Last Thursday, AuburnSports.com owner Jeffrey Lee succeeded in stirring up the state of Alabama into a frenzy with his allegations of Alabama engaging in a pay-for-play scheme to secure the signature of Russellville (AL) RB/LB Brent Calloway this past February. But it didn't take long for fans and fellow journalists (if that's what you want to call Lee) to begin poking holes in his story. And when it came time for Lee to take his scheduled victory lap Friday morning on the same Mobile-based radio show he first went public with his allegations...he was nowhere to be found. According to the hosts, numerous phone calls and text messages to Lee went unreturned.
In fact, just 24 hours later, the rose was so far off the bloom, Lee couldn't show his face anywhere, save for poking his head out on his premium message board to claim he was gathering new information on the story. The rest of the world would not hear from him again the rest of the weekend.
What was Alabama up to during that time? Unsurprisingly, not once did Nick Saban appear before the media and proclaim the report "pure garbage" or call detractors "energy vampires." No, as I suggested they might when the news broke on Thrusday, Alabama moved quickly and quietly to get a handle on the situation. Friday evening, several state news outlets reported that UA compliance department representatives had arrived in Russellville that morning (and possibly sooner) and begun investigating the parties involved: Calloway, his adoptive father Harland Winston, school staff at Russellville High, officials at the bank where Winston's mortgage was held, and buisness owner Darren Woodruff, the "supporter" that Lee refused to name in his allegations, in vintage message board rumormongering form.
By Saturday afternoon, it was all over. And what did they find?
1. They discovered that the mortgage Winston was alleged to have used payments from Woodruff to "catch up on" had actually been paid off a whopping 15 years ago.
2. They found no evidence that Woodruff had purchased a car matching the description in the allegations. Furthermore, school officials claimed Calloway didn't even have a parking space on campus and that they've never seen him driving a car of any kind.
3. They were also able to verify that Woodruff has had a pre-existing relationship with Winston extending back approximately 20 years and had known Calloway since he came to live with Winston prior to his 9th grade year, before Calloway had gained his exceptional notoriety on the football field. (In fact, this information was likely known by UA prior to these allegations coming out, due to the team's policy of "checking out" non-family guests that attend visits with recruits, as Woodruff did many times.)
So what specific allegations are left out there? Obviously, it would be difficult to determine if Winston was in fact paid the paltry sum of $2,500 on any occasion (although you can be sure they checked for any unusual recent purchases) or that Calloway was promised $1,200 a month if he chose UA, but the debunking of the allegations pertaining to the mortgage and the car would seem to deflate those nebulous claims.
The only allegations that were not either completely refuted or refuted by association were those surrounding Woodruff providing transportation for Calloway to numerous visits to Tuscaloosa and Calloway's trip out of town in the days leading up to Signing Day. But what is there to refute? Both Winston and Woodruff have openly acknowledged that Woodruff provided the transportation in question. It is, after all, not against the rules for a non-family member to take a kid on a visit as long as he's not a booster or alumnus, which Woodruff isn't. Nor would it necessarily be against the rules for him to take Calloway on a trip out of state as long as he continues to meet that criteria.
At any rate, even if Woodruff were to get dinged for the transportation on some technicality beyond being a booster or alumnus...it would only be a violation of the minor, secondary variety. (As a precedent, see the case of Brandon Gibson who was suspended 2 games to start the 2008 season as a result of accepting transportation from someone who had been a family friend since 9th grade, who also happened to be a full-fledged UA booster, during his recruitment in 2007. That was a ride on a private plane, by the way.)
So, basically, without the pay-for-play allegations coming to fruition (which they won't), this is all amounting to squat. If you're Jeffrey Lee, what's left to hope for here? A secondary violation, at best? Looks to me like a classic example of "sound and fury, signifying nothing." Told by an idiot. As Shakespeare intended.