Spencer Moncrief never played a collegiate sport in his 24 years. Yet here he sat again, across the table from NCAA investigators at the University of Mississippi.
By September of 2013, everyone in the room was familiar with one another — Spencer, the brother of then Ole Miss and future Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Donte Moncrief, their lawyer, and the lawyers for Ole Miss and the NCAA’s enforcement team, headed by a man named Mike Sheridan. Multiple sources confirmed to SB Nation Donte was first summoned to meet with Sheridan and the enforcement staff because of a photo of the junior wideout driving a red 2009 Dodge Challenger — his older brother’s car — in April of 2013.
As a result of that investigation, Donte Moncrief was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for receiving impermissible benefits the week of Sept. 16, 2013. Those benefits were defined solely as the ’09 Challenger, his brother’s car.
The notice from the NCAA didn’t break publicly. At the time, Ole Miss was on a bye before heading to play Alabama. But Moncrief’s future NFL career was now in serious jeopardy.
On Sept. 25, Spencer met again with the NCAA, having been instructed by his attorney to answer any question, provide any document possible to get his brother eligible to play football in Tuscaloosa in four days.
“To prove I owned my car, basically,” he says. “They hung up my brother’s career for that.”
This was the last time any of the Moncriefs would meet with the NCAA. Sheridan finally had his ace card on the Moncrief brothers, producing a copy of a stay folio (a receipt from a hotel visit that contains guest and financial information) that Sheridan said proved Spencer Moncrief was at a Comfort Suites in Gulfport, Miss., on March 7, 2013, the exact time Sheridan alleged that the monthly payment for the bank loan on his Challenger was paid in person at a bank in Tupelo, Miss., some 300 miles north.
“My reaction to the NCAA was, ‘How the hell do you know anything about where I was at? How did you get the information to know that?’” Spencer said.
Moncrief’s attorney Jesse Mitchell immediately ended the meeting to find out. The NCAA has no subpoena power — it can’t demand that businesses, private individuals, or public bodies turn over documents. Yet somehow the enforcement staff was trying to pin Moncrief down by using his own financial records.
What the Moncriefs didn’t know was that Sheridan’s theory of Spencer being in two places in the same time had been debunked a month prior by the bank itself. Through a timeline pieced together by SB Nation, it seemed as if Sheridan was bluffing, trying to see if Spencer Moncrief would break.
“Except I did pay my note in Tupelo. And it was my car,” Spencer Moncrief told SB Nation. “I’m a grown man. I’m not a kid. I’m a grown man with a car that I let my brother drive sometimes. I have a degree; why can’t I afford a car?
“The entire process, I was like dang, because I drive a car, a nice car, I really felt like they were discriminating. Honestly. ‘He’s black, he can’t afford that car.’”
SB Nation has obtained an email dated Sept. 25, 2013, from the general manager of a Gulfport, Miss., motel claiming to have turned over personal information of a customer to an NCAA representative who did not identify themselves:
To whom it may concern. My name is [REDACTED BY SB NATION] and I am the General Manager for Comfort Suites Hotel located in Gulfport, Ms. Recently I received a call from someone asking that all folio's for the month of February concerning Mr. Spencer Moncrief be faxed to him immediately. I quickly pulled up all past stays for that month and saw that this was a corporate account and faxed over the folios. This is not an uncommon request dealing with our corporate accounts. These request come through our hotel at least 4 to 5 times a day. At no time did the gentleman on the phone say that he was representing the NCAA or had any interest in investigating any wrong doings done by Mr. Moncrief. If in fact that he did, then I would have immediately terminated the call only after informing him that we would need a subpoena. The gentleman misrepresented himself to me just to acquire what he needed and I should have been more careful by asking more questions.
According to the NCAA's own document, Enforcement: Internal Operating Procedures, “In no case shall an enforcement staff member misrepresent his or her identity or title to an individual who may provide information relevant to an investigation." In obtaining the hotel folio, it appears that the investigator stopped just short of violating these procedures, simply because the NCAA does not prohibit not identifying himself at all.
When contacted by SB Nation regarding the email from Comfort Inn to his attorney, Spencer Moncrief agreed to speak on behalf of his family. Requests by SB Nation to speak with Donte Moncrief were denied by Moncrief family counsel Jesse Mitchell, an attorney in Jackson, Miss. and former defensive lineman for the Rebels and Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell also declined to comment on any matter past the confirmation of statements by Spencer Moncrief to SB Nation, citing confidentiality.
Mitchell did confirm to SB Nation the validity of the email, sent to his offices after contacting the Comfort Suites in Gulfport, and that it was presented to the NCAA.
In addition, the folios requested by the NCAA, obtained by SB Nation, state multiple occupants in Spencer Moncrief’s room. Per Moncrief, when he would take a Crossmark job, the company would reserve him a hotel room and add the name of a coworker he’d be traveling with.
On Sept. 27, 11 days after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA, Donte Moncrief was ruled eligible by the NCAA. The notice came just in time for Donte to drive to Tuscaloosa to play against Bama. No additional explanation for the reversal was given.
“Just like that, with no new information provided to the enforcement staff except that they broke the rules,” a source at the University of Mississippi said. “The NCAA got caught. And no one wanted it to get out, because this is the ‘new’ NCAA.”
The brief ineligibility ruling never made the news. Moncrief played out the 2013 season at Ole Miss and entered the NFL draft as a junior, landing with the Colts in the third round.
When asked why the family didn’t consider legal action against the NCAA, Spencer Moncrief said his brother’s wishes were to avoid public attention of any contact with NCAA enforcement before the NFL draft the following spring.
“Man, it was about getting into the NFL. I told him when it happened [clearance from the NCAA], ‘Bruh, you’re released. You’re OK. You can play in this football game.’ He didn’t want to do nothing while it was going on. He would just go to football practice and go home. He told me, ‘I don’t want this. Any of this. I didn’t do this excess shit they’re saying. I want to get out and make it for my family.’
“The NCAA tells you nothing. They find you guilty first and then try to prove it. You have no power to defend yourself,” Moncrief said of the experience.
Beginning in April of 2013, Moncrief and his older brother and then-roommate Spencer would meet with the NCAA multiple times as Moncrief was being investigated for potentially receiving impermissible benefits.
Per multiple sources connected to the NCAA’s investigation and the University of Mississippi, the NCAA was acting on a photo of Donte driving the Challenger at a Tupelo, Miss., repair shop, and an anonymous statement that Moncrief had been seen driving the vehicle for days at a time on multiple occasions.
“Even if there was no other evidence ever provided, just a photo of the kid driving a car, that’s all they need to start an investigation,” a source in NCAA compliance in the Southeastern Conference said.
“They [NCAA investigators] don’t have to tell you why or what when they request to meet with you. And they don’t have to provide you with any evidence or information they have. It’s not court. So even if you have something that can clear an issue up right away — a receipt or a statement or anything — they want you in the dark when you meet.”
When Donte Moncrief arrived on campus in 2011 from his home in Raleigh, Miss., Spencer, who was already a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, came along.
“This is the God’s honest truth: I moved to Oxford because Houston Nutt was there and I wanted to try to move to Oxford to get a graduate assistant job. I thought I’d try because I got my degree in sports coaching education. It ended up not working out and it was cool, and I thought I’d go to grad school maybe. But I started working, and when you get an extra dollar you lose track of things because you’re stable,” Spencer said.
Moncrief got a job for a marketing company that created in-store promotions at retail outlets for various products across Mississippi. He purchased the used Challenger in September of 2012, financing a loan with First American National Bank that cost him $505 per month.
“I had a job. I was on a reset team for a company called Crossmark. Basically we went in and did product resets in stores like Kangaroo [gas stations]. We’d go in there and take all the different drinks out and redo them to put in newer items. If the company wanted a new item in a cooler or on a display, we’d do that.”
Spencer Moncrief said that when he frequently left Oxford for work travel, he’d leave his Challenger for Donte to drive. Once Donte informed Sheridan and the NCAA that the car was his brother’s, Spencer volunteered to speak with investigators to explain everything.
“Donte was worried ... my parents, for them ‘worried’ doesn’t even cover it. Donte is their baby boy. He said, ‘Just make sure I’m clear. I don’t want this on me.’ I told him ‘Bruh, we ain’t got nothing to hide.’ He was just mad, really mad, saying, ‘This is possibly my last year, and now out of the blue come these people,’” Spencer said.
Spencer Moncrief said that based on his questioning over multiple meetings in the summer of 2013, he believed that Sheridan’s goal was to prove he couldn’t afford the car by himself, and that in order to keep payments on the Challenger current, he had to be receiving outside help.
At the behest of his lawyer, Spencer turned over his loan information and registration on the vehicle to the NCAA. In addition, he provided copies of his checking account statements with Regions Bank. Digital copies were provided to SB Nation that show frequent direct deposits from his employer, which Spencer says were paid out per each reset job he completed.
Spencer said he was convinced that evidence would be enough for the NCAA. Instead, they demanded pay stubs. He provided them. Then a set of receipts. He provided them. He also turned over photos from various social media platforms to confirm his location on particular dates.
Then the NCAA requested information on every other deposit in his bank account. Spencer believes they were still convinced he was receiving money from a booster or other individuals to pay for the Challenger.
Sheridan also went after Moncrief’s side business of cutting hair. Moncrief told SB Nation he’s currently in school to become a barber, but in ’13, he started cutting hair for extra cash. When he finished a cut, he’d put it in on social media in an effort to drum up more business.
“[Sheridan] wanted to know about the haircuts, so I told him. I told him about cutting hair. I cut the football team’s hair, I cut the basketball team’s hair, and I cut random folks’ hair. And he asked what evidence I had. I said look at my Instagram account; I know you have already.”
According to Moncrief, Sheridan requested a breakdown of his business. Moncrief told Sheridan that he usually charged $15 a haircut, and $20 and if he traveled to the client.
“Sometimes it’s 10 guys. Sometimes it’s 20,” Moncrief said he told Sheridan.
Moncrief said that Sheridan then told him that wasn’t enough money to cover the note for the Challenger.
“He said, ‘Because even 20 guys a month isn’t enough.’ So I asked him if he had any black friends, and he got this look, like shocked. Because in the African American community, you get a haircut every week, not once a month. It’s sometimes 20 guys a week. Some guys get a haircut every five days. They had a hard time believing that, so they wanted me to make a list, and everybody who came and got their haircut would have to sign it,” Moncrief said.
“He went to the extreme of calling my friends and my girlfriend and asking for their Apple account information to look at their pictures and stuff. They said it was to see when I was in Oxford and when I wasn’t.
“I guess he saw them [the friends] on my Twitter. I don’t know how he ended up getting their numbers, but he contacted them to see if I was in pictures, if I was with them at a particular time in Oxford.”
In 2013, Mike Webb was president of First American National Bank, based in Iuka, Miss., a small town about 60 miles from Tupelo in the far northeast corner of the state. On Aug. 26, 2013, he got a call from a lending officer at First American National’s Tupelo branch.
“They told me someone from the NCAA in Indianapolis had called and wanted to come by to ask us questions about Spencer Moncrief the next day.”
Webb notified the bank’s counsel and, recognizing Spencer’s last name, called Ole Miss. The next day lawyers for First American and Ole Miss showed up, along with Webb. Sheridan was already on site.
“[Sheridan] was already at the building when we arrived,” Webb said. “He had a lineup of pictures of it. Looked like he pulled off of Facebook, or something like that. It was a couple of African American males, then a couple of white males. And he was going up to each teller asking, ‘Do you recognize any of these guys?’
“Then our lending assistants are starting to get uneasy,” Webb said. “We’re not even a full service bank at this particular branch. They told him, ‘We’re loan office.’ So he asks again, ‘Have you ever seen any of these people make a payment?’ And of course the teller says, ‘We couldn’t tell you if we did.’ And he says, ‘Well do you recognize any of them?’ And the teller said, ‘Well if we did, we can’t tell you. Because if they bank here, we can’t do that.’
“Then Sheridan changes it up: ‘Have you ever seen any of these guys come in here and make payments at the bank?’ Because he’s assuming someone walking up in cash,” Webb said.
According to Webb, he, Sheridan, Ole Miss, and counsel for First American sat down in a meeting room, where Sheridan asked about how loan payments are processed. Through Spencer Moncrief’s bank statement, a processed payment to First American appeared as March 7, 2013.
“And [Sheridan] says to us, ‘So how is it possible that this person Spencer Moncrief could make a payment here when I’ve got him on video footage of an ATM in Gulfport, Miss.?’” Webb said.
Webb said he explained that payments were often delayed by processing, and that deposits or payments (usually called “work” in banking) made at First American in Tupelo were sent up to another branch to be processed.
“His confusion was that the date stamped on every payment slip wasn’t the actual time the customer might be here making a payment. We tried to tell him that payments are often processed at different sites,” Webb said.
When asked if he recalled using an ATM during his 2013 trip to Gulfport, Spencer Moncrief told SB Nation that he did use one ATM, on site at the Comfort Suites. SB Nation confirmed with the Gulfport Comfort Suites that it has an on-site ATM.
The NCAA issued a statement to SB Nation on Wednesday, from Jon Duncan, NCAA vice president of enforcement:
While we cannot comment on the substance of the ongoing Ole Miss case, any allegation of misconduct by enforcement staff members during the investigation is simply false. The enforcement staff reviewed information about a potential violation in the case using NCAA member-approved procedures. After analyzing that information based on the standard set by the membership, the enforcement staff did not bring an allegation and that part of the investigation was closed.
When contacted for comment, the University of Mississippi declined.
Nothing the NCAA put in front of the Moncriefs ended up working as a smoking gun on Donte. According to sources involved in the investigation, the aggressive vetting of the Moncrief family and their subsequent response became an example of how thoroughly the NCAA would invest themselves in future inquiries in the overall Ole Miss investigation.
“When you hear the term ‘exemplary compliance’ Ole Miss has been using publicly to define their case with the NCAA, what that means is that they haven’t yet pushed back on anything. There hasn’t been a fight yet,” a source connected to the investigation told SB Nation.
“Keep in mind, this is a program that was 100 percent ready to defend Hugh Freeze before he was caught with the phone records and escorts. As far as the NCAA goes, Ole Miss was committed to defending the guy and their program,” the source said.