Someone asked about some Bama history a few days ago – Chapter 5 "Tyrone Beamon" and Chapter 6 "1999" and Chapter 7 "Cottrell & Culpepper"
This is a brief on how Alabama fell from grace in the general timeframe of the 1992 Championship thru Coach Fran with some earlier history thrown in for reference. It sheds light (true or false – that is up to the individual) on what happened to bring down the Tide and who all was involved. It definitely helps explain the animosity toward Phil Fulmer. I didn’t write any of the brief and don’t personally know anyone mentioned or attributed. I am not responsible for any typo, spelling, formatting, or whitespace errors. Nor am I responsible for any judgment errors, innuendo, false allegations, heresy, rumor mongering, slander, defamation, or character assassination. I just happened to cut and paste it from a Bama message forum (and I don’t remember which one) way back in the day and thought I might want hang on to it. I am only responsible for segmenting the document into chapters to make it easier to re-post as several RBR Fanpost. As with all Fanpost the content is not approved, condoned, sponsored, attributed, or verified by RBR or SBN and any of their writers, editors, or content providers. Buckle up this is a very long read. – WM58
Posted by clay3482 on February 27, 2004 at 20:59:25:
The Fall Of the Tide
This is only a compilation of public information put in one place so that the truth could come finally out. Some source articles came from MAJOR news outlets and some from Internet Message Board Archives. I will try to credit everyone at the end of the "brief" in Appendix A. This is a rough draft however, so if you see something I missed or in the case of internet posters if you would like your Real Name instead of your Internet Handle credited please let me know.
Thanks to all who have helped!
Roll Tide Forever!
Enjoy The Brief
In 1998, assistant basketball coach Tyrone Beamon was recruiting a hotshot basketball player out of Houston. Beamon got the bright idea (according to him, I guess) to contact boosters and solicit funds from these boosters in order to pay coaches to "steer" their players to Alabama. Beamon contacted 2 boosters in Montgomery and set up a lunch. Over lunch he laid out his plan and request. The boosters told him they would get back to him.
After returning from the lunch, OUR BOOSTERS called our athletic department and notified them of this illegal request. The athletic department initiated an internal investigation. Upon verifying the facts, the coach was summarily fired and, in keeping with the new procedures requested by the NCAA for good Institutional Control, filed a report with the NCAA, notifying them of the rules violation.
At this point it is important to notice, we did EXACTLY what the NCAA wanted. The institution took care of a rules violator and notified the NCAA. The NCAA praised our compliance team. Tyrone Beamon, the only person in the incident who broke the rules, had a show cause order placed on him for 4 years. Yet, inexplicably, the repeat violator window was extended for the university of Alabama. Little did we know how huge that ruling would become.
So, as it stood in the summer of 1999, the University of Alabama had a history of:
Making drastic changes to the Institutional Controls in the Athletic Department.
Disassociating boosters who broke rules.
Having boosters who did not tolerate illegal activity.
Self-reporting known rules infractions to the NCAA.
Going into the 99 season, Bockrath was on thin ice with most of the program's major supporters. He was viewed as just one element that had to be removed in order to put things right. I think it's important to note that no one who was disgruntled with Bockrath thought for a second that Mike was much of a coach and I think everyone harbored grave reservations about him - especially those who knew the limited abilities of his coaches, saw his poorly organized practices and were aware of the overall loose reigns he kept on things.
Many folks think Bockrath was dismissed because we got beat by La. Tech.. The truth is a situation had been brewing for several weeks with respect to Bockrath's use or abuse of his position as AD. Sorensen would have never gone along with the dismissal in a vacuum if it were simply related to the management of our athletic programs. It wasn't. Truth is, Bockrath's departure mattered little. He had checked out on minding the football store long ago.
The whole Debbie gate saga is well known by now. What may not be known is that the mishandling of that situation was the first nail in Sorensen's coffin. Beyond the embarrassment this caused the University, the loss of Mike's credibility with his players and the Alabama community. When University President Andrew Sorensen settled the lawsuit unilaterally it sent several Board Of Trustee members into apoplexy namely Drummond, MacMahon, and McDonald. The fact that Sorensen hadn't even consulted the Board and they simply saw the settlement and the deal with Mike in the paper was signal that Sorensen's blank check with the athletic department had gone far enough.
At this point they formed the athletic oversight committee to clip University President Andrew Sorensen wings and keep an eye on him. It was this same group who ultimately forced the issue with Bockrath shortly thereafter. Furthermore, while Sorensen was allowed to hire a new AD, there was clearly some influence exerted from these and other quarters to bring some stability and Alabama blood back to the Athletic Director's position by hiring Mal Moore. University President Andrew Sorensen didn't want Moore, but eventually moved there to save his own weakened hide. All the while he was stuffing his resume in envelopes trying to get out of Hickville.
While the football program was home alone, they were not without parents. So much has been made of Gene and Marie and their roles in our final downfall. I honestly can't say that they aren't anything but another manifestation of the same tensions that existed between the so called good ole boys, the Athletic Department, and University President Andrew Sorensen.
For better or worse, Gene Marsh had enormous power as a result of our probation and his position on the infractions committee. The compliance regime that was put into place was ostensibly to keep us out of trouble. Truth was, it was just another way for Sorensen to keep his thumb on the rednecks striving to run the football program. Marsh and Robbins had little use for what they viewed as the jock culture at the U of A. Furthermore, they were convinced that everyone associated with Alabama athletics was crooked. Unfortunately, they had little appreciation for the unwritten rules of college football and even less understanding of what other schools thought of the rules - nothing.
This situation was an explosive mixture. Ronnie running amuck with the boosters, a vacuum in the President's mansion, overall weakness and lack of initiative and strategic planning in the Athletic Department and two people who were convinced of the fundamental corruption of those involved in this "seamy" business who had a blank check from the president's mansion to elevate an expired elevator certificate to an NCAA self reported violation.
Marsh wasn't helping things by telling people that Ronnie was going to get us into trouble. In contrast, certain boosters were saying it would be over their dead bodies before Ronnie left. The collision course was inevitable.
Mike had mentally checked out on football after the Debbie thing. In fact, most of the 99 season, he didn't muck around very much with what little game planning went on. Thanks to some super seniors he actually won an SEC championship. Yet, the cracks were visible everywhere even then. First, a star system had developed because Mike had given Shaun star status the previous spring to keep him around. Players had come to expect that upper classmen had earned some sort of special privileges as far as depth charts, practice habits, work outs, etc. This was only further exacerbated by Ronnie and Mike promising kids whatever they wanted to get their signatures. Kids were showing up on campus with an attitude that they were owed something before they ever laced up the first pair of sneakers.
In the fall of 1999, Alabama did something most unlikely: it won the Southeastern Conference Championship, despite a sex scandal involving the head coach and a coaching staff all but at each other's throats. Mike decided he was a genius after the SECCG, therefore he started to coach again in the Orange Bowl. They went to Miami with the idea that a win would make them a pre-season #1 - what they got was a nightmare. With Chris Samuels unwilling or unable to play a key and almost irreplaceable cog was lost. The coaches were at each other's throats over the spoils of success. As a result, we flat got out coached, out prepared and beat by a team that shouldn't have beat us.
Meanwhile, Mal had been made Athletic Director and the pieces seemed to be falling into place for improving the facilities. However, Andrew Sorensen kept a lid on the facilities improvements and made it clear that at most only a cosmetic amount of money, if any, would be spent on the facilities. Furthermore, he kept bleeding operating funds out of the Department's revenues and further starving the operation - a practice that should have ceased 20 years ago. Sorensen also kept his informants pipeline flowing to the President's mansion to keep an eye on the Neanderthals.
Despite this, Mal plugged along doing what he could do to move the ball in an impossible situation - he couldn't buck the President, He had Gene and Marie up his rear all the time, Title IX obligations, a broke department, and a bureaucracy in the Athletic Department that was Cancerous at best depleted of good people because of Bockrath, and incapable of forward thinking.
Despite losing a BCS game to underdog Michigan, early polls for the next season consistently picked Alabama as a top-five team. For Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer, this was the manifestation of his own worst nightmares. Despite the fact that his program was riding a 5-game winning streak over the Tide, the prospects of a resurgent Alabama and the effect it might have on his "legacy" at UT (and ultimately, his employment), so terrified him that he now felt he had no hope but to put his plans to put Alabama again under the NCAA radar into effect.
Cottrell & Culpepper
Fulmer had spent time during the summer and fall of 1999 trying to hire Ronnie Cottrell away from Alabama. His failure to do so made Cottrell a personal enemy, but Fulmer wasn't the only enemy Cottrell made while at Alabama. Cottrell's willingness to play fast and loose with some of the pages upon pages of minor and often contradictory NCAA regulations wrinkled some feathers within the Alabama athletic department, most notably those of the compliance officer hired to "get tough" on the rules at Alabama after its 1995 probation, Marie Robbins.
Robbins was suspicious of Cottrell and disliked his methods, and many claim that, as a result, she was far too willing to believe the slightest bit of innuendo that came into her office regarding Cottrell and recruiting violations; a willingness that eventually turned into a de facto witch hunt against Cottrell.
Additionally, Cottrell's success, and the notoriety it gained him, placed him in the gun sights of those who wished to take his place, and so "recruiting analyst," Tom Culpepper came into the mix. Tom had sought to take Ronnie's job and had perhaps gained a bit of favor with those elements who thought Cottrell's fame and his willingness to skirt the spirit, if not the letter of the law were detrimental to either their own reputations and the fortunes of the university (likely in that order). When Cottrell learned of what Culpepper had been up to, he reportedly banned him from the football offices. According to several who heard him speak of Cottrell afterwards, an enraged Culpepper swore revenge on Cottrell by any means necessary.
When word of Culpepper's vendetta reached Phil Fulmer, he correctly appraised Culpepper's value and realized that this man could be yet another useful !di0t for him to employ in his plan to take down the Tide. Fulmer learned that Culpepper, through some of his friends and supporters within the athletic department, had come into possession of a litany of purported violations that had allegedly been committed by Cottrell and other Alabama coaches during and predating Mike Dubose's tenure at Alabama. Using mutual friends and acquaintances (one of which might have been on his own staff), Fulmer arranged to meet with Culpepper at the 2000 Hula Bowl to learn what he could. This was not the only angle Fulmer was pursuing, however.
Fulmer knew the events surrounding Alabama's probation of 1995 quite well, particularly how Auburn boosters had attempted to use an Alabama player, Gene Jelks to implicate the Tide in a pay for play scheme. Although the scheme had failed, the Auburn boosters had received nothing in the way of punishment from the NCAA, and Fulmer knew he could tweak the scheme and use it to accomplish his means. Rather than approaching an Alabama player, Fulmer had already laid the groundwork, through corrupt a UT booster, known as Tennstud, that Alabama was paying recruits to sign with the Tide, particularly in Memphis, home of both Tennstud and Tide booster, Logan Young. Fulmer would take this angle to achieve his goals, and the 1999 recruiting season
was the perfect time to launch the trap. Alabama was in need of defensive linemen, and Memphis was home to the #1 defensive tackle prospect in the nation, in Trezevant High School's Albert Means. Even better, an acquaintance of Tennstud, Milton Kirk, was employed by the school district. Tennstud knew Kirk to be a friend to UT and malleable for the right amount of cash, and believed Kirk could be used in a scheme to implicate Alabama in recruiting violations.
In the early summer of 1999, Fulmer met with Tennstud and other UT boosters, many from the Memphis area, in a meeting where the details were set on the trap to come. The boosters would pitch in together to come up with a large sum of money which would be used to covertly pay the purchase fee for Means. Kirk, whose services Tennstud had secured with a cash donation, had convinced Trezevant High School's head football coach, Lynn Lang, to put Means up for sale. After shopping Means around, he would supposedly be sold to Alabama, with Logan Young supposed to be putting up the money. Kirk would make the arrangements for payments to be passed from him to Lang through someone friendly to UT. Lang would never know the true source of the money and would believe the payments to have originated with Logan Young, as he was told. That would establish the innuendo of a money trail leading back to Young for the NCAA to follow when the deal went sour, as planned, and Lang or Kirk started to talk. With the preliminary details in place, the donations were made and Tennstud, Kirk, and local UT-friendly businessman, Carl Sledgewick began arranging the details of the "sale," and payments were made through Tennstud to Lang and Kirk throughout the fall of 1999.
Ok Before I go any further I need to bring up Melvin "Botto" Earnest. Botto is a character who helped coach as an unpaid Hamilton High School assistant in the early 80's. Botto, according to Tennstud was the runner, contact man, individual who set up deals with theses college recruits, to attend the University of Alabama. Only after the deal had been made by Botto would Logan meet with the individual prospect or his coach. Tennstud says that Logan was reluctant to deal directly with any prospect. Now according to Tennstud, after establishing a relationship with the then Melrose coach, Tim Thompson, Logan dealt directly with Tim, not having any direct dealing with either the prospect or his family.
Ok now back to Botto. Botto, according to Milton Kirk, approached Kirk at Trezevant High School football practice one afternoon with a great deal of trepidation about Lynn Lang, since Lang was a young outsider to Memphis. Kirk, was able to convince Botto of any doubts with Lang. Botto then carried Lang to Logan's home, according to Milton Kirk.
Now all of that was told to the NCAA, and the FBI by Lang, not Milton Kirk. Tennstud later reveals that Tori Noel told him in story in 2003 how after he had verbally committed to Tennessee, Botto called and took him to a pizza restaurant. There, Botto offered him the same deal that Memphis Curtis Alexander from Memphis Whitehaven, a running back, had received for attending Alabama. Tori said he wanted to accept the deal but Tori's mother adamantly refused!
Botto was questioned VERY early by the FBI. They have known since 2001 whatever he told them. He has never been charged so you assume that he is cooperating with the Feds. They had Lynn Lang, who was NOT cooperating, DEAD-TO-RIGHTS on the original indictments, which was for SOLICITING a bribe. If "Botto" Earnest's story had panned out, they would have indicted Lang for receiving the bribe. They didn't. Instead, they dropped the charges against Lang in exchange for another charge, Racketeering.
Why drop the charges? They were trying to get Logan Young and the ONLY way they could get him was through Lang, not "Botto" Earnest, because they could not prove Kirk's story and what Earnest told them didn't implicate Young. Lang EAGERLY took the plea because they were going to give him NO JAIL TIME on the plea. Look at it from Lang's perspective. There was NO WAY IN THE WORLD he could get out of the original charges. He had at least 5 different college coaches who gave grand jury testimony against him. He was facing serious jail time. If Lang didn't want to go to jail he had to cut a deal.
SO, what does all of this mean? That Milton Kirk is a bald-faced liar. The Feds cannot prove major parts of his story. In fact, Kirk has publicly changed details in his story about 8-9 times. Where does that leave the NCAA? They convicted Alabama on the back of a liar and his story cannot be proven. Happy lawsuits, NCAA.
The key to making the scheme work was the behind-the-scenes involvement of another UT-friendly official, Roy Kramer. Kramer, a great friend of Fulmer and his athletic director, Doug Dickey had gone out of his way to protect UT in the past and had helped them arrange a beneficial football schedule that gave them opportune weeks off before playing their biggest rivals. Kramer shared Fulmer and Dickey's hatred of Alabama and agreed to notify other schools recruiting Means that he was being solicited for a price; all schools that is, except Alabama. With this agreement in place, it was all but assured that Means would be successfully steered to Alabama, sealing the snare and Alabama's fate along with it.
Fulmer followed through with his meeting with Tom Culpepper at the 2000 Hula Bowl, where Culpepper and Fulmer struck up an accord based upon their mutual hatred for Cottrell. Through a little skillful stroking of Culpepper's ego and some promises by Fulmer to help him find a job as a college recruiting coordinator, Culpepper was goaded into revealing some of what he'd learned about the supposed violations at Alabama. Fulmer took mental notes and promised to follow up with Culpepper, who he encouraged to try to find out as much as he possibly could about the violations, particularly those involving Logan Young. Culpepper, who knew Young fairly well, ended up driving him back to Memphis after the Hula Bowl, while Fulmer returned to Knoxville loaded for bear.