Crooked College Recruiting

The uproar over Auburn’s Cam Newton’s supposed recruiting violations got me thinking about all the rumors and stories I used to hear back in my broadcasting days.

Stories of violations at Ole Miss were legion and the best one I remember concerned All-Everything guard Richard “Possum” Price.

As the story goes, Price and Ole Miss Coach Johnny Vaught were in the front seat of Vaught’s car. Coach Vaught gave his recruiting pitch then said, “Richard, if you sign with us, this is yours.” Coach Vaught then laid five $1000 bills on the seat. Price thought a minute then scooped up the money and signed on. What a bargain. He was All-SEC, All-American and later became a great pro.

The best recruiting story I ever heard was told by Rex Dockery. You may recall that Coach Dockery was hired as Memphis State’s football coach in the early 80’s. The Tigers fortunes were at rock bottom and Rex had it turned around when he was killed in a plane crash.

He said he was coaching at Texas Tech, when out of the blue he got a call from a money guy who wanted to know if he was planning to go to Miami to recruit Elvis Peacock, one of the top high school running back in the country. “No,” Rex said, “he’s out of our class.”

The money guy wanted to give it a shot, so they met up in Houston to talk strategy the next morning. He gave Rex a case with $100,000 in it and said, “Go get him.”

A short time later, Rex went back to Houston and put the case back on the money guy’s desk. “Sorry,” said Rex, “we came in third. Oklahoma got him for $175,000.”

There are hundreds of these stories out there. Some are rumor. Some are fact.

It is a matter of court record that Keith Lee got $40,000 cash for signing with Memphis State.

And I have it on good authority that Kenny Payne got $76,000 to sign with Mississippi State.

Several years ago, a Melrose wide receiver supposedly got several recruiters together and said, “Gentlemen, the bidding starts at $10,000.”

When Barry Switzer was hired as the coach of the Dallas Cowboys, national sportscaster Brent Musberger observed, “this is the first time Barry has had a salary cap to work with.”

Wilt Chamberlin takes the cake. Wilt was from Philadelphia and was recruited by everybody, but signed with Kansas. The NCAA suspected hanky panky and brought Wilt to NCAA headquarters in Kansas City. They questioned him for eight hours and when they had finished the big boss said, “We don’t believe a thing you have said, but we cant prove it. So go ahead and play for Kansas.” The Jayhawks never did win the national championship and Wilt left after three years to play for the Harlem Globetrotters, then on to the NBA.

And of course, Reggie Bush cheated so bad at Southern Cal, he felt he had to give the Heisman Trophy back. Now, thats crooked.

Written by Jack Eaton, Illustrated by Andrew Chandler

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