MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Four former Auburn players have told HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” they received thousands of dollars while being recruited by or playing for the Tigers.
Stanley McClover, Troy Reddick, Chaz Ramsey and Raven Gray told HBO for an episode airing Wednesday night that they received cash payments — in book bags, envelopes and even handshakes. Ramsey played at Auburn most recently, in the 2007 season.
Tommy Tuberville, Auburn’s coach during the recruitment of all four players, declined comment Wednesday. He is now the head coach at Texas Tech.
McClover said he “felt totally obligated” to play for the Tigers after getting money — he wasn’t sure how much — in a book bag.
“I almost passed out. I literally almost passed out, I couldn’t believe it was true,” the former defensive end told HBO. “I felt like I owed them.”
McClover said he later received $7,000 from an unidentified Auburn booster for a 1973 Chevrolet Impala and would get sacks of money, typically $300 or $400, after games. He said he got four bags totaling $4,000 after logging four sacks against rival Alabama in 2004, when he was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference player.
The Associated Press reviewed an advance copy of the hour-long program. Efforts to reach the four former players were unsuccessful.
“Auburn Athletics respectfully declines to comment on these alleged claims apparently made by a few former football players,” a statement from the school said. “Compliance with all NCAA and Southeastern Conference rules is a major emphasis and top priority for all of our athletic programs at Auburn University.”
Former Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves said he was never aware of McClover or any other teammates receiving improper payments.
“I just think it was totally and utterly ridiculous to go and say something like that about the school that gave you so much and then be mad because of selfish reasons,” Groves, who is now a Raiders linebacker, told AP in a phone interview Wednesday. “I have no words for them.”
He said McClover “was like a brother to me.” Groves said he saw his former teammate two weeks ago in Miami, and that McClover only told him HBO was doing a special on his charity.
“I said, ‘OK, that’s cool. Did you say anything else?”’ Groves said. He said McClover responded, “Nah, I just told them about my life.”
Groves said HBO contacted him and at least nine other former Auburn players for the report.
Asked if he was ever paid at Auburn, Groves responded: “Never. The only thing I got from Auburn is great memories and the Auburn (career) sack record.”
McClover’s 2004 teammate Junior Rosegreen, who also went to Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said McClover bought the car with money from a Pell Grant and that it didn’t cost $7,000.
“That is bogus,” said Rosegreen, who called McClover “a damn storyteller.”
McClover, who spent two years at Auburn before turning pro after the 2005 season, also said he received cash during “money handshakes” with LSU and Michigan State and received sexual favors during a visit to Ohio State.
In a statement, Michigan State spokesman John Lewandowski said, “Our compliance office was never alerted to this alleged handshake.”
Ohio State spokeswoman Shelly Poe said the school had no comment because the “the report is so far back and so many years ago and he’s just coming forward with it.” She said the incident described would have violated “our policies in the NCAA.”
Joe Alleva, LSU’s vice chancellor and athletic director, said the school would not comment but added that LSU “vigorously enforces NCAA and SEC rules and we work diligently to educate boosters on NCAA rules compliance.”
Lee Ziemba, a starter at left tackle on last season’s national championship team, tweeted Tuesday night that the story was a “couple former players lying to bring our past season down. Keep dreaming fellas.”
Former Auburn lineman Bret Eddins played with Reddick and McClover. He said he’s talked to former teammates and “none of us ever remember seeing anything like this. Nothing like that happened to us.”
Reddick, an Auburn offensive lineman from 2002-05, said he initially turned down “a large sum of money” offered “by a representative of a local alumni.” He said Auburn later urged him to change his major so classes didn’t interfere with football and that when he was unhappy and threatened to leave, an unidentified coach asked him to come up to his office for “some mail.”
“I followed him up to his office and he gave me an envelope,” Reddick told HBO. He said it contained “about like $500” and that he received two or three more payments that season and six or seven as a senior.
Reddick also said he sold his Southeastern Conference championship watch right after a celebration following the 2004 season to help his sister avoid foreclosure on her home.
Gray, who missed the 2008 season with a knee injury and never played for the Tigers, said he received $2,500 to $3,000 from what he described as an Auburn representative when he was being recruited out of junior college. “This man’s giving me money, I’m going to be loyal to him and go to Auburn,” Gray said.
Ramsey said he was paid $5,000 to $6,000 while at Auburn.
“You walk out (after games) and all the fans are waiting for (players) to sign autographs and some random guy just walks up to you and shakes your hand and it’s a wad full of money,” said Ramsey, adding that he was given $300 or $400 a game.
Ramsey had a career-ending back injury following the 2007 season and later filed suit against Auburn’s then-head athletic trainer saying that an aggressive rehabilitation program worsened the problem. He lost the suit and is appealing, according to The Birmingham News.