Interview with Terry Bowden April 24, 2001, at his Loachapoka ranch. Also present was Paul Davis. After our interview, Bowden was expecting a visit from Dr. Muse that same day at his ranch.
Randy Kennedy Editor, Opelika-Auburn News. (ed. note: Randy Kennedy was an editor with the O-A News before becoming Sports Editor for the Mobile Press-Register)
Former Auburn University football coach Terry Bowden says the program he inherited in 1993 included an elaborate system of paying star high school players up to $15,000 to sign with Auburn and $600 per month while on the team.
In a lengthy interview from the ranch he still owns in Loachapoka, Bowden alleged that the "pay-for-play" system was orchestrated by powerful AU Board of Trustees member Bobby Lowder and carried out by former assistant coach Wayne Hall. Bowden said the corruption extended to former head coach Pat Dye, and included $30,000 to Atlanta attorneys for Gene Jelks in order to sustain the former University of Alabama player while he leveled charges of wrongdoing in the Crimson Tide program.
Bowden said he learned of the major NCAA infractions within days of being named Auburn's head coach, but kept quiet while trying to clean up the program from within." I broke the rules," Bowden said. "I told Wayne Hall to pay it off to the players we already had and it will never happen again. I was hiding a dirty secret."
Bowden said the payment of players can be traced to Lowder, who Bowden said is the
unquestioned leader of the AU athletic department." Nothing was done without Lowder knowing." Wayne Hall and Pat Dye paid $30,000 for lawyers in Atlanta to keep Gene Jelks talking. This came from the money that had been used to pay Auburn players.
In 1991 when I was at Samford, Wayne Hall called to ask about a job for Katherine Lowder at Samford. Bobby Lowder then called and he said he would contribute money to Samford equal to Katherine's salary as long as we didn't tell her where the money came from. Katherine and my wife became good friends. Then the Eric Ramsey thing hit. One day Katherine sticks her head in my office door and says, "Dye is leaving and my dad wants you to be coach at Auburn."
Dye resigned a week later.
Lowder made him resign because Lowder was sure Auburn was going to get the death penalty if he didn't resign. I met with Lowder, Mike McCarter and Ruel Russell at Ruel's office in Birmingham. They asked me all the questions, and I thought it was a job interview. Then they said, we need to get you an interview.
They got John Montgomery Sr. to officially recommend me to be interviewed. The night before the interview, Lowder told me "here's how the interview will go." This was three hours on the phone like a lawyer prepping his client. There were six candidates - Larry Smith, Mack Brown, Dick Sheridan, Pat Sullivan, Wayne Hall and me. Everyone agreed that whoever the coach was going to be, the decision had to be unanimous. I think Lowder wanted Wayne Hall, but he knew he couldn't get him approved. I was the backup. I was the last to interview, then the committee immediately took a vote that day.
Somebody was opposed to every candidate until they voted on me last. That's how I got the job. Lowder said he wanted me to hire Wayne Hall as an assistant. Tommy (Bowden, Terry's brother and a member of the Pat Dye staff) told me that if you wanted anything done you gotta go through Hall. My second day on the job (athletic director Mike) Lude said "you can't hire Hall." But then I understand Lowder called and said that if I couldn't hire Hall we will find a new president. So I hired Wayne Hall.
One week on the job, Hall came in with a ledger of players who have been paid, who paid the money, how much money and when it was paid. He said we've still got 9-12 players that we're paying $600 per month. We paid them $12,000-$15,000 to sign. We sign about four every year that we pay. (Former assistant coach Rodney) Garner paid most of the players. He was paid when he was a player at Auburn. (Stacey) Danley is the assistant compliance guy, and he was paid when he was a player. I broke the rules. I said pay it off, and it will never happen again.
Hall said "OK, but you will change your mind." Katherine came to Auburn as my assistant, but she worked for Colonial. We were real close. I told Lowder "We have cash all over." Lowder said "I told Wayne not to collect more than we had to have to pay the players." Wayne had a safe in his house where he kept the money. Within two weeks of me being hired they told me about paying Jelks.
Nothing was done without Lowder knowing. I will go under oath and say that Lowder looked me in the eyes and said, "I didn't want Wayne to collect more money than we needed to pay the players." I was hiding a dirty secret. We were paying (star running back and current Washington Redskin) Steve Davis and his cousin the fullback. It took about two years to get it all cleaned up. Most the guys we were paying weren't any good and weren't helping us win games. Steve Davis was the exception.
Here is how it works: Fifty to 60 men give $5,000 per year. Wayne would collect it. These are all good men. They didn't ask questions. The coach tells them that everybody cheats so we have to. My first two years we went 11-0 and 9-0-1. My third year, (assistants Jimbo) Fisher and (Rick) Trickett said, "Hall is on the phone a lot with Lowder." I thought he was going back to cheating. I told Hall that when the season was over he needed to move on. I told Garner that I was taking him off coaching for a year. That was the beginning of the end for me.
Jimmy Rane was in on all of this. He is high maintenance. Three current Board of Trustees members gave cash to players - Rane, Spina and McWhorter. Jimmy is a wannabe, a jock sniffer, a loose cannon. He wants to be involved in everything.
After I fired Wayne, (athletic director David) Housel came on. I don't dislike David, but David would get his feelings hurt if I called Lowder. I told David what Wayne was doing. Lowder said (of Housel) "He's not a good AD, but he's my AD. "David Dideon compliance guy, Jay Jacobs parking passes, Tim Jackson tickets. All are GAF members. Gerald Leschuck was keeping Lowder informed.
By my last year I'm having my house checked for bugs. Danny Rane (son of Jimmy Rane and a walk-on Auburn player) was giving our practice tapes to Mississippi State, our opponent. Tommy Tuberville had been promised the job if we lost to Alabama in the game when we kicked the field goal here to win. After that season, I thought about taking the University of Texas job, but (Governor Fob) James was getting rid of Lowder. Then Lowder stayed on the Board and I was stuck. I thought then that I needed to win one more year and get out.
When I got here Lowder said don't talk to Muse, he's weak and his wife is a n----r lover. Lowder told me John Denson was trying to kill him.
The last week I was coach:
Monday – The Huntsville Tmes runs a story that says an undisclosed sources says that Bowden has lost the confidence of the Board of Trustees and he must win four of the last five games to keep his job. I lied to my staff and told them that I had talked to Lowder, the story was not true and everything was OK. I was trying to keep up morale.
Tuesday - (Defensive coordinator Bill) Oliver brings a hidden tape recorder into our coaches meeting. I believe this was because Lowder wanted to have proof that I told a lie about talking to him the day before.
Wednesday - I had a 7 a.m. meeting with Housel. He asked if I had seen the article in the Huntsville Times. He said he had talked to Lowder, and Lowder wanted me to know that he was the undisclosed source. He said he also wants you to know that he doesn't care if you win five of your next six, you're out. David said the only way I would keep my job was if Fob James wins (the governor's race).
Thursday - I brought in my lawyer, Ricky Davis, and said to David that I wanted to resign. He called Lowder while we at in his office and we worked out a settlement. Muse didn't even know. They were using Oliver. They were never going to hire him. When I resigned it shocked them.