| FTBL The Crumbling of the Third Saturday (from Oct. 2008. Bumped for look back.)



****The similar threads function brought this thread from '08 up as a suggestion. I'm bumping it. Interesting look back.
You'll notice it's posted by "guest." We on a different software package back then...likely as many as eight or nine packages ago. ~ T

How Boosters and Bankrupt Coaches Brought Down Two Programs, and Forever Tarnished One of College Football’s Greatest Rivalries.

Note: I debated on whether or not to post this article, but I have decided to post it to the forum if nowhere else. This article is not really complete. As I put it together, it became evident that it would have been better had I broken it into sections and done a series. Regardless, I hate putting so much time into something and leaving it unused. I will let others decided whether or not it merits blogging.

In 1998, Tennessee Football was at the height of success in the NCAA. After defeating Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl, The Vols were named National Champions. Philip Fulmer was universally loved by the Volunteer nation, and disliked by most others because of the public perception dealing with his backhanded treatment of Johnny Majors.

In 1999 Alabama was seemingly back. After an early season setback to La. Tech, Alabama turned the corner and twice defeated Florida to win the SEC. The combination of All-American future first rounders Shaun Alexander and Chris Samuels provided a ground game that few could stop, but the season ended with Alabama being out-scored by Michigan in the Orange Bowl. It was the last time Alabama made it to a BCS bowl.

In the fall of 1999, rumors began to swirl surrounding the recruitment of Albert Means - a “can’t miss” defensive line prospect out of Memphis’ Trezevant High School. According to some sources, Mean’s coach (Lynn Lang) was shopping him around, and would not even allow his player to take an official visit without someone paying $5,000. A Michigan State assistant alleged that Lang told him it would cost $200,000 to sign his player. Nevertheless, Means did visit numerous schools, including Georgia and Alabama. It was later revealed that the SEC office warned member schools (with the exception of Alabama) to steer clear of Means. Whether or not the failure to communicate the situation to Alabama had anything to do with SEC commissioner Roy Kramer being a UT alum is a topic of much debate, however connecting the dots does make it likely. Ultimately, Lang assitant Milton Kirk “ratted him out.”

Around national signing day in 2000, prominent UT booster and internet poster Roy Adams began to post detailed information regarding alleged wrongdoing by Alabama regarding the signing of Means. Adams himself had been the subject of NCAA discussion for some time, having admitted to providing illegal inducements and benefits for student athletes. Adams was a long time friend of Alabama booster Logan Young, and apparently a falling out with Young fueled his interest in taking down Alabama. The recruiting scandal as it were, was chronicled in a book released that year, and Memphis Commercial Appeal sports writer Gary Parish released a steady stream of articles related to the “purchase” of Means, that almost paralleled verbatim internet posts made days earlier by Roy Adams. The Vol internet fan base reveled in every word posted by Adams, and some Vol posters went as far as comparing Alabama administration and fans to Al-Qaeda, in the days just following 9/11. Such was the hatred toward Alabama by the Vol fans, fueled by years of playing second fiddle to Alabama (The only major repeat opponent holding a significant lead in a series with UT).

In retrospect, it is clear that there was some sort of connectivity between many of the parties involved in Memphis. The first clue to the direct involvement of Philip Fulmer came in 1999/2000, when he told recruit Santonio Beard not to go to Alabama, because “they will be out of business in a couple of years.”
When another Alabama recruit from Memphis came forward with allegations that he had been offered $20,000.00 by Milton Kirk - to lie about his recruitment by Alabama, the allegation was ignored by the NCAA.

The 2000 season was a disaster for Alabama. It became clear that much of the talent being accumulated by recruiting coordinator Ronnie Cottrell was overrated, and Alabama was signing an inappropriate number of players who had academic or character concerns. Cottrell has come to Alabama from FSU, where he was lauded as being the best recruiter in the nation. In 2000, Alabama Coach Mike DuBose made the strength and conditioning program voluntary, and the results were evident in the first game, where a mediocre UCLA team physically dominated Alabama. As the season progressed, it became apparent that DuBose had lost control of the program, and his termination at season’s end was inevitable.

Following the termination of Mike DuBose, Mal Moore was given free reign to hire his replacement. The board of trustees no longer trusted Alabama president Andrew Sorensen after the way that Bockrath handled the previous hire, and the powers on high placed their faith in Moore. A lot was said about who was and who was not offered the job, but most of it was untrue. Rivals called Franchione “fifthchoiceione,” when in reality, he was the third choice. The first choice was Butch Davis. Make no mistake, Davis was offered the job and had accepted pending a discussion with a pro team, however he received phone calls from Tommy Tuberville and Philip Fulmer, both of whom told him that Alabama was going to be demolished by the NCAA. Having just rebuilt Miami, Davis had no desire to go through the process again, and backed out of his acceptance. Alabama needed a disciplinarian to shape together the mess left by DuBose, and Franchione was actually a good choice. Even though his later actions revealed character flaws, his methodology and approach to coaching enabled him to make Alabama competitive rapidly.

While all of this was going on “on the field,” Alabama was working through the most intensive and thorouth NCAA investigation in history. There was literally no rock left unturned. Alabama thought that they had learned their lesson in 1994 about dealing with the NCAA. In 1994, Alabama was uncooperative, and as a result, the NCAA hammered the Tide for violations akin to jay walking. In 2001 - 2002, Alabama was completely cooperative, and was assured that they would be rewarded with leniency for their cooperation. Gene Marsh, then faculty representative to the NCAA, and Marie Robbins, then director of compliance, bent over backward (even to excess) trying to ferret out any wrongdoing. The course of the investigation often made it appear that Alabama was eating its own, a perception that was not improved when NCAA investigator Rich Johanningmeier was repeatedly accused of threatening current student athletes at Alabama to “turn over the goods of lose their eligibility.” Johanningmeier reportedly would tell players that the NCAA knew of the wrongdoing, and if they did not come clean - the hammer would fall. It was later apparent that his actions were posturing and his threats more suited for corporate loss prevention than a college campus.

Rival programs were benefitting greatly from Alabama’s investigation. While the NCAA had not yet leveled sanctions against the Tide, rivals (notably Auburn and Tennessee) made sure that recruits were aware of the NCAA investigation going on. Tommy Tuberville went so far as to show a recruit a fabricated letter telling Auburn to find a replacement to schedule in place of Alabama, because they were going to receive the “death penalty.”

As the investigation progressed, Roy Adams (aka Tennstud on Gridscape) would post “insider information,” as to the progress and findings. Adams always seemed to know what was going to happen, when, and by who. When telephone records containing phone calls from former Bama assistant to now deceased booster Logan Young were acquired by the NCAA, Young posted the contents within a day. Again it was evident that Adams had an informant on campus.

A book could be written (and probably will be) regarding the web that connected all of the players on the Alabama campus, with the players (including Adams) in Memphis. The truth of the depth that Fulmer was involved may not ever fully be known, however he was known to associate with Adams.

Fast Forward to 2002 and beyond.

When the NCAA handed down the sanctions against Alabama on February 1, 2002, the university was stunned. The NCAA essentially gutted the program, removing 2 bowls and over a signing class worth of scholarships. Additionally, the NCAA lowered the number of players allowed on scholarship. With attrition, this later caused Alabama to fall significantly below the number of scholarship athletes alloted to Division 1AA.

The basis for the hammering of Alabama was while the NCAA did not have any “concrete proof” of wrongdoing regarding Means, they did find a number of secondary violations. Additionally, they deemed that a “spot out” on a secondary finance deal for former linebacker Travis Carroll was an illegal benefit. Carroll had agreed to purchase the Jeep - that had 77,000 miles on it and crash damage, however it was after banking hours so the dealer allowed him to take it pending finance approval (spot outs are common practice). They were unable to get the note bought, and had to repo the vehicle. The deal upset Carroll to the point that he transferred, however the NCAA still deemed the episode to be a major violation. The real keystone to the NCAA argument though, was their treatment of two “secret witnesses” against Alabama. While the use of “secret witnesses” is against the NCAA rules on investigation, Alabama agreed in good faith to let them use whatever they deemed appropriate. The NCAA used the “secret witness” testimony to obtain a “pattern of behavior” by representatives of the University Athletic interest. Based upon the circumstantial evidence surrounding the Means’ case, and with Travis Carroll (and Kenny Smith which for the sake of brevity I am omitting), and numerous less serious violations (some of which were irrelevant), the NCAA had what they considered significant reason to hammer Alabama.

On that faithful Feb 1, NCAA chairman on Infractions Thomas Yeager grandstanded as he announced that “Alabama was staring down the barrel of a loaded gun,” implying that Alabama was lucky to not get the death penalty. Others who were not associated with the investigation would later say that the NCAA greatly overstepped their bounds in the investigation, and that Yeager's grandstanding was out of bounds.

It would take a civil suit to reveal who the secret witnesses were.

Secret Witness #1 was no surprise. Tom Culpepper had been a “recruiting analyst” around the SEC for some time, and it was known by many that he had been in communication with the NCAA. He had lobbied hard for Mike DuBose to hire him as recruiting coordinator, and when DuBose hired Cottrell, Culpepper was livid. Later stories would surface suggesting that Culpepper was unstable, with alleged threats of violence being made. Regardless, photographs showing Culpepper in the company of Philip Fulmer around the time of the investigation into Alabama would later surface. It was also later revealed that Culpepper was in communication with Roy Adams during the same time frame. Culpepper had a vendetta against Alabama, and getting Alabama nailed by the NCAA was a means of payback.

Secret witness #2 was a bit of a surprise. It was none other than Fulmer himself. At best, a rival coach in the same conference - hundreds of miles removed from the campus, could not be considered reliable. Given Fulmer’s statement to Santonio Beard some 3 years earlier, he could hardly be called “impartial.”

So a pattern emerges. Whether or not there was a great orange conspiracy, there was a web between a spurned would-be recruiting coordinator, a UT Booster who was out to get his former friend, and Philip Fulmer. Throw into the equation the recruitment of Eric Locke away from Alabama by Fulmer, along with later stories that it was done for the purpose of trying to dig up dirt on Alabama, and the plot sickens. What begins to be seen is a situation where a rival coach lost sight of his own program. He was more worried about what was going on at Alabama, than he was about what was going on at home.

In taking down Alabama, Fulmer lost control of Tennessee. The aftermath of the Alabama escapade saw Fulmer having losing multiple players to arrests, investigating the rape of a 15 year old mentally handicapped girl by one of his players, an ATM card scandal, a calling card scandal, and countless other off the field issues. The fact is, since his over the top effort at making sure Alabama “was out of business,” Tennessee has declined. From the National Championship team of 1998, to the losing season in 2005 (and seemingly imminent losing season in 2008), UT is a shell of what they were.

Fulmer was afraid that Alabama would get back to full strength and reel off another streak like the 9 seasons from 1986 to 1994. He became obsessed with taking Alabama down, and he succeeded...but he took Tennessee down as well, and the rivalry along with it.

Alabama and Tennessee, the unquestioned top dogs of Southern Football - together make one of the all time great rivalries in the country. They are two of the winningest programs in NCAA history, each holding its share of storied tradition. It is a rivalry that will never be the same. It is without doubt that Alabama's hands were not entirely clean in the Means affair, but the interference of Tennessee was without precedent. A once great rivalry has been forever tarnished, thanks to a secret witness named Fulmer.

According to Pat Dye, hindsight is 50/50. In hindsight, it is obvious that Alabama contributed significantly to its own downfall. As big of a failure as Bockrath and Sorensen were, they wanted to hire Frank Beamer in 1997 - a move that would have produced championships. Simply hiring Beamer would not have meant that the alleged booster wrongdoings would have not occurred, some of them certainly did - and some would have anyway. However the hiring of DuBose set in motion a domino affect of coaching turnover that when combined with NCAA probation, absolutely destroyed recruiting. The most remarkable thing about the period from 2000 to 2007, is that Alabama was never obliterated on the field. Bama's sanctions were worse than those leveled on Miami in the early 90's that resulted in a 60 point loss at the hands of Syracuse.

What is also evident, is that even if there was not a "grand" conspiracy in place involving multiple schools and the SEC office, there was A conspiracy in place involving the Tennessee Volunteer coaches, boosters, and a few key players in Alabama. In 2008, Alabama and Tennesse are divergent programs. After 10 years of bad decision making, Alabama finally made the right choice in hiring Saban. At Tennessee, Fulmer never regained control and the team is sliding further and further away.

Just like losing Tebow to Florida may have ultimately been the best thing that could have happened at Alabama, the NCAA and coaching issues that brought Alabama into a second "dark age," may have ultimately ushered in a new golden era. Still, the knowledge of the part played by Fulmer in Alabama's downfall is impossible to forget. It is known that much (if not most) of his NCAA testimony were false accusations leveled at Alabama. It is said that elephants never forget, and Fulmer's actions will certainly be forever remembered by the Tide faithful.

It is now obvious that Fulmer's obsession backfired. In the years prior to his helping the NCAA make sure that Alabama was "out of business," Tennessee reeled off a seven win streak against the Tide. Since the NCAA leveled Alabama in 2002, Tennessee is 3-3 against Bama - a number that appears to be slipping away from them. Beating Tennessee has always been enjoyable for the Bama nation. Whereas Auburn has always been the "red headed step child," Tennessee represents more of an even match and a greater tradition than Auburn. It was always a hard fought game and both fan bases wanted to win...now, Alabama fans do not just want to win, they want Tennessee destroyed. The rivalry is forever tarnished, but Fulmer's failed attempt at destroying Alabama off the field, makes the victories sweeter.
I will let others decided whether or not it merits blogging.

Definitely merits blogging B_F. Excellent write up. This is a topic I would love to see expounded upon, maybe during the offseason(hint, hint).
Great Read

Blog it and write a book. This is like an intro to a great novel. If Logan Young had lived, he probably could explain the allegations about Albert Means after the time would have expired for his silencing by attorneys. If He had paid $200,000.00 for Means to go to Bama, why did he leave.

Please explore this topic. I know a book editor that would love the opportunity to help.
Big_Fan said:
In taking down Alabama, Fulmer lost control of Tennessee. The aftermath of the Alabama escapade saw Fulmer having losing multiple players to arrests, investigating the rape of a 15 year old mentally handicapped girl by one of his players, an ATM card scandal, a calling card scandal, and countless other off the field issues. The fact is, since his over the top effort at making sure Alabama “was out of business,” Tennessee has declined. From the National Championship team of 1998, to the losing season in 2005 (and seemingly imminent losing season in 2008), UT is a shell of what they were.

Here's a semi-related timeline of Fulmer's shenanigans regarding rampant academic fraud at UT. Of course, there was a lot of wink-wink, nod-nodding going on between Fulmer and his best buds, the NCAA:


It's some good reading, too!
I wonder who blackdogtider is....he posted this article over on Volchat in a way of calling out Tennstud.

That was not the point.

Alabama was not innocent. I don't claim that they were. The way Fulmer handled things AFTER the NCAA got involved was the real problem...and they way UT fans reveled in the actions of a few - leveling attack after attack on the masses of Bama fans who had NOTHING to do with it, was really low class.

As MCP said in the thread on Volchat, it would not hurt my feelings if the series with UT was suspended for a decade.
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