Thursday, March 31, 2011

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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