12 April 2011
This year's crop of signing day mudslinging is well under way. And, the latest and biggest target on the list is Alabama signee Brent Calloway.
In case you've not been following, the story of allegations against Brent Calloway and Alabama look like this. Calloway committed to Alabama, then committed to Auburn, then, on signing day signed with the Tide.
Calloway's stepfather (and legal guardian) is Peaches Winston. I'm generally skeptical of grown men named Peaches or Juicy or the like, but whatever. Peaches is the long time friend of Darren Woodruff. Woodruff is an Alabama fan, but has never owned season tickets, attended the University or given Tide Pride any money.
Winston officially adopted Calloway when he was a freshman in high school. At that point, he met Woodruff, and accoring to Calloway (paywalled), began to attend church and after church lunch with Winston and Calloway.
What happens next depends on who you ask. Either Woodruff helped Calloway make decisions and drove him to schools to visit, or he paid him a bunch of money, gave him a car, and told him he'd make $1,200 each month for attending Alabama.
Jeffrey Lee is the lone source for those illicit accusations. Lee is a writer for the Auburn Rivals Board. The only place Lee has made these allegations is on a Mobile radio show.
He was careful from the get go to distance himself from the allegations, saying that "allegations are out there". Later, he issued a statement saying, in part, "Due to an enormous amount of additional information AuburnSports.com has received in the last 24 hours, we are not planning any updates today as we sort through the details. I will not be conducting any interviews including the one previously scheduled with WNSP in Mobile." So, he shut stuff down.
Then, Lee penned an article that made none of those allegations, instead switching gears to say that Woodruff took Calloway to the University of Alabama, then on to Florida on the weekend before signing day.
A couple of important things to note. There are two sets of alleged improprieties. First, the cash (and cars) inducements. Those allegations have not been made anywhere in print. They've been spouted, in an off-the-cuff manner, by Jeffrey Lee, who has not repeated them in any publicly accessible format since.
Second, there is the allegation that the travel itself was an illegal inducement. That allegation is in print, and it's generally agreed that Woodruff took Calloway to Florida prior to signing day. Now, the question becomes whether or not Woodruff is a booster. Boosters are not allowed to give extra benefits to perspective student athletes, with very few exceptions.
So, for there to be a violation, several things must be established. First, there have to be extra benefits. That seems, frankly, pretty clear. Second, Woodruff has to be classified as a booster. The NCAA broadly defines boosters as “representativesof the institution’s athletic interests." Woodruff (and the University) have said he never attended classes here, has never held season tickets, does not donate money, and doesn't have a relationship with the coaching staff. But, for the sake of argument, let's say he is classified as a booster.
There are still exceptions to the extra benefits rules. Those exceptions are detailed in NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.6 as detailed on Alabama's compliance site (yeah, it's complicated):
Boosters are prohibited from providing any type of benefit to a current or prospective student-athlete. NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52.6 prohibits preferential treatment, benefits or services because of the individual's athletics reputation or skill or pay-back potential as a professional athlete, unless such treatment, benefits or services are specifically permitted under NCAA legislation.
The only exception to this rule is if there is a clear preexisting relationship between the booster and the student-athlete. The NCAA membership services staff reviewed the application of NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.6 as it relates to factual situations in which an individual (student-athlete or prospective student-athlete) has received benefits prior to collegiate enrollment from someone other than a family member or legal guardian, and agreed that the following objective guidelines generally should be used in determining whether such benefits are contrary to the legislation
- Did the relationship between the athlete (or the athlete's parents) and the individual providing the benefit(s) develop as a result of the athlete's participation in athletics or notoriety related thereto?
- Did the relationship between the athlete (or the athlete's parents) and the individual providing the benefit(s) predate the athlete's status as a prospective student-athlete?
- Did the relationship between the athlete (or the athlete's parents) and the individual providing the benefit(s) predate the athlete's status achieved as a result of his or her athletics ability or reputation?
- Was the pattern of benefits provided by the individual to the athlete (or the athlete's parents) prior to the athlete attaining notoriety as a skilled athlete similar in nature to those provided after attaining such stature?
So, if Woodruff was friends with Calloway's parents, and the friendship didn't materially change as a result of the fact that Calloway was a prospective student althete, he can provide "extra benefits".
So, fundamentally, if Woodruff and Winston were friends before "the athlete's participation in athletics or notoriety related thereto", then it doesn't matter if he is a booster (which he may not be in the first place).
It seems, fundamentally, there's nothing here in print that could be made into more than a secondary violation on a good day (think of Julio Jones and Mark Ingram paying back the deep sea fishing trip from the summer of 2009). There are accusations of payments, but they've never appeared anywhere in print (on the web or otherwise) - only on talk radio and even then distanced as "allegations out there" (read some dude posted it on the Rivals board).
Even Calloway's high school coach (who sounds very... bitter about the whole thing) hasn't accused anyone of impropriety.
I'm by no means saying definitively that Calloway hasn't been paid or that Winston hasn't done anything wrong. I honestly have no idea.
What I am saying is that there are no credible allegations made by anyone that anything has occurred beyond two nights in a hotel in Florida - probably right around what a deep sea fishing trip costs.
Everyone keep moving... there's nothing to see here.
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