SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts on Bama's Calloway
Alabama LB/RB Brent Calloway
Batten down the hatches. It's going to be a wild ride up and down U.S. 280 as Auburn and Alabama fight it out to see who can get the other one in more trouble. The latest dust-up surrounds star LB/RB recruit Brent Calloway, who picked Auburn, switched to the Tide, and now is the subject of some wild mudslinging. The CFN SEC bloggers weigh in.
Barrett Sallee: On what's going on
In case you haven't heard, the Iron Bowl is alive and well in the offseason, and the off-the-field drama is almost as compelling as the battle on the gridiron. The latest dust-up revolves around Alabama signee Brent Calloway, a highly-recruited linebacker/running back from Russellville, Ala. The specifics of this latest saga are numerous, and if you're not well-schooled on the players involved, here's a CliffsNotes version:
- Brent Calloway was a long-time Alabama commit, switched his commitment to Auburn in January of this year, took a surprise trip to Tuscaloosa the weekend before National Signing Day, and signed with the Crimson Tide the following Wednesday.
- On April 7, AuburnSports.com reporter Jeffrey Lee went on WNSP 105.5 in Mobile, Ala. and made several accusations against Alabama and Brent Calloway, including that a person "very involved with the (Tide) athletic department" took Calloway out-of-state shortly before signing day, and that Calloway's adopted father, Harland "Peaches" Winston, received cash payments from this person.
- Two days later, TideSports.com reported that Alabama officials spoke with several principals involved in Calloway's recruitment, found no evidence of violations and doesn't plan to file a report with the NCAA. The report also confirmed that the man Lee was accusing of making a payment to Winston is Russellville businessman Darren Woodruff.
- Monday afternoon Lee fired back with quotes from Doug Goodwin, Calloway's former high school coach, and John Stancil, Woodruff's long-time friend. Among the numerous details in Lee's story, Goodwin is quoted as saying that Calloway told Winston of his decision to go to Auburn, but that, "he [Winston] won't listen to me. He's telling me that I'm going to mess everything up, that I can't do it, that I can't go to Auburn."
Now that you're caught up, here are some thoughts on the saga:
Russ Mitchell: On what this could mean for Bama/the SEC
Obviously IF, and it's a big if at this point, Alabama is found somehow culpable for transgressions in the recruiting of Calloway, then the football program will face some amount of punishment from the NCAA. How many sanctions and how deep the punishment it's just too early to guess at this juncture.
However, the bigger issue might be what this means for the SEC in the never-ending, off-field battle between Capstone and Auburn. As if the poisoning at Toomer's corner wasn't evidence enough, the tension between these two fan bases appears to have reached a tipping point.
It has long been suspected that fans of both schools have kept hints and/or evidence of transgressions to themselves; an "all's fair in love and football" philosophy. However, if the animosity has reached such a crescendo that this home grown omertà is crumbling before us, then this game of you-hit-me-first could easily begin spiraling out of control - and trying to put that genie back in the bottle will be downright bloody, if not impossible. Such a scenario would likely lead to numerous allegations of improprieties; we could be talking about multiple sanctions for both schools.
Worse, supernovas have a way of enveloping the planets and stars around them. If this disintegrates into a full-on mudslinging contest, it might ensnare other SEC schools. All of which would likely have a negative effect on the product that goes on the field, and thus the revenue the conference generates.
It'll be interesting to follow how ESPN and CBS cover this story(ies) given their financial stake in the conference.
Barrett Sallee: On the lightning-quick investigation
Numerous reports state that Alabama officials spoke with several key figures in Calloway's recruitment before determining - with stunning alacrity - that the University committed no violations. But did the University of Alabama talk to Woodruff's longtime friend John Stancil and Calloway's former high school coach Goodwin, the two principals of Lee's latest story? If not, it probably should make a few more phone calls.
On-the-record sources have taken this story to the next level. It's not a rumor anymore, it's an accusation - which is why the University of Alabama jumped the gun in announcing it didn't commit any violations. There's obviously more to it now than there was when the University determined that it was clean, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least bit if even more information trickles out over the next week or two.
Alabama is still on probation as a result of the textbook scandal; it cannot afford to make any mistakes. Which makes the fact that it could open, conduct and close an investigation in 48 hours all the more surprising. One would think the Athletic Department would be a little more cautious since, judging from the latest report, there's more to this story than was initially thought.
Is Bama being baited? It's too early to tell. But either the Alabama compliance department is supremely confident in the findings of its investigation, or its proclamation of innocence might have been a bit premature. Something tells me that we'll find out sooner rather than later.
Gabe Harris: On whether this will have legs like the Cam Newton story
In a word...no. But it will have a different kind of walk.
There may never be another perfect storm like the Cam Newton saga. Newton became the face of the 2010 college football season when his feet touched down in the back of the endzone in Oxford, Miss.
In Newton, college football already had a dazzling talent/personality with a well-documented past, which combined with the ensuing media storm sent his Q-rating through the roof. Add to that the fact he was breaking SEC records and leading an undefeated team to the national championship, and you had a feeding frenzy never before seen in the media. Newton's allegations also happened in the middle of a season, which is rare in and of itself - rarer still were his Heisman and national championship journey.
Brent Calloway is a big-time recruit, but he has yet to enroll at Alabama and most Tide faithful wouldn't recognize him if he walked down their street, much less the national media. There will be a lot of press abut this in the state of Alabama, sure - perhaps even throughout the south. But there's likely to be only a passing mention nationally until the NCAA gets involved in an investigation. With everything that has happened on and off the field, the Iron Bowl rivalry is at an all-time high, and this will create a statewide blitz that will keep some page view counts high.
Another difference between the Calloway and Newton stories are the reputable, on the record quotes from people close to the situation. Plus the willingness of those people to use names/dates. As the season gets closer and Alabama's inevitable top 5 preseason ranking is unveiled, this story will hit a high mark if people are still talking and making allegations. If they aren't, then it will be quickly forgotten once the calendar hits September, and players people actually recognize start blocking and tackling.
Russ Mitchell: On Auburn v. Bama; LET'S GET IT ON!
And so it begins... Batten down the hatches. Hide your kids, hide your wife... Or depending on what he's been up to, hide your husband. It's going to be a wild ride up and down U.S. 280.
First, if this comes as a shock to you, then just stop reading right here and give up - you're far too naive to be an SEC football fan.
Following the rapid resurgence of Alabama football after the hiring of Nick Saban, many a conference observer has noted that the climate in the great state of Alabama was heating up to a boiling point.
In the crazy SEC world of keeping up with the Jones', six straight losses to your hated in-state rival, or watching said rival hoist the crystal ball, is enough to cause one to push the envelope - or shatter it, as the case might be.
The only thing for certain is this: if you think you've seen the last of this story, or future stories about Bama or Auburn cheating, brace yourself. It appears the gloves have come off in the Yellowhammer State. If so, there could be a whole lot of dirty laundry about to be aired... Both ways.
Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @harbabd and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.
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