Auburn soap opera, we have heard on-the-record comments from Darren Woodruff, the Tide supporter accused of buying a recruit; Harlan “Peaches” Winston, the recruit’s adoptive father — and Tide fan — who has been accused of accepting money from Woodruff in exchange for his son’s signature on a UA Letter of Intent; and Doug Goodwin, the recruit’s high school coach — and Auburn grad — who has been accused by some of pressuring his former player into flipping from his original Alabama commitment to his alma mater.
In fact, it appears the only pertinent player in this dark comedy we haven’t heard from is the recruit himself. Until today.
Brent Calloway, the member of the Tide’s 2011 recruiting class at the center of the controversy, spoke publicly for the first time since the reports of cars & cash first surfaced late last week, shedding some additional light on what is, for the most part, a very convoluted and fluid situation. In the wide-ranging, extensive phone conversation with Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com, Calloway addressed many of the issues that have surfaced since a writer from an Auburn-centric Rivals.com website levied the explosive allegations during a radio interview.
First and foremost, it was reported that Calloway had received a car from Woodruff, as well as cash, as an inducement to get him to sign with Alabama. Additionally, the Auburn Rivals writer claimed that Winston had received at least $2,500 from Woodruff. As expected, Calloway denied that anything untoward occurred during his recruitment from either of the sides involved.
Q: Did Alabama or Auburn offer you or anyone close to you money to choose their school?
A: Heck no. I wish they would have, but they didn’t.
Q: How about cars?
A: No. You can put this in the newspaper. If I had a car, I would be driving it. I want a car so bad, but because all of this that is going on now I can’t even get a car because it’s just going to make it worse.
Q: Did Darren Woodruff offer you or Peaches Winston money for you to go to Alabama?
A: No. Darren was willing to take me to Auburn when I asked him to take me. But I didn’t go. I went to Alabama instead that weekend.
Calloway also addressed his currently icy relationship with his former high school coach that dates to the time he was considering a flip in commitment back to the Tide and away from the coach’s alma mater — “He sent me text messages talking crazy. He sent my dad messages talking crazy. He sent Darren messages talking crazy. It was just crazy” — as well as confirming a trip to Florida a couple of days before signing day that he took with Woodruff, and that he went along willingly because of “crazy stuff with death threats and crap” he was getting in his hometown.
And then there’s what actually likely led to this whole imbroglio, Calloway’s flip-flopping on his non-binding verbal commitments. For those who are unfamiliar, Calloway committed to Alabama in June of 2009 and then abruptly de-committed from the Tide before an all-star game this past January. That same day, he verbally committed to Auburn before flipping back and signing with the Tide two weeks later.
Calloway claimed during his interview with the website that another trip to Tuscaloosa — which reportedly came at the urging of “Peaches” — caused him to change his mind again. Additionally, he claimed — and, again, it’s the player claiming it — that he was “misled” by the Auburn staff/recruiters when it came the number of running back signees there would be in their 2011 class and that was another factor in his decision.
Q: Why did you have a change of heart and switch to Auburn?
A: From what they had told me, it was a bigger opportunity for me because they told me they were only going to recruit me as a running back. That would leave me, (Michael) Dyer and a walk-on in the backfield. I was like, ‘That’s fine.’ They told me if I switched they would sign just me. So I switched. I said if I’m going to fight for a position, and I wanted to play running back any way, but (Alabama coach Nick Saban) told me I could play running back regardless if I wanted to at Alabama, but I’m like it’s too deep at running back at Alabama. So I said, ‘OK, I’ll just commit to Auburn.’ My home boy who I was tight with, Jonathan Rose, me and Jonathan Rose (who signed with Auburn) are like best friends. We stayed together all the time. In every game I played in and all the functions I went to, we stayed together every single time. I felt like this is a guy I’ve got down there that I can trust and count on when or if something goes wrong. Then me and Erique Florence (who also signed with Auburn) got tight. And my brother goes to Tuskegee, which is only 15-20 minutes from there. So I felt like, ‘Hey, that’s not a bad move.’ I decided to go to Auburn.
Q: Why did you switch back to Alabama on signing day?
A: I was debating on whether to go back to Auburn that weekend because I had been the weekend before. Instead I went back to Alabama. When I got back to Alabama it was like, ‘This is where I’ve really been. This is where I want to be.’ Because they showed me love even though I switched on them on national TV. I didn’t feel no hard feelings. I didn’t feel awkward about being there. When I was there it felt like it had felt every time before when I was committed to them. That home-type feel. And I was like, this is where I’ve got to be. On top of that, Auburn signed three other running backs before I even signed. They were misleading me. Very misleading.
In other words, we’re right back to a “he said, he said… he said… and he said” situation.
Thus far, no one other than the Auburn Rivals writer has come forward and attached their name to rumors of payments to Calloway and at least one member of his family. Thus far, we’ve seen nothing to suggest that Woodruff should be considered an “official booster” of Alabama football. Then again, Tide officials did themselves no favors in the court of public opinion — and maybe even in the eyes of the NCAA as they’re currently on probation — by conducting an “investigation” into rather serious allegations that lasted less than 24 hours and concluding in that short of a time frame that nothing untoward had occurred. And maybe nothing did occur that could be considered an NCAA violation, but the perception, right or wrong, is that it was brushed
under the rug off in a most expeditious and favorable manner.
At this point in time, nobody can say anything with any degree of certainty. Check that, there is one certainty in all of this: recruiting in general and in the SEC in particular is nothing but a bubbling cesspool of creepy obsession that needs to be reined in and/or overhauled sooner rather than later. And, yes, I won’t be holding my breath for the higher-ups that lord over this specific aspect of a very entrenched Southern religion to do much of anything at any point in the near future.
Perhaps I’m picking nits here, but agents/runners plying 21- and 22-year-old young men pales in comparison to the creeping of 17- and 18-year-old kids. Who cares, though, as long as Johnny Jockstrap picks your school, right? If he doesn’t, though, unleash hell. And fling as much mud — or fecal matter as the case may be — as possible.