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It's been over a week since we've heard anything interesting out of that pesky Auburn football illegal benefits story, but let it never be said the spider-gods that operate the gears and levers of college football are forgetful type: Chaz Ramsey is going to talk to the NCAA after all. This is a particularly interesting development because Ramsey, in the HBO special, described events that fell within the acceptable timeline laid out in the NCAA's statute of limitations. SB Nation's Track Em Tigers reminds us that Ramsey also has a history with the university that might charitably be called acrimonious:
Chaz Ramsey's Auburn career ended prematurely with a back injury around the time of the 2007 Peach Bowl. He and his family subsequently sued line coach Hugh Nall, and trainer Arnold Gamber, for supposedly ignoring doctor's orders regarding his rehab. During the media investigation, it was revealed that Ramsey himself wasn't necessarily big on following doctor's orders, taking part in a ski trip while he was supposed to be resting his back. The lawsuit was tossed out of court, basically due to lack of evidence.
You'll recall the would-be whistleblower already turned the Association down once because Auburn attorneys wanted to be present for Ramsey's detailing of (presumably) the money handshakes and illicit student ticket sales taking place on the Plains, but they appear to have cut him a deal:
Ramsey said today Auburn won't be represented at the NCAA interview and that the information he provides won't be disclosed to the school. "I wouldn't like Auburn to be there," Ramsey said. "The NCAA wanted to talk to me, so the NCAA is going to talk to me." When asked if he knows names of boosters or coaches who provided payments to Auburn players, Ramsey replied, "I may." He declined to elaborate.
For an offensive lineman, Ramsey, you're being awfully coy.
Recall, too, that though he's speaking on the record, it's the NCAA we're talking about here, and that makes that record unlikely to see the light of day (or internet) for some time ... but won't it be fun to speculate? If he goes in there and does anything less than straight-up accuse Bobby Lowder of witchcraft, we'll be bitterly disappointed.
"How awesomely is the awesome Auburn investigation going," you ask? "Which one, haha!", we reply. "Good question, haha!" And isn't that just what the sinister powers that pull college football's puppet strings want us to be doing?
HBO builds and builds the momentum for an Auburn-centric scandalicious special that ends up being, for anyone in the know, more than a bit of a letdown in terms of revealed facts. No one can commit Kenny Rogers or John Bond or A Newton Of Any Sort to camera. Stanley McClover goes on television but won't implicate anyone by name in pay-for-play. Chaz Ramsey goes shy violet when Auburn's lawyers want to accompany him to an interview with the NCAA. The ineptitude of these self-styled whistleblowers is nothing short of staggering, almost too conspicuously so. (You would think, operating in such close proximity to Tuscaloosa, somebody in this program would be better at snitching.)
Could it be that there is a true conspiracy by Auburn, being perpetrated by powers on the Plains themselves? Flinging out all sorts of fripperies into the ether to divert attention from ... what, exactly? The one crime we know for sure and certain actually took place? Or are there darker machinations at work?
Lowder, retired chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Colonial BancGroup, Inc., was appointed to the Board of Trustees in 1983 by Gov. George Wallace to represent the 2nd District. Appointed to a second term by Gov. Don Siegelman, his term will expire on April 21, 2011.
Know who mysteriously turned up at the Tigers' scrimmage this past weekend? You'll never guess! A month from now, that number will have mysteriously evaporated, and the date will read April 21, 2061. Just you wait. Oh, Bobby, you crafty devil, you.
The premise of Wednesday night's HBO Real Sports report on pay-for-play in college athletics -- with a specific focus on allegations against Auburn football -- centered around the NCAA system as a whole, and the exploitation of college athletes. Like the allegations of impropriety, the idea that college athletes are exploited by a system that profits off their skills, but doesn't allow them to realize their own market value isn't new. The NCAA and its institutions are a big business, bringing in millions of dollars in revenue each year from a product created by amateur athletes.
The opening segment of Wednesday night's show set the tone for the entire report. A clip of the Tyron Prothro play is shown, followed by a profile of the former Alabama receiver. Prothro went from promising college athlete to post-collegiate bank teller after a horrific leg injury suffered during his junior season. His story was used as a reminder that while college athletes do receive a free education, many are unprepared for a life without football, and unable to capitalize on the free education.
Prothro's story was one echoed throughout the entire Real Sports report. Ed O'Bannon, former UCLA basketball star, works at a car dealership and is suing the NCAA for using his likeness. Troy Reddick, one of the former Auburn players to bring forth allegations of improper benefits, said he was forced to change his major after it interfered with practice times. Education merely hindered the goal of building a successful athletic program, according to many of the athletes interviewed as part of the report. So that athletic scholarship that serves as currency wasn't so valuable when the players were never able to cash it in after athletics disappeared.
But while Real Sports concluded the system was broken and exploited athletes, neither the reporters or panelists were able to present a legitimate solution to the problem. Paying players without a proper system in place is a polarizing topic, staying the course will lead to further problems and watching the system collapse on itself does more harm than good.
In the end, the show presented the same problems many fans of college athletics already knew without furthering the conversation. When the conclusion is the system is broken and someone should fix it without presenting a solution, it's as if the viewer was taken for a ride, only to end up driving around the block to arrive back where they started.
After days of buildup, HBO's Real Sports unveiled its pay-for-play report to the world on Wednesday night as part of an hour-long special. The allegations are nothing new for fans of college athletics: various former Auburn football players detailed money changing hands during both the recruitment progress and their time with the Auburn football program. Four players -- Stanley McClover, Troy Reddick, Chaz Ramsey and Raven Gray -- all spoke of being on the receiving end of "money handshakes" or receiving cash as an incentive to attend Auburn, stay with the program and keep up their performance on the field.
For college football fans, the allegations should barely be a blip on the radar -- pay-for-play and hundred dollar handshakes are nothing new; college athletics are a dirty game. While improper benefits strike to the core of amateurism, a principle the NCAA prides itself on, the allegations detailed payments that were orders of magnitude less than other recent cases we've seen. Reggie Bush's family allegedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars, Cam Newton's father allegedly requested around $200,000, yet these four said they received an amount in the low tens of thousands in total.
When it came to recruiting, it was a free-for-all, each said. McClover committed to Ohio State after an official visit he described as no holds-barred. He alleged boosters gave him $1,000, his hosts took him to parties and girls provided sexual favors during the weekend. But in a signing day shocker, McClover signed on the dotted line with Auburn after a booster sent him a book bag full of cash.
While the allegations were serious, it was also glaringly obvious each had an ax to grind with the NCAA or Auburn. Ramsey injured his back and sued the school, Gray was also injured early during his career at Auburn, McClover flamed out of the NFL and is out of money and Reddick had a falling out with the coaching staff late in his career with the Tigers.
The segment served as the shock value of the Real Sports report, meant to capture attention and hammer home the overall point of the program. Players are exploited, the system is broken and continued allegations of boosters and programs run rampant only serve as further supporting evidence, the report said. But shining a light on the problem alone isn't enough, and only reinforced what many already know about the shady underbelly of major college athletics.
Ahead of tonight's HBO Real Sports special regarding Auburn football and an alleged pay-for-play scheme, the SEC has released a statement about the program and the information that is to be discussed on the show.
"We are aware of some of the information to be aired during this evening's HBO Real Sports. Representatives from Auburn University, representatives from LSU and the SEC office have communicated with the NCAA Enforcement Staff. The involved institutions and the NCAA staff will pursue the allegations in a timely manner."
So, it's your basic issue cookie-cutter statement. "Yes, we know that this is a thing that exists, and we care about it" is essentially what was said, if roughly 60 words is tl;dr for you. When it comes to any serious wrongdoing by the school, the NCAA might be able to come up with some information if shady bookkeeping or a whistle blower is present. However, the now famous "money handshakes" might be little more than one person's word against another.
Auburn's football program may be answering some questions about illegal benefits thanks to allegations raised by an HBO Real Sports special that will air tonight, but offensive linemen Ryan Pugh and Lee Ziemba both say they were never paid while at Auburn.
The linemen, both members of the 2010 Auburn team that won a BCS National Championship, told Sporting News that their pockets were never lined, and that those former Tigers telling HBO of improper conduct sound like people with axes to grind.
"I think the guys who have come on the air obviously had something against Auburn," Ziemba told Sporting News. "I played with two of them (Chaz Ramsey and Raven Gray). … Two of them I know had bad divorces with the university. (Ramsey) got involved in a lawsuit that he didn’t win and obviously, must hold a grudge because we went on to win the national championship and were very successful with the guys he came in and was recruited with. I’m not sure what they’re trying to say. I walked out the same locker room doors as they did after games. I was recruited by the same men, and didn’t see a dime. I did things the right way."
"If things like that are going on, you tend to see your players who have produced more for the university,” Pugh told Sporting News. “There are things going on out there in Division I college football as far as receiving money from boosters. If that stuff is going on, you would think that some of the major players who are the face of the program would see some of that. For us to have played for four years and to have never seen anything like that, it really makes it hard to believe that stuff like that was really going on."
For more on Auburn and the Tigers' reaction to these allegations, be sure to visit SB Nation's Auburn blog Track 'Em Tigers.
A rocky season in the public arena for the Auburn Football Tigers will be thrown into sharp relief Wednesday night, as HBO airs a Real Sports episode dedicated to college athletics and featuring a story on illegal benefits allegedly provided to four former players during the reign of Tommy Tuberville. As you might imagine, the Auburn community is in a bit of a tizzy over the revelations to be broadcast this evening.
SB Nation's Track Em Tigers obtained an advance review copy of the episode, and says, "It's a scathing report that whether true or not, will deliver a huge black eye to the Auburn program," while cautioning, "It's important to note that throughout the report there was never any proof presented of these allegations." While it takes only two comments for the sour grapes conspiracy theorists to emerge, a quick (though unscientific) poll of our Auburn community paints an interesting picture of where fans are landing on the credulity scale:
Real Sports airs at 10:00 p.m. EDT on HBO. Don't miss the roundtable panel with Billy Packer, Rich Rodriguez, and Jason Whitlock. There will be lots of shouting, we imagine.
As the NCAA's Cam Newton investigation lurches onward silently in some alternate dimension, HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel is set to drop a one-hour special on pay-for-play in college football that features four ex-Auburn Tigers players. Sports By Brooks claims to have a transcript of the program, in which Chaz Ramsey, Troy Reddick, Stanley McClover, and Raven Gray accuse Auburn and other schools including Ohio State, LSU, and Michigan State of handing out money (and sex) left and right.
The program is scheduled to air on March 30 at 10 pm ET. A few choice cuts:
McClover says there were money handshakes from boosters at other football camps too. At Auburn for a couple hundred dollars and at Michigan State. All the schools denied any wrongdoing. And things really started heating up a few months later when he went to Ohio State for an official visit where schools get a chance for one weekend to host prospective athletes.
McClover: "They send girls my way. I partied. When I got there I met up with a couple guys from the team. We went to a party and they asked me to pick any girl I wanted."
Kremer to McClover: "I think in one game you had four sacks, what did you earn in that game?"
McClover: "Four thousand. Against Alabama."
It goes on and on, and you really should read SbB's transcript and be sure to clear your Wednesday night schedule. Will anything come of this? College football fans know this stuff happens everywhere, but something this big could be the kind of thing that actually gets the casual public involved enough to cause some government body to lumber to life and attempt to "fix the system," whatever that means.
It's already been a busy offseason for Auburn. While celebrating their 2011 national title, they've also had to deal with a four-man robbery and a recruiting investigation distinct from the Newton case.
For more on Auburn sports, visit Track Em Tigers.