Bleacher Report is, as many of you know, a site "by the fans, for the fans."
I'm no exception to this rule, as I will wholeheartedly admit my love for all sports affiliated with Auburn University.
For months now, Auburn and its fans have been ridiculed by Alabama fans for many reasons: Beating them in Bryant-Denny Stadium after trailing 24-0, having a controversial figure at QB in Cam Newton and the recent HBO special where four former players claimed they received payments.
The Crimson Tide faithful preached (ironically when it considers Cam Newton) about how Cam Newton was paid by Auburn and how those HBO players are telling the truth about receiving money and how the football program at Auburn is more corrupt than a fictional government ran by NBA referees.
The fans are quick to point to Auburn booster Bobby Lowder, who has tried to leave a bigger mark on the program than fans at Auburn would like. Lowder actually believes he's Oregon booster and Nike founder Phil Knight or something.
Anyhow, recently, a story broke specifically detailing Alabama's recruitment of star high school player Brent Calloway in the most recent recruiting class.
Jeffrey Lee, a writer at AuburnSports.com, broke the story on the radio this morning, saying that an Alabama fan paid money and gave other benefits to the star recruit so he would sign with Alabama.
Calloway, who committed to Alabama originally, switched his commitment to Auburn. He then talked about how much he loved Auburn and couldn't wait to play there. He then received many death threats through Facebook and Twitter, among wishes that he would get a concussion, break his limbs, etc.
And yet...he signed with the Crimson Tide come National Signing Day.
Now, I don't know if any of this is true or not, and I'm really suspicious seeing the source (an Auburn website), but here are some of the things that allegedly went down according to several sources, including Lee (via mrsec.com and CollegeFootballTalk):
- A supporter of Alabama, not an alumni or booster, was very involved with Calloway and his recruitment. The "supporter" took Calloway to Tuscaloosa numerous times including the last weekend before Signing Day.
- Following Calloway's visit to Tuscaloosa that weekend, the "supporter" drove Calloway out of state, most likely to Florida, and kept Calloway there until returning to Russellville Wednesday for Signing Day.
- Calloway did not attend school during that span, nor did he play in a scheduled high school basketball game.
- Calloway was excused from school from then-superintendent Don Cox, who informed Russellville principal Tim Guinn that Calloway would be excused because he needed the time to make his college choice.
- No other Russellville student received excused absences to make his/her college choice. Cox, who is no longer superintendent, has a very close family member that works in the Alabama Athletics Department.
- Before Calloway's last trip to Alabama before Signing Day, the "supporter" is alleged to have made cash payments to Harland "Peaches" Winston, Calloway's adoptive father who is allegedly a preacher (which is just plain ironic).
- Winston received $2,500 from the "supporter" on at least one occasion. In addition, Winston was also behind on his house mortgage, but made cash payments to catch up and then asked how much it would be to pay off the mortgage.
- The "supporter" also provided Calloway with a new car, which Calloway drove to school. The first day Calloway drove the new car, it raised enough questions that it was taken back by the end of the day. (By the way, here are interesting pictures from Darren Woodruff's Facebook profile. Woodruff is rumored to be the Alabama fan involved: http://media.photobucket.com/image/recent/darrenwoodruff/f3261be7.jpg)
- The car was purchased by the "supporter" from a dealership in Muscle Shoals, owned by another big supporter of Alabama athletics.
- The "supporter" informed Calloway that Calloway would receive $1,200 each month while at Alabama.
Nothing has been proven yet, but those numbers do look pretty specific. Also, this case has people wondering: If he allegedly had this much influence on this recruit, has he affected others?
Flashing back to National Signing Day in February, star tackle Cyrus Kouandjio committed to Auburn on national TV, but didn't sign a letter of intent. After several days, he made a shocking switch to Alabama.
To be fair, his brother plays at Alabama as well. If money had any effect on Kouandjio, who knows, but if it did, the NCAA will find out.
OK, enough with me and my "Barner Conspiracy Theories."
Alabama may be guilty. It may not. Maybe Alabama isn't guilty but will once again feel the wrath of a rogue supporter who cares about wins more than anything (of course, referring to the Albert Means fiasco a decade ago).
Now, while Auburn fans like me had to deal with article after article degrading our team and our school, I said it was poor journalism ethics to be completely biased in your writing, even if you feel that way. I'm the one who said it was wrong to waive around allegations like they're true even when there isn't solid proof.
So, in hindsight, with all the Auburn Family has gone through, I could have used this article to berate Alabama's recruiting tactics. I could have used this space to blast Alabama's program, their fans and tell them that they're going to receive the death penalty for 10,000 years.
But I'm not. I'm no hypocrite, and quite simply, I'm better than that.
Here is my message to you, college football fans. I don't mean Alabama and Auburn fans; I mean fans of ALL 120 FBS schools and all FCS schools and all of the other schools. My message, simply, is to tone down your trash talk whenever your top rival is going through some NCAA trouble.
Alabama fans mocked Auburn for months and now they have a pay-for-play scandal themselves. Oregon fans mocked Auburn for a month leading up to the 2011 BCS title game, and now they're connected with a trainer in Texas for all the wrong reasons. Ohio State fans mocked Michigan for its broken rules while Rich Rodriguez was coach, and now the Buckeyes have already lost their starting QB and top-notch coach for five games thanks to a huge scandal, and that's without the NCAA even making a ruling yet!
When you go to degrade your rival for their alleged broken rules, don't forget that everything is a cycle and your program will be in trouble in the future, and don't think your rival fans will forget your trash talk. You never know when your school will be the one staring into the NCAA barrel.
"Keep your words short and sweet, you never know which ones you'll have to eat."