And there were plenty.
At the same time HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel aired, Auburn coach Gene Chizik had harsh words for the program that interviewed four former players who claimed to have been paid by boosters while they were part of the Auburn program.
“It’s sad to me, it’s very sad to me, that HBO is going to go ahead and air something that, really admittedly, they’ve got no proof on anything,” Chizik said Wednesday evening. “What’s disturbing to me is that they interviewed other former Auburn football players who had exactly the opposite to say but somehow or another that failed to make the air, unless I missed that section.
“So I’ve got other former players that are calling me who are still playing and who are great players who had absolutely no knowledge of any of that stuff. So it saddens me that somebody is going to air a show with basically one side being known. I think that’s pathetic. And I think it’s pure garbage.”
The special interviewed former Auburn football players Stanley McClover, Raven Gray, Chaz Ramsey and Troy Reddick. All four claimed they received extra benefits in the form of cash payments from boosters and in one case an unspecified assistant coach.
All four played during Tommy Tuberville’s time as Auburn’s coach, although Chizik was on Tuberville’s staff as defensive coordinator from 2002 to 2004 during which some of the alleged violations took place.
Auburn president Jay Gogue and athletics director Jay Jacobs both issued statements chiming in to the allegations.
“As a university president, there are several things you want from the athletics department,” Gogue’s statement read. “One of them is playing by the rules, and Jay Jacobs and the athletics department are committed to that priority. They will investigate these allegations thoroughly and completely.”
Jacobs’ statement confirmed that the matter is under investigation.
“While HBO confirmed to us they have no proof that any of these claims are true, we contacted both the NCAA and Southeastern Conference as soon as these allegations surfaced,” it read. “We have engaged outside counsel to investigate this matter and will spare no resources to find the truth.”
In a statement by the Southeastern Conference, it indicated that representatives Auburn, LSU and the SEC office were in contact with the NCAA and were pursing the allegations.
HBO Real Sports reporter Andrea Kremer said Wednesday morning on Dan Patrick’s syndicated ESPN radio show that the network sought interviews with a lot of different sources, including former head coach Tommy Tuberville, who declined comment.
“We reached out to a number of different coaches, and they declined to speak to us,” Kremer said.
Kremer also said the network was approached by someone who wanted to talk about the recruitment of Cam Newton, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who led the Tigers to this year’s national championship and who has been the subject of a pay for play controversy since October of 2010.
“The day I was getting on the plane they pulled the plug on it,” Kremer said. “HBO does not pay for interviews, and that was one of the issues that came up.”
An All-SEC defensive end who played for Auburn from 2003-05, McClover, said he received “money handshakes” from boosters of LSU, Auburn, Ohio State and Michigan State during the recruiting process.
He said he eventually switched his commitment from Ohio State to Auburn after receiving an unspecified amount of money from an Auburn booster.
The money was allegedly delivered in a book bag.
“You opened it up, what are you thinking?” Kremer asked McClover during the HBO special.
“I almost passed out,” McClover said. “I literally almost passed out. I couldn’t believe it was true. I felt like I owed them.”
McClover also said he received money after games, including $4,000 after he had four sacks in a game against Alabama.
Reddick, an offensive lineman from 2001-04, said he was offered money by an Auburn alum during the recruiting process but did not take it.
Later in his career, he said he was considering leaving the program but was given $500 by a member of the coaching staff to stay, and later received more payments in similar amounts.
Gray, a defensive lineman who signed with the Tigers in 2008, said he received approximately $3,000 from boosters during his recruitment by Auburn.
An offensive lineman who played for the Tigers in 2007, Ramsey said he was slipped money from fans after games, usually in amounts of $300 to $400 per game.
“You walk out and all the fans are waiting for you to sign autographs and everything and some random guy just walks up to you and shakes your hand and there’s a wad full of money,” he said.
Ramsey also said he made anywhere from $5,000 to $6,000 by selling game tickets provided by the university.
He filed a lawsuit over the school’s diagnoses and treatment of a back injury that ended his career. The lawsuit was dismissed, but is on appeal.
“I’m not out to get anybody,” he said. “I want high school athletes to know what they’re getting into. This is what college football is really about. It’s a business.”
The NCAA’s four-year statute of limitations may render moot the allegations of McClover and Reddick, although the NCAA could make an exception if they determine that those allegations constitute a pattern of abuse of NCAA rules.
“My initial reaction was that because this falls outside the window of the four-years of the statute of limitations is that it was unlikely that the NCAA would dig in too deeply,” ESPN college football analyst Joe Shad said Wednesday, “but actually my opinion on that has changed based on some conversations this afternoon.
“I now would not be surprised at all, based on the NCAA’s ability, according to their own rules, their own language, to have exceptions to that statute of limitations. Let’s be honest. They’re already investigating Auburn football. That is a continuing, ongoing investigation, so I would not be surprised at all if they asked some questions about what we see on HBO tonight.”