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Friday, July 08, 2005

The Iceberg Strikes Back

I've blogged before about the story of the Alabama booster who allegedly funneled money to a HS football coach to have his player steered to the Crimson Tide. This wasn't a $20 "plumber's tip" either (non-native Philadelphians might not get the reference, but the Justice Dept. prosecuted plumbing inspectors in Philadelphia for decades' and decades' worth of taking cash "tips" from builders as a means to getting plumbing plans approved), but a six-figure payoff. The booster was convicted in federal court, a place where allegedly can turn into reality.

Lots of Alabama fans are angry at Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer for creating this situation, when, in reality, all he (and others, as it appears from the article I link to below) told the NCAA of alleged funny business going on at Alabama. To see how ugly this whole affair has really gotten, read not only the linked post under Fulmer's name but an article in yesterday's USA Today on the dismissal of a lawsuit by two former Alabama assistants implicated in the scandal (who sued the NCAA on grounds of defamation). I don't know Fulmer and am not that familiar with the Tennessee program, but a) anyone has the right to report a recruiting violation and b) the booster who was convicted at trial was convicted without the testimony of Fulmer. Seems like someone isn't being totally honest here, and it may be that 'bama fans aren't being totally honest with themselves (if, in fact, they are still seething about this whole affair). Seems pretty convincing to me that their guy, as it were, did something wrong.

Well, now the booster has spoken. He didn't say much, and he didn't say anything you didn't think he would say, either. He's not a happy guy for sure, and deep down it may be the case he's the guy who hoped the "everyone does it defense" would have worked or is puzzled when told that an old way of doing business wasn't legitimate in the first place. Still, you should read the post and decide what to make of it. Maybe there's a whole way of doing business in the SEC that us northerners in college football-challenged blue states just don't understand.

The whole affair is very sad and shows that corruption can exist around any situation where large sums of money are in play, in this case BCS, bowl and advertising dollars, not to mention ticket sales. It does appear that one of the victors here is integrity, and it remains to be seen whether this was an isolated case or whether there are others out there that are under investigation but have yet to surface. It's hard to believe that this is the only case like it -- paying for players.

What I am curious about is that other schools were mentioned as suitors in the sweepstakes for the recruit in question, Albert Means. Did any of those other schools get investigated? Did any of their boosters offer improper inducements? Perhaps there is another series of investigations going on that have yet to surface.

Grand game, college football.

Too bad that on occasion, stuff that goes on outside the lines has to interfere with, or tarnish, the good stuff that goes on between them.

Football is for the players, coaches and students. At times, it can be a very humbling game.

If only the boosters would realize that and act accordingly.


Blogger Jonathan said...

Well you said it all when you said that you blue staters don't understand the SEC. There are two situations that are taking place here. Yeah, Logan Young was caught giving cash to Lynn Lang. Alabama fans aren't upset at Fulmer for this they are upset because he ratted them out. The belief is that Fulmer conspired with the NCAA by providing false and misleading information to them. I wrote you once before that football, here in the South, is a blood feud. There have been problems b/w UT and Bama for years due to several events. You have two major universities in close proximity competing for recruits, with Memphis being ground zero for some of these battles. It got so bad last year that Fulmer refused to attend the SEC media days, in Birmingham, because he knew that he would be served with a subponia. In terms of the other schools, boosters were not involved in the recruitment of Albert Means, it was the schools recruiting coordinators. These schools have been investigated and have been sanctioned. You wrote that this is an iceberg but in reality this is only an ice cube. You should look into the battles between Ole Miss and Mississippi State (Jackie Sherrill). Here in the South, football is talked 10 out of the 12 months in a year, and they truly are blood feuds.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

I believe it was said in the documentary The Rites of Autumn: " Northerners might have invented the game of Football but Southerners took it to another level".The tradition is embraced by the Southern culture. Tailgating is a perfect example, do a google search on the Grove at Ole Miss; and it is Ole Miss and not Mississippi. Some fine examples are Mike the Tiger, UGA the bulldog, the eagle at Auburn, houndstooth at Bama, the walking horse at UT, and my favorite the cow bell at State (Mississippi St.). If you haven't yet realized yet football and the South are two of my favorite subjects. Going back to the SEC, Mike Slive, commissioner of the SEC, implimented a new rule in which all the conferences dirty laundry would stay in house. Over the last 15 years I believe that the only school that hasn't been sanctioned by the NCAA is Vandy and well they are there to boost the conferences grade point.
I will give you some examples of how big football is here. I went to LIttle Rock to see the Razorbacks play Memphis and while I was there I saw a truly amazing sight involving a tailgate party. This party consisted of three large tents, the size of a small house, that had very long tables set with fine china, crystal, and candle olabras. All of this for a game. When UT is palying at home it becomes the fourth largest city in the state of Tennessee, with around a 108,000 fans attending the game. At one point the most popular name, for baby boys,here in Tennessee was Peyton, after Peyton Manning. When Bear Bryant was alive he had a higher approval rating than George Wallace, the Govenor of the State of Alabama. Which leads me to the final example, try driving through the state of Alabama when the Iron Bowl is played and try to find something open.

The Albert Means case is not indicative to only the SEC because Michigan State was one of the bidders for his services. It is my beleif that due to the high profile status of the conference and its recent troubles it is under the microscope far more than other conferences. In the last ten years how many times has the SEC won the national conference or contended for it. It is not unusual to have at least 5 schools in the top 25 every year.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

If you are interested in the Alabama case there is a story about Ronnie Cottrell, former assistant coach at Alabama who is suing the NCAA for slander, in today's Commercial Appela. Here are some names to google for more info on this ongoing saga: Ronnie Cottrell, Tommy Gallion, Ivy Williams, and Richard Johanningmeier.

Another side bar about this case revolves around Tee Martin, who is from Mobile but played at UT, being payed money to go to Tennessee by an Alumnus of UT. This was reported a year after they won the 98 National Championship, by I beleive Paul Finebaum. He is another name that you can google and find a wealth of info on the SEC. He was voted the number 4 powerbroker in the SEC by The Tennessean, the Nashville paper.

9:49 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Wow, Jonathan. It seems that you have plenty of topics for your blog. I think we blue staters understand the SEC just fine, though, through two basic premises: 1) football is bigger in the SEC than it is up north and 2) just because everyone does something questionable doesn't make it right.

That the SEC perennially has 5 teams in the Top 25 doesn't tell me a whole lot, as there are 6 major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC), as well as the WAC and the MAC, who sometimes sneak in a team or two at the lower end of the ratings. So, excluding the other conferences, each of the six major conferences should have at least 4 teams in the Top 25 each year.

Can't say why football isn't of as much interest in the northeast, which exports a lot of players to other spots. My primary guess is that Penn State and Syracuse have fallen off the table, so to speak, but even so, there just aren't as many DI schools from Pennsylvania north as there are in many other places.

I will check out those other names in Google to see what I come up with. You raised and interesting point about Slive's wanting to address feuds in-house. Ultimately, that approach might foreshadow the exodus of BCS schools from the NCAA.

2:04 PM  
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