Thursday, March 31, 2011

ColonialPalooza: Fifth plea deal reached as Farkas goes to trial

image Days before Taylor Bean & Whitaker’s former CEO goes on trial on charges of bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy, a fifth defendant in the case has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with investigators.

Bloomberg reports that Sean Ragland, a 37-year old employee of TBW’s finance and accounting department will appear today before District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in US District Court and plead guilty to his role in the scheme that brought down TBW and Colonial Bank.

Ragland joins four other executives—two from TBW and two from Colonial—in plea agreements for their testimony. Speaking after a hearing for one of those, the attorney for Farkas said that he too had been in discussions for a deal, but nothing had been formalized or agreed on.

Farkas also sought to delay the start of his trial to allow his attorney to better prepare his defense, claiming that the Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases involving the two financial giants had prevented his access to key evidence and other materials.

That request was denied by Judge Brinkema earlier this month, and jury selection in Farkas’ trial is expected to begin Monday morning.

Farkas and other conspirators were charged with committing wire, bank and securities fraud in a scheme to secure a half billion in TARP funds for Colonial BancGroup. The scheme was uncovered and the TARP funds were never delivered.

Regulators seized Colonial Bank in 2009 and Taylor Bean, once the 12th-largest mortgage lender, filed for bankruptcy. 

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BingoGate: Gilley asks, “why no new indictments yet?”

image This is from a story just hitting teh innerwebs this afternoon from the Dothan Eagle, hometown paper of casino developer Ronald Gilley, who stands accused on charges of bribery and conspiracy along with Milton McGregor and nine others.

Gilley is still suffering miserably in the Montgomery County lockup, while his lawyer incessantly complains and wonders why there’s no indictment of his client on new charges of bribery.

From the Eagle:

Jones’ most recent argument centers on the government’s contention that it is moving forward in prosecuting Gilley for the bribery allegation.

Jones says three grand juries have convened since Gilley’s detention without announcement of an indictment for the charge.

“This (most recent) grand jury session would be at least the third since the Government first learned of defendant's December, 2011, contacts with Massey. The only conclusion reached by the lack of any indictment is that (1) the government decided to not seek an indictment; or (2) the grand jury no-billed a requested indictment; or (3) an indictment exists that for some inexplicable or bad-faith reason is under seal,” Jones wrote in a 15-page court filing late Wednesday.

Prosecutors have disputed the defense claims, stating that two judges have conducted separate reviews of the case and come to the same conclusion, and that no combination of suggestions can assure Gilley’s compliance with terms of a release.

Both sides will be back in court Friday morning for further arguments on the wiretaps of Gilley, Massey and Milton McGregor, who are among ten defendants set to stand trial in June on a number of charges ranging from bribery to money laundering to honest services fraud in connection with what federal prosecutors say was a grand scheme to buy off Alabama legislators in an attempt to secure the passage of electronic bingo legislation.

Jones is making a lot of noise, but the fact remains that there is still a good bit of work to do on the DOJ’s part in connection with the expanded investigation we discussed last January. Not much has happened since information from court documents indicated that the FBI was having a deeper look-see into matters unrelated to the original indictments.

To this day, no one knows what path the government was on, who the targets were or what (if any) alleged crimes were committed. Jones is right that there have been three grand juries convened since Gilley had his bail revoked. But there’s a 4th conclusion that he’s not considering, or he’s just able to talk about: That the expanded probe hasn’t been completed yet, but is still making sufficient progress and isn’t ripe for the grand jury yet.

Everyone is back before Magistrate Judge Capel tomorrow morning at 0900.

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The Randy Kennedy/Paul Davis Interview with Terry Bowden

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.

AUBurgeddon: The Empire Strikes Back

JailAubie Throughout most of the day yesterday and well into the wee hours following HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, the Auburn machine mounted a furious counterassault against allegations that the school and/or its boosters have been clandestinely paying its football players in violation of NCAA amateurism regulations.

Our crack in-state media team made sure they had ample bandwidth to denounce, deny, deflect and destroy the accusers and the network that broadcast the interviews last night.

The stuck pig always squeals the loudest.

AUBURN -- Auburn coach Gene Chizik criticized an HBO show Wednesday night that featured four former Tigers players who said they were paid by university boosters.

Chizik said Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel interviewed former Auburn players who said there were no improper payments, but HBO chose not to air those players.

"I think it is pathetic and pure garbage," said Chizik, who disputed the charges of the former players. 

"That's not who we are. That's not how our program is going to be run," he said. 

Chizik was particularly disappointed HBO didn't show players who said they were not paid. 

"It's very sad to me that HBO is going to air something that, admittedly, they have no proof on anything," Chizik said. "What is disturbing to me ... they interviewed other former players that said the opposite, and they didn't air (them). 

"I have other former players calling me, who are still playing, that had no knowledge of any of that stuff." 

Chizik, Auburn's head coach the last two years, was the team's defensive coordinator when some of the players said the improper payments were made. 

"When I was the defensive coordinator from 2002-04, all the allegations that are there are on this particular show, I can assure you I had no knowledge of any of that stuff," Chizik said. 

The meme of parading “clean” former AU players through the in-state media cartel was repeated throughout the day. The four former players—Stanley McClover, Troy Reddick, Chaz Ramsey and Raven Gray—were systematically accused of making up their stories of receiving thousands of dollars in improper benefits from boosters and at least one member of the coaching staff. Those accusations were accompanied with claims from their former teammates that they didn’t get a plug nickel.

Naturally, the point of this little parry and thrust is to say that since Lee Ziemba, Junior Rosegreen and Bret Eddins didn’t get paid, then surely the four interviewed by HBO are crazy, or something.

It should sound familiar.

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 then $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 wherehe 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.

The current line of defense—that since not everyone was getting paid, no one was getting paid and therefore those who claim they were must be lying—is pure garbage. Maybe the nine players interviewed by “Auburn Bureau Chief” Charlie Goldboog weren’t part of the payment plan, but has it occurred to anyone that they weren’t being paid because they never asked to be?

Another line of defense—that the four guys in the spotlight this week weren’t very good anyway and that this story is plausible only if real stars were getting a payola—is also pure garbage. Eric Ramsey wasn’t a star player and apparently, neither were many of the guys who were still on the payroll under Bowden.

The Empire has indeed struck back, but not with the power of a fully operational DEATH STAR. More like a tired old meme that just shows the same pattern of the last quarter century.

Exit Question: Statute of limitations? What statute of limitations? Given a pattern of abuses  “that indicate a blatant disregard for the NCAA’s fundamental recruiting, extra-benefit, academic or ethical-conduct regulations” and efforts to “conceal the occurrence of the violations,” we don’t need no stinkin’ statutes.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

AUBurgeddon: Reddick claims of academic improprieties may be most damaging

JailAubie How about a little more Energy Vampirism?

Former Auburn football player Troy Reddick may have made the single most poisonous claim regarding alleged improprieties at the university when he alleged academic violations occurred.

I touched on this matter in my post earlier today, but I wanted to make sure I had my timeline squared away before I expanded my thoughts on it.

Here’s the relevant portion of the transcript provided by SPORTSbyBROOKS yesterday afternoon:

  • Reddick on why he was unhappy at Auburn - and the remedy for that unhappiness

Kremer voiceover: “Reddick was growing increasingly unhappy because he says the (Auburn) coaches wanted him to change his major. Why? Because his class schedule got in the way of football practice.

Reddick: “I changed my major, so my classes didn’t interfere no more but I didn’t bother to go because I knew I was only there to play football.

Kremer: “So what did you do?

Reddick: “I started complaining and insinuating that I was ready to leave any day. They had to do something about that.”

Why is this so damaging?

Troy Reddick played at Auburn from 2002 – 2005. During this period, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – SACS – placed Auburn University on academic probation, one step away from removing the school’s accreditation. The announcement was made in December 2003, which would have been at the end of Reddick’s Sophomore year of eligibility. Also during the timeframe of Reddick’s tenure at Auburn, allegations arose regarding academic improprieties in connection with the school’s Sociology Department.

The NCAA investigated, but was unable to uncover evidence that the Athletic Department was involved in the allegations of academic interference. Reddick’s statements to Kremer appear to contradict those findings and could be cause for the NCAA to reopen that aspect of the investigation.

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Fiesta Fiasco: BCS Forms task force, and the Bowl’s outlook is grim

image Late yesterday, the Bowl Championship Series issued a statement on the firing of Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker and the damning report alleging numerous instances of illegal behavior and excessive spending. The BCS is forming a task force, and will take the unprecedented step of having the Fiesta Bowl justify its existence in the series. Such a “show cause” process is a step on a slippery slope, especially if someone decides to investigate the Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls and find similar (maybe even worse) transgressions.

The statement, in its entirety:

We are deeply disappointed and troubled to learn of these findings related to the Fiesta Bowl.

Unprofessional, unethical or improper behavior is unacceptable. There is no place for such activities in higher education or in collegiate sports. It is expected that all parties contracted with the BCS will live up to the highest standards. We do not wish to be associated with entities that believe otherwise.

The fact that Fiesta Bowl officials have turned a spotlight on their bowl's activities is a sign that many individuals within the organization feel the same way. It is appropriate that the Fiesta Bowl conducted this investigation. The Fiesta Bowl volunteers and many others in the Phoenix area have worked hard through the years to build a tradition and provide lifetime memories for thousands of student-athletes.

Nevertheless, the BCS takes this matter seriously and will consider whether the Fiesta Bowl should remain a BCS bowl game or other appropriate sanctions. To make that determination, we are taking these actions:

1. We have appointed a task force to evaluate the bowl's findings and its recommendations.

2. We have asked the bowl to demonstrate why it should remain a BCS bowl game. The task force will evaluate the bowl's response, along with the full slate of reforms instituted by the bowl.

3. If the bowl remains a part of the BCS, its handling of this matter will be closely monitored going forward.

It is imperative that Fiesta Bowl officials take all necessary steps to fully address and correct the problems they have reported. The task force will begin its deliberations immediately.

The members of the task force are Chairman Graham Spanier, President, Penn State University; John Peters, President, Northern Illinois University; John Marinatto, Commissioner, Big East Conference; Wright Waters, Commissioner, Sun Belt Conference; Jeremy Foley, Athletics Director, University of Florida; Bob Bowlsby, Athletics Director, Stanford University; and, Richard Giannini Athletics Director, University of Southern Mississippi.

It’s worth noting that three of the task force members are from schools or leagues that could only reach a BCS bowl through an at-large bid. It’s in their interest to see that the Fiesta Bowl remains in the mix because that’s one more slot open to them.

But it’s also worth noting that the Fiesta folks are going to have a big mountain to climb in showing cause for their existence when the IRS is filing liens, revoking tax exempt status and having former bowl officials indicted by grand juries. There are literally bookshelves of potential state and federal violations here. Some of those could result in criminal convictions and the perpetrators sentenced to real prison time. There are also civil violations as well, with the Department of Justice filing claims in civil courts.

And all of this is gonna have to get sorted out in about six months, amid a flurry of activity by other bowls and conferences whose alliances could be affected by the loss of the Fiesta. The Cotton Bowl looms as a potential replacement, but as Dennis Dodd of CBS notes, the Cotton has a three year deal with Fox Sports and the BCS Bowls are contract bound with ESPN/ABC.  The Capital One could also make a run at the BCS, and we might even see a mini bidding war between Orlando and Dallas. That would make for a pretty darned interesting offseason, won’t it?

Exit Question: Disney is all over Orlando, and Jerry is all over Dallas. And Disney owns ABC and ESPN. Could the Capital One outmaneuver Jerry?

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BingoGate: Say, how about another hearing on the wiretap suppression?

image It appears that my prediction on an early ruling by US Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel was about as accurate as my prediction that Kansas would win all the marbles in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

I should learn to stop making such predictions.

The government turned provided the Court with additional statements made by witnesses during the earlier hearings. Capel has reviewed those materials and has decided that the defendants in the case should be allowed to review them as well.

Capel has now ordered the government to provide them to the defense counsel, and has ordered yet another hearing. This one is set for April 1 at 9:00 am.



Stay tuned, sports fans.

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AUBurgeddon: HBO’s Real Sports bringing the BOOM. Where’s our media?

JailAubie SPORTSbyBROOKS got an advance copy of the Real Sports program airing tonight on HBO, and if his transcript of these segments are accurate, it could mean a major NCAA improper benefits problem for Auburn University.

The $100 handshake has been a problem on college campuses since forever. Boosters know they’re not supposed to do it. Players sign statements to the NCAA saying they didn’t do it. It goes on nonetheless. But when coaches are allegedly involved, the improper benefits compliance problem metastasizes into a royal pain in in the ass.

From Brooks’ transcript:

Reddick: “I was contacted by a local alumni (of Auburn) and offered a large sum of money.

Kremer: “What are you thinking?

Reddick:That people are trying to take advantage of me. And I can’t give anybody any kind of power over me.

Kremer voiceover: “He (Reddick) says he didn’t take the handout. …

  • Reddick on why he was unhappy at Auburn - and the remedy for that unhappiness

Kremer voiceover: “Reddick was growing increasingly unhappy because he says the (Auburn) coaches wanted him to change his major. Why? Because his class schedule got in the way of football practice.

Reddick: “I changed my major, so my classes didn’t interfere no more but I didn’t bother to go because I knew I was only there to play football.

Kremer: “So what did you do?

Reddick: “I started complaining and insinuating that I was ready to leave any day. They had to do something about that.”

Kremer voiceover: “The enticement to stay, Reddick says, became clear to him, when one of the coaches approached him after a team meeting.

Reddick: “He (Auburn coach) said I got some mail for you up in my office.”

Kremer to Reddick: “Some mail for you?

Reddick: “And I followed him up to his office and he gave me an envelope. I didn’t open there, I walked out to my truck, took off. … It was about 500 dollars.”

Kremer: “500 dollars in the envelope?

Reddick: (nods yes)

Kremer: “How often did you get the money in the envelope?

Reddick: “Over that season it happened like two or three more times. And it happened about six or seven times my senior year.

There are four obvious problems for Auburn with the Reddick story. First, while it’s outside the NCAA’s normal five academic year statute of limitations, it’s got multiple rules violations being alleged. Second, there’s a coach involved in a pay-for-play accusations. Third, there’s a coaching staff interfering with a player’s academic affairs. And fourth, there’s an implicit accusation of academic fraud. Reddick says he didn’t go to class, but one has to assume that he remained academically eligible, right up through his senior year. two of the other three players mentioned on the show—Raven Grey and Chaz Ramsey—also made accusations of pay for play and theirs fall well inside the statute. Auburn has a real problem, here.

UPDATE: The above paragraph has been edited from the original post from this morning to reflect a four year statute rather than a five year statute as originally stated.

The fourth player who talked to HBO—Stanley McGlover—made accusations that would fall outside the statute, but I’ve seen some interpretations of NCAA rules that would allow the statute to be waived if there is a pattern of activity that begins outside of the statute but continues into and through that window.

Here’s what bugs the living daylights out of me. How is it that a Georgia grad living on the west coast and writing a blog is able to obtain a transcript of a nationally televised show, and the Alabama media cartel—supposedly with an “Auburn Bureau” and two dedicated beat writers—gets scooped? I don’t blame the writers. Solomon’s a straight up news guy. Sports Editor Randy Kennedy of the Mobile Press-Register is a first class newshound. It’s not their fault that they’re not allowed to chase these stories down. It’s screwed up management.

Exit question: For hard news stories, where are people going now for hard news on this and other such stories?

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fiesta Fallout: Bowl might lose its BCS membership


Updated to add the link to the Arizona Central website.

John Junker, CEO of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, was fired Tuesday after the release of an independent committee investigation report of alleged political campaign finance law violations, lavish parties, exorbitant gifts and financial misconduct.

Among some of the juicier details: A $1,200 tab at a local strip joint, tens of thousands in bogus bonuses paid to employees who funneled the money to political campaigns, a lavish 50th birthday party for Junker, Gold coins, cars… These people were living a lifestyle that would make Charlie Sheen proud.

The fallout could be very serious. Some of these activities and violations run afoul of a whole bookcase full of federal and state civil and criminal statutes. People could be on the hook for millions in fines, penalties and restitution and some of them might even be facing jail time.

But for college football fans, the most serious fallout could be the Fiesta Bowl losing its membership in the elite Bowl Championship Series. There are currently four bowls in the BCS: Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Rose. The BCS National Championship game is rotated among the four bowls each year and the Fiesta hosted Auburn and Oregon last January. Could the BCS drop the Fiesta, leaving only three?

Bill Hancock, commissioner of the Bowl Championship Series, said the Fiesta Bowl could be removed from the elite group that hosts a national championship game every four years.

"The BCS group takes this matter very seriously and will consider whether they keep a BCS bowl game, and we will consider other appropriate sanctions," Hancock told The Arizona Republic. "If the bowl does remain a BCS bowl its handling of thing will be closely monitored going forward."

In December 2009, The Arizona Republic reported on political contributions by Fiesta Bowl employees who said they were reimbursed by the organization, a potential legal violation as well as a violation of the organization's tax-exempt status. The article also described bowl lobbying efforts and spending practices, both of which could breach federal rules for nonprofits.

It’s serious business, because the BCS is BIG business. The Fiesta Bowl has an estimated $200 to $250 million impact on Arizona. Tens of thousands of the most ardent fans on the planet visit the state and spend big bucks on lodging, food and entertainment. They’d still come if the BCS drops the Fiesta, but the Fiesta would then be stuck competing with bowls like Capital One and Outback for the teams not chosen to play in the BCS bowls.

With the NFL owners and players locked in a labor dispute that is more and more likely to bust up the 2011-12 season, college football will be a major relief outlet, so the upcoming season—and the bowl allegiances and matchups—are no doubt going to be affected by how the BCS resolves this matter. It’s going to make for a high-drama spectacle during the offseason.

What’s scarier than the prospect of no NFL football and an uncertain bowl season alignment?  Well, this is exactly the kind of stuff that Congress likes to wade into. Tax laws have probably been broken. Campaign finance laws probably have, too. There are literally billions in revenues at stake here and what appears to be an increasingly corrupt cartel lavishing it all on themselves. Congress will scarcely be able to control themselves and the pessimist in me says that they won’t.

Exit Question: Who do you think is smiling over the possibility of the BCS committee dropping the Fiesta?





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Nolan Nawrocki goes Energy Vampire and trashes Cam Newton

ZOMG! Gene Chizik was right! There are Energy Vampires out there, and they really are trying to get you!

Take Nolan Nawrocki, for example. He’s the publisher of the Pro Football Weekly Draft Preview, a respected publication that lands in every NFL front office. It has an extensive on and off-field analysis of each prospect in the draft.

This week’s copy draws blood when it comes to the Cam Newton review.

Under the "Negatives" for Newton, Nawrocki details the on-field shortcomings. It's a lot of the same critiques we're familiar with: one-year producer, limited field vision, spotty accuracy.

But Nawrocki bludgeons Newton when he starts talking about his personality.

"Very disingenuous -- has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup," writes Nawrocki.

But Nawrocki was just warming up.

He continued, "Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law -- does not command respect from teammates and will always struggle to win a locker room . . . Lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness -- is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example. Immature and has had issues with authority. Not dependable."

Nawrocki is either a secret employee of the REC, or he’s an Energy Vampire. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the Never to Yield Foundation handles this obvious smear attempt on teh fambly. Everyone knows that Energy Vampires are immune to boycotts.

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March Madness Schedule

BingoGate: Dept of Justice calling in a Big Gun

image In USA vs. McGregor et al, the Department of Justice is calling in one of its star prosecutors. Justin V. Shur, Deputy Chief of the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, has won convictions in a number of very high profile cases, including the case of an Army contracting officer who accepted bribes and other items of value in exchange for awarding lucrative contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Shur filed his notice of appearance with the Court today, and should he take the lead role he will replace Peter Ainsworth, another one of Justice’s big guns. Ainsworth has drawn the ire of the Court on several occasions.

There is still no decision yet from US Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel on the admissibility of the wiretap evidence. Capel concluded hearings on the matter last week. Over the weekend, he advised the parties in the case that he was seeking an order from another District Judge to open certain case files that the parties had cited in their motions and arguments. Those documents—the contents of which no one outside of the Court, the prosecution or the defendants—are being held under seal and an order is needed for Capel to review them. It is not known when that order might be granted or denied.

Watching developments…

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March Madness Schedule

Monday, March 28, 2011

AUBurgeddon: We’re all a bunch of Energy Vampires™


Chizik won’t fall prey to “energy vampires.”

There has been no official word that the NCAA has closed its investigation into the Newton matter, and there were reports last month that NCAA investigators were in Thibodaux, La., looking into the recruitment of Auburn redshirt freshman Trovon Reed and Auburn 2011 signee Greg Robinson.

Chizik’s message to all the so-called haters is simple. In short, get a good look at the ring.

“Whatever people want to say or whatever somebody is comfortable talking about in terms of talk radio or other places, we have absolutely no control over that,” Chizik said. “But here’s what we know: We are the national champions, and we were the best football team in the United States last year. There’s nothing I have to do to defend our honor for that.

“They’re going to say what they’re going to say and discuss what they’re going to discuss, and you have absolutely no control over that. I call those energy vampires. They’re not going to suck my energy out worrying about that. That’s how we work.”

Follow this Energy Vampire™ on Twitter and Facebook, and visit the Timeline Page for a complete chronology of events connected with multiple investigations of Auburn and the people associated with the school.

But beware. You might need some holy water, garlic necklaces and silver crosses, just in case.

March Madness Schedule

Cinderella, allow me to introduce you to… Cinderella

image Raise your hand if you had Virginia Commonwealth playing Butler in the Final Four.

I’ll wait while you check your bracket.


I’ve scanned the Top 50 in the Yahoo! Sports Tournament Pick’em and some have VCU, some have Butler, but none have both.

UPDATE: Two of the nearly six million brackets submitted to ESPN’s tourney got it right. Two.

President Barack Obama, I and millions of other amateur bracketologists saw their contest hopes crushed by Virginia Commonwealth’s dismantling of an outmanned, outrun, outshot and outcoached Kansas. Kansas didn’t do itself any favors by missing what? 763,109 free throws. Not to mention the open jumpers and easy layups. They couldn’t buy a basket when they needed one. But to VCU’s credit, they made the Jayhawks pay for every missed opportunity and they never let up.

How big is this? At no point in the history of the NCAA Men’s Tournament have two teams seeded this low played each other in the Final Four. This is history, bay-bee!

Alabama fans, this is what Crimson Tide men’s basketball will look like in a couple of years. Suffocating defense, blazing speed and pinpoint shot accuracy wins basketball games, and Coach Anthony Grant is the principal architect of the Rams’ bracket-busting play. Our future looks very bright indeed, doesn’t it?

Seeing Butler return to the Final Four is no big surprise, given their run right into the championship game against Duke last year. But the Bulldogs were a No. 5 seed then. They were a No. 8 seed this year. The Rams vs. Bulldogs matchup guarantees that there will be another lowly seeded team playing for the title in Houston next week.

None of the No. 1 seeds are left. Kentucky took out Ohio State. VCU took out Kansas. Arizona took out Duke before losing to UConn, and Butler took out Pitt in what may have been the best game in the tournament so far.

It’s been a great March Madness, and there are still three big games left.

Two of those games will feature teams very few of us even had within spitting distance of Houston.

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March Madness Schedule

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bestest Bracket Name Ever: “Charlie Sheen Snorted This”

It must be some good stuff, because the bracket is still alive, somewhere north of the 95th percentile of about three million entries at Yahoo! and with all of the Final Four still intact.

Best thing of all though, is that this is MY BRACKET (NOTE: You must log in to Yahoo! in order to view my awesomeness). Or, click the image and zoom in.



I know that since your bracket is totally busted, you’ll be pulling for me.

What’s also cool is that a bracket named “BAMAJAMMA” is the overall leader.

Which just goes to show how Bama fans totally rule.

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Auburn players accused of armed robbery apparently chose their victims at random

There’s a story in this morning’s Dothan Eagle that indicates the four former Auburn football players who stand accused of armed robbery chose their victims at random. Clay Stewart, a 20-year old student at a community college near Auburn, didn’t appear to know the players. It’s also clear that, if Stewart is telling the truth, the players were not after anyone or anything in particular.

This blog had received reports that the victims were known to their assailants but this is apparently not the case.

It appears now that this was a random act of violent thuggery.

image “My friends were doing math and engineering homework, and I had just pressed play on a movie when we heard the knock at the door,” Stewart said. “We opened the door and there were people with guns.”

Stewart, a graduate of Rehobeth High School, was one of several victims in the March 11 robbery at a residence in Auburn. Authorities captured four men shortly after the robbery. Police later determined all four of the suspects were players on the Auburn University football team. All four players, Antonio Goodwin, Shaun Kitchens, Mike McNeil and Dakota Mosley, were later dismissed from the team.

Stewart vividly remembers the events that unfolded that evening at his friend’s house around 11 p.m. He recalled how some of the men who entered the home had shirts over their heads, and wore what he referred to as football player “receiver-like gloves.”

“I thought it was a joke at first. I just didn’t expect it, and then they started yelling,” Stewart said. “One of them walked right up to me, and put the gun in my face. They destroyed the rooms and dumped stuff out everywhere.”

Stewart recalled how one of the men had a cast on his arm from an injury, and wore a long necklace with a cross similar to a rosary during the robbery. Police were able to match the suspects’ description given from the five victims to four men stopped in a vehicle shortly after the robbery.

Court records indicate all five suspects, including Godwin, 20, of Georgia, Kitchens, 19, of Georgia, McNeil, 22, of Auburn, and Mosley, 19, of Auburn, were charged with five counts of felony first-degree robbery, felony first-degree burglary and misdemeanor theft of property.

“I was nervous at first, but I was mostly just mad because there was nothing I could do to protect myself. It was real fast, they were only there maybe five or six minutes,” Stewart said. “I don’t know why they chose us. They didn’t even get anything besides a couple of cell phones, and the safe. But it was empty.”

This is not just an Auburn thing. If you read the Sports Illustrated/CBS story published earlier this month, criminal activity—often violent criminal activity—has seemingly erupted at college campuses across the country, and many of the violations are alleged to have been perpetrated by student-athletes. Some publications countered that the SI/CBS story wasn’t “fair,”  noting that the percentage of college athletes with criminal backgrounds is probably less than the national average for people of the same age, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.

The point still stands however that incidents like the one that occurred in an Auburn trailer park are damaging to the sport of college football and particularly damaging to the image of the average student athlete.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Drop it like it’s hot: Katie Couric gone?

image Maybe so, according to the Daily Beast. 

Howard Kurtz is no anonymous source. He’s the host of CNN’s Reliable Sources and has written for the Washington Post. He’s also written five books on the news media and is currently the Washington Bureau Chief for Daily Beast.

At the outset, most critics thought she’d be ill suited for the job of anchoring a 30 minute evening news show on one of the three major broadcast networks.

You follow people like Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather with an ad-libbing, free flowing host of Today and you’re taking a major gamble.

CBS thought the gamble would pay off, but it hasn’t. While Couric remains as photogenic as she ever was and remains a very good interviewer, that stint on the CBS Evening News was too confining. The broadcast’s ratings plummeted and there were some instances where even cable’s Fox News were threatening to overtake it.  That’s a bitter pill to swallow for CBS.

Anyone who can break it down like she famously did in this photo is probably not well suited for such a … structured … broadcast. Can’t feel the beat, if you know what I mean.

Another thing that struck critics was her reported $15 million annual salary at a time when CBS was cutting bureau staffs and looking for ways to save money in the face of relentless competition from both cable on on line news outlets.

But don’t cry for Katie. She’ll land on her feet somewhere and as Kurtz explains, she’s already looking at opportunities to compete with Oprah Winfrey.

Exit Question:  Would you, or would you not?  And you know what I’m asking.

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Speechless: Preserving rolls of toilet paper in a museum?

How are people living outside the 334 area code supposed to react to this? 

This is a story that I wish I’d made up and used for one of the satirical posts you see here from time to time.  But apparently, you can’t make this stuff up. Sometimes the truth is crazier than fiction. Funnier, too.

Artifacts from Toomer’s Corner

imageAUBURN - When members of the Auburn Family learned the 130-year-old oaks at Toomer's Corner had been poisoned and were not likely to survive, they responded with a spontaneous outpouring of both grief and high hopes for the health of the trees and the determination that the senseless crime would not break the Auburn spirit.

Many items were placed at the base of the oaks in tribute to what the historic trees have come to symbolize. They included personal articles, signs, get-well wishes from small children and moving tributes from current and former students. As efforts began in earnest to do everything possible to save the trees, the items had to be cleared away.

The Auburn University Libraries' Special Collections and Archives Department made the decision to collect and preserve the items and treat them as artifacts for a special collection as a way to preserve this trying chapter in Auburn's history. The collection is unique in that most of the items fall well outside the norm for the average archival artifact.

"I'm not sure anyone has ever tried to archivally preserve a roll of toilet paper with writing on it," said Greg Schmidt, special collections librarian at Auburn University Libraries. "Toilet paper is meant to break down and is a very delicate medium for the written word. We have many such rolls collected from the Toomer's Corner oaks, and ensuring they last in our archives is going to be a challenge."

The public will have an opportunity to view many of these newest pieces of Auburn history at a special exhibit that will be housed in Ralph Brown Draughon Library during A-Day activities on Saturday, April 16. Details about the exhibition will be announced in early April.

I can’t believe that anyone would so solemnly discuss “archivally preserving” rolls of toilet paper, or speaking of the stuff we wipe our asses with as a “delicate medium for the written word,” or even discussing the “challenge” of preserving it. Ick, people.

What’s equally amazing is that they’re planning a special exhibit, open to the public on A-Day.

How is anyone supposed to take you seriously?

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BingoGate: Capel to rule on admissibility of wiretap evidence

image A friend of this blog attended the afternoon session of yesterday’s hearing on the admissibility of the wiretap evidence in USA vs. McGregor et al. US Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel presided. The hearing was a continuation of hearings held February 28 through March 3, also before Capel.

Defendants in the case want the wiretap evidence suppressed, arguing that the government exceeded its authority, ignored its own protocols and violated the defendants Constitutional rights. They make an interesting argument that since some of the conversations involved were  privileged and should not have been recorded, all of the evidence is tainted and should not be used at trial. I noted very early in this process that this was the moment of greatest peril in the government's case. I also noted that the prosecution team had a bad apple on board in Brenda Morris, who was part of the team that botched the Ted Stevens prosecution in Alaska, in part by mishandling evidence.

Throughout the process of discovery—in which the prosecution shares the evidence it will use at trial—the defense has complained that the government has not been forthcoming or complete in providing the defense with key materials, chiefly the wiretap evidence.

FBI Agent Doug Carr was the headline of yesterday’s event, undergoing rigorous questioning by defense attorneys regarding procedures and protocols governing how investigators chose which calls to listen to and record, and which calls were deemed privileged and “muted.”

At the end of the hearing, Assistant US Attorney Steve Feaga gave the government's summation, told Judge Capel that the technology used to perform the wiretapping was new, and that some mistakes were made, both in how the conversations were tapped in in the discovery process. However, he vigorously denied that this issues “rise to the level of prejudice” and require suppression.

Our friend at the hearing made note of one key exchange between Judge Capel and Milton McGregor’s attorney, Ben Espy. Capel asked Espy if there were any cases he could cite that would allow him to suppress all the wiretaps because of discovery issues. Espy answered that there were not. This is important because as a Magistrate Judge, Capel is less likely to render a precedent-setting decision. Thus, I’m pretty confident now that Capel will deny the motions to suppress the evidence, citing a lack of precedent for doing so, while also noting the problems related to the new technology and discovery issues and chastising the government for its less than stellar performance in complying with his rulings.

Capel’s ruling could come at anytime, perhaps this afternoon or early next week. But note well that I thought the ruling would have been rendered weeks ago, so there’s that…

The defense is almost certain to appeal, and District Judge Myron Thompson will render his decision before the trial date of June 6.

One thing that shouldn’t have to be cleared up, but needs to be anyway: There is a wacko blogger out there claiming that Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel is not eligible to serve as a Magistrate because he isn’t licensed by the Alabama State Bar.

A US Magistrate Judge is a judicial officer of the District Court and, upon the recommendation of a merit selection committee is appointed by majority vote of the active District Judges of the Court to exercise jurisdiction over matters assigned by statute as well as those delegated by the District Judges.  To suggest that Chief District Judge Mark Fuller or Chief Magistrate Judge Susan Walker would allow an unqualified individual to serve as a Magistrate Judge is laughable. To suggest that District Judge Myron Thompson would allow an ineligible Magistrate to handle important pretrial matters in one of the largest cases before his Court is equally ridiculous.

Exit Question: Don’t the people making this claim have something else to do, like tracking down the Russian mob trying to infiltrate Alabama’s political system, or something?

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The Bandit Cartoon on Ralph Nader’s “fix” for college sports

The BanditRef’s cartoons are becoming some of my favorite material.

The latest is below. Yesterday, left wing loony Ralph Nader suggested that colleges should end the practice of using athletic scholarships, claiming that it would “de-professionalize” college sports.

What it would do is destroy college sports by removing the incentives to compete.

Bandit gets it:


Visit the biodegradable BanditRef here.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Auburn can’t catch a break: New suit against Athletic Dept alleges racial discrimination

mdal From John Zenor, AP Correspondent covering Alabama, Auburn and SEC Sports, comes this report. Auburn, it seems, just can’t catch its breath before something else comes out regarding its athletic department, the school’s boosters and alumni, its hallowed trees at Toomer’s Corner or players accused of criminal wrongdoing.

Zenor explains that Auburn University has been sued by nine former employees for racial discrimination. The case is called Chandler et al vs. Auburn University, case #3:11-cv-00218-TFM. It’s been assigned to Terry F. Moorer, US Magistrate Judge for the District Court of Middle Alabama.

Complaints filed in cases like this always go a little heavy on the accusation of wrongdoing, and this one is no different.  According to Zenor:

"All plaintiffs aver that the race discrimination practiced against them has been systematic, endemic and reflective of a long-term practice of intentional race discrimination practiced by defendant Auburn University against black employees, especially in the Athletic Department," the suit states.

It alleges discrimination against them in receiving promotions and in their pay level compared to white employees, who also allegedly were allowed more overtime than black employees. But the complaints also range from a receptionist not forwarding email to a black employee and the allocation of football tickets.

A federal lawsuit under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act is a very serious matter. In order for such a suit to proceed in Federal Court, the plaintiffs have to file their complaint first with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC then makes a determination as to whether the plaintiffs have a likelihood of prevailing based on its review of the allegations and evidence.

The plaintiffs filed their complaint in June of last year and were cleared to file their litigation before the case was placed on the docket today.

I honestly don’t recall the defending national champions ever having to deal with such a constant flow of bad news. They’re only two months removed from beating Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game, and they’ve had five players kicked off the team for serious legal transgressions. They had a crazed, rogue Bama fan commit attempted herbicide on the two ancient, revered oaks at Toomer’s Corner. Two graduates and one booster stand trial in federal court on bribery and conspiracy charges. The NCAA is actively investigating the school’s recruitment practices, and now this.

Good heavens, what could possibly go wrong next?  I’m a diehard Bama fan and I haven’t pulled many punches in my coverage of AuburnGate. But I don’t hate. Remember, I picked them as the darkhorse contender in the SEC west before Kirk Herbstreit made it fashionable to do so, and I also picked them to beat Oregon in the BCSCG. But at this point, my sense of Schadenfreude is starting to make me feel a little guilty.

Nahh. ;)

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Ralph Nader wants to “de-professionalize” college sports and remove scholarships

Stupid leftists. The one thing that completely escapes the leftist world view is that without incentives, people will not compete and will not attempt to better themselves. The profit motive creates incentives for businesses to develop new products and compete with their rivals in the marketplace. Incentives are also the reason why individuals, properly compensated, work harder and more efficiently to be better employees. 

The incentive created in high school athletics by the opportunity to earn a college scholarship creates better football, better basketball, better soccer, even better lacrosse players.  They work harder. They play harder. They study more film and learn the playbooks backwards and forwards. They make better grades in their high school coursework in order to qualify academically to play for a major college athletics program because they know that when their body of work in high school is good enough, their college is paid for.

This is a great opportunity for people in challenging social, geographic and demographic situations to overcome obstacles, gain a college degree, and break out of the mold that a leftist, overly controlling society has cast for them. It puts them at the same competitive level as people with many more advantages and in many cases, their athletic ability allows them to win a competition that they otherwise might not even be allowed to enter.

Ralph Nader doesn’t like young black men or young Hispanic women working so hard to better their lots in life. He calls that “professionalization,” and he wants to eliminate the incentives. He wants “needs based” scholarships to replace those awarded on a competitive nature.

Sound familiar?

image In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. – Karl Marx

College athletics has reached the zenith it’s on primarily because of the competitive nature of the system and the ability of its players to better themselves through competition. Destroy those incentives and you destroy everything we love about college sports.

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Could a criminal organization gain control of a major college athletics program?

image With billions of dollars at stake in lucrative media deals, gear/apparel sponsorships, season ticket packages and memorabilia sales, you almost have to wonder how this hasn’t happened yet. Or, maybe it has happened and we haven’t had anyone pull back the curtain to see who’s really running things.

In January 2006, ESPN’s Mike Fish ran a story highlighting some of the most influential boosters associated with major college athletics programs. In that story, Fish outlines how a number of wealthy, powerful individuals have gained unprecedented access and influence at some of the country’s largest and most elite college sports organizations.

Wouldn’t that also be a roadmap for a criminal enterprise to gain access, influence and eventually, control?

Throughout the 20th century, the notorious five mafia families systematically infiltrated and gained control over industries such as construction, garbage collection, trucking, gambling, hotel & casino operations and others. If there was an industry making money in 20th Century America, you were sure to see the mob either gaining influence and control, or in near complete control.  Relentless federal prosecutions during the latter part of the century essentially emasculated the mafia and severely reduced its influence. But where there’s money to be made, there’s going to be crime.

And there’s lots and lots of money in college athletics.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the University of Miami was sliding down a slippery slope. Investigative reports by the Miami Herald and Sports Illustrated produced stories of sexual misconduct, hundreds of thousands in improper pay-for-play benefits, drugs, guns and a major college athletics program infested with a thuggish street culture associated with drug dealers and rap stars. The school gave the term Miami Vice a whole new meaning.  There was no proof or allegation that an organized criminal enterprise had seized control of the program, but it sure seemed headed in that direction. In 1995, the NCAA hammered the school with severe sanctions that many still believe lie at the heart of the program’s inability to return and remain at the elite level it had achieved under Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson.

Last October, The Tuskegee News’ Paul Davis outlined a business relationship between Auburn University’s Tigers Unlimited Foundation—once headed by current Athletic Director Jay Jacobs—and super-lobbyist Robert Geddie. Geddie was one of 11 people indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and extortion. Also indicted were Auburn booster and casino owner Milton McGregor and Auburn graduate Jarrod Massey. Massey has since pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors in the case. But even the casual observer should note that the current athletic director of a major college sports program has a documented business relationship with a man scheduled to go on trial in federal court in June. It is impossible to conclusively state that the university has been infiltrated by a criminal enterprise, but when so many faces start showing up in the same unusual places, it has to make fans nervous.

How vulnerable are these programs to being taken over by crooks?

I asked that question of a retired Division I Athletic Director, and his answer wasn’t damning, but neither was it reassuring. “The governing authority of major college athletics—the NCAA—is a voluntary organization. It is supposed to be self-policing and relies on member institutions to ‘play by the rules’ and self-report their own violations. So, if you have a collection of ne’er do wells hell-bent on taking over, and remember their entire business model is based on lawlessness and rule-breaking, then yes, it could happen. I don’t think it has and I don’t think it will, but to say it can’t happen is to be somewhat naive and foolish.”

I also asked GMAN-1104—an IBCR co-blogger and retired federal prosecutor—what he thought about the possibility. “If you’re asking me if the mob or some other organized crime outfit could invade college sports, I’d say they’re already involved. Maybe not in controlling a program, but certainly so in trying to fix games for gambling. Every time I know of that federal authorities have gotten involved in situations where there’s rule-breaking in college sports, it’s been about gambling.”

Are you getting a little queasy?

Remember, the NCAA Enforcement staff has absolutely no subpoena power and can’t compel anyone to testify. They can’t make anyone produce documents or provide evidence. The farther removed from the institution an individual or organization is, the less motivation they have for cooperating. Add to this the chaotic nature of the way the NCAA interprets and enforces its own rules, and you have a situation that seems ripe for the introduction of high-level criminal activity.

The self-policing aspect of NCAA membership means that the chances of getting caught are much smaller than with other money-making enterprises. There’s no individual punishment for those not directly tied to or employed by the university. And, the chaotic, every-case-is-different approach to interpretation and enforcement might mean everyone walks free even when everyone knows that rules were shattered and laws broken.

Ah, but NCAA rules violations aren’t violations of federal law, right?

Some are, some are not. Any violation of federal law would result in corresponding violation of NCAA rules, but the relationship is not reciprocal. Paying a player is not against federal law. But extorting a player or forcing him/her to play for a particular program would likely run afoul of several federal statutes. A group of crooked boosters bribing high school coaches may or may not get attention from federal authorities, but that would be what NCAA rules terms a “lack of institutional control.”

At any rate, until someone talks or comes forward with evidence, nothing would likely be done to the perpetrators at either level. So could it happen?  Yes. 

The billion dollar Exit Question: Is it happening?  Bada bing, bada boom, baby.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

BREAKING: Ray Perkins to McGill Toolen Catholic High School

image Per Randy Kennedy, Mobile Press-Register Sports Editor.

Speaking today on WNSP’s Sports Drive (105.5 FM, Mobile, Alabama), Ray Perkins has reportedly been offered the head coaching job at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, and he has agreed to the deal in principle.

McGill-Toolen Catholic is Mobile’s only Catholic High School and current AHSAA Director Steve Savarese coached there.

Kennedy said that before the show goes off the air tonight at 6:00 pm, the Press-Register and WNSP hoped to have a more definitive statement.

I hope McT understands what kind of guy Perkins is. When he was the Head Coach at Alabama, he once learned that there was a sports writer in Dothan who liked him.

Perkins legendarily drove from Tuscaloosa to the Wiregrass, just to piss that reporter off.

UPDATE March 30, 2011:Perkins has taken his name out of consideration for the job, according to Bob Grip of WALA Fox 10 News.

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Slow news day: So how about some random links of varying interest?

image From Endless Simmer, all 68 teams in the NCAA men’s Division I basketball tournament, ranked by their best “drunk food.” They’ll BBQ anything in Memphis, but… BBQ tofu?

This convinces me that my wife is trying to kill me for the insurance money!

From DeadSpin, a fascinating look at Bruce Pearl before he became the Tennessee Con Man, but includes a look at Mike Slive. “[He] is a snake who tried to force feed me words,” said Jimmy Collins.

Dude… She’d probably have to shoot me, too.

Leftists love blaming capitalism for almost anything. From earthquakes damaging nuclear reactors to ending life on Mars.

College students would have starved if God hadn’t invented Ramen Noodles.  Here are 30 hacks to upgrade the venerable staple.

From Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, an interesting look at the Big East’s face plant in the 2011 Men’s March Madness.

Auburn starts spring practice with lots of questions and lots of holes to fill.

Alabama has questions too, but the defense isn’t one of them.

Speaking of, the official SEC Schedule is out. Plan family gatherings, weddings and funerals accordingly.

Got any other cool stories or WTF links?

Send them to me on Twitter or Facebook, or drop them in the comment section below.

Pearl shucked, but Tressel’s offenses are much more serious

 image On Monday, the University of Tennessee did the right thing in firing men’s basketball Head Coach Bruce Pearl. Pearl admitted to several NCAA rules violations, including improper contact and attempting to mislead NCAA investigators regarding a BBQ held at his home and trying to get others to lie about it as well. As Richard Nixon could have told Pearl, it’s not the crime but the coverup that gets you impeached.

About six hours up I-75 however, an even more serious set of transgressions occurred, when Ohio State’s Jim Tressel learned in January 2010 that five of the Buckeye’s best football players were involved with an improper benefits scandal and said nothing about it.  If the NCAA can prove that Tressel alerted his superiors about the matter and they also participated in the coverup, the consequences from the NCAA Committee on Infractions could be severe.

imageBoth Pearl and Tressel were contrite and apologized profusely in their public statements but so far, Bruce Pearl is the only one of the two to have suffered the worst possible consequences of the Cardinal Sin of lying to the NCAA. Pearl’s transgressions were unforgiveable and UT absolutely did the right thing in terminating the flamboyant, popular coach. It wasn’t easy, either. Pearl had put Tennessee men’s basketball on the map. They were relevant under him and missed the 2010 Final Four by a single point.

But there’s something to keep in mind vis-a-vis Pearl’s poor decision making and that of Jim Tressel.  But for Pearl’s actions, would Tennessee have been less competitive in the basketball games occurring after his transgressions? That answer would have to be an unequivocal “NO.”

That is not the case with Jim Tressel and the Tattoo Five.  Jim Tressel had specific, credible information that as many as five of his best players—including standout QB Terrelle Pryor—were probably ineligible to play after trading memorabilia for tattoos, cash and other gifts. Ask the same question: But for Tressel’s actions (or, inaction in this case), would Ohio State have been less competitive in the football games occurring after his knowledge of the facts?  That answer would have to be an unequivocal “YES.”

Do you think Michigan would like a shot at a team quarterbacked by someone other than Pryor? What about the Arkansas Razorbacks? Would having those five players on the bench made a difference in the outcome of the Sugar Bowl?

Tressel’s team gained a clear competitive advantage by playing ineligible players. Pearl’s teams received virtually no advantage from his actions, and Pearl lost his job.

Tressel should too.

Extra Point: Ohio State went 12-1 in the 2010 season. Tressel absolutely owns Michigan and damned near everyone else in the Big TenlevenTwelve. Tressel is a winning coach. Does tOSU have the “buckeyes” to fire a winner?

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