Monday, October 30, 2017

Arkansas Football & Star Players: The Recruits

 Note: At this time, the tables which are found in the original post have not been migrated over.  If you wish to have a copy of them until they are placed here, please email me at The "Table ID" references are left in place for  reference.  Originally published April 28, 2012

     The ultimate question is whether a college football team must sign some number of four and five star recruits as a prerequisite to winning a college football national championship. The issue percolated in Bobby Petrino's first recruiting classes, died down, and then rose to the surface again with Arkansas' 2012 football recruiting class. Now the issue for the Arkansas Razorbacks has been to preserve the percieved recruiting gains under the Petrino era as the Hogs have John L. Smith as an interim coach for the next 10 months. Competing against the beliefs that four and five star recruits are must-haves for national championship contention and that inadequate recruiting classes will not produce a national championship are that players' skills and talents and precise ways of evaluating talent will produce results. But the answer won't be found internally because it requires understanding more about College Football.

      Facing somewhere around 7,500-8,000 lines of data representing all of and's four and five star recruits from 2002 through 2012, this series' first post examined the broad landscape of four and five star recruits since 2002 for both and recruits. Arkansas Football & Star Players: The Prospects We condensed the information into summaries of each service's four and five star prospects by state, position, year, and ultimately derived the number of four and five star recruits for each state plus its adjoining states. Without question, the SEC is in the heart of the best college football prospects in the country.

Schools and Four and Five Star Recruits from 2002-2012

   At the bottom of this post are detailed charts with Rivals' and Scout's four and five star recruits for 2002-2012 for all schools which signed four or five star commitments.** As basic information, Rivals shows five star recruits committing to a total of 56 schools over the last 11 years, or just under one-half of all DI college football programs reeled in at least 1 five star recruit over the last 11 years. Rivals four star recruits made it to a total of 105 college football programs but don't mistake those programs for being exclusively Division I programs. Tennessee State, Southern Utah, Princeton, and Georgia Southern hit the chart.  Moving over to Scout, 67 schools have reeled in at least one five star recruit since 2002 with some of these recruits attending the mid-major schools. Even Hofstra, whose football program was terminated after its 2008 five star recruit managed to be listed here. 108 schools have recruited at least one four star recruits.

      Only 14 schools from 2002 through 2012 have 10 or more five star recruits, representing almost 1 five star signee each year.  In order from the highest to lowest, they are:  USC (38), Florida (29), Florida State (24), LSU (20), Texas (20), Miami (FL) (18), Tennessee (18), Alabama (17), Oklahoma (16), Ohio State (15), Georgia (13), Michigan (12),  Notre Dame (11), and Auburn (10).  These fourteen schools account for 68% of all Rivals five star commitments from 2002 through 2012.

      The bigger question for those schools not on the list of schools with almost 1 Rivals five star recruit per year is whether they can break into that group. When the last five year averages are compared to the overall 11 year averages, the same number of schools, 14, have at averaged at least 1 Rival five star recruit per year.  The list has only one change in that Clemson, with its 2011 recruiting class with 4 Rivals five star recruits, plus one from 2008, takes Tennessee's spot on the list as the Vols have had only 3 Rivals five star recruits in the last five years.   Otherwise, the schools remain the same and only their order changes.  USC(14), Florida (14), Alabama (14), Florida State (11), LSU(10), Ohio State (9), Texas (8), Miami (FL) (7), Georgia (7), Notre Dame (7),  Oklahoma (6),   Auburn (6), Michigan (5),   and Clemson (5).   If anything, these schools have tightened their grip on the best players by signing 123 of the 158 five star Rivals recruits over the last five years, i.e. 77.8% of all five star recruits.

     Looking at the information another way, with 1 five star Rival recruit being the set standard per year, only ten schools in college football averaged 1 five star Rival recruit in the time period from 2002-2007 and then again in the period of 2008-2012 : Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami (FL), Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, and USC. Four schools, Alabama, Auburn, Notre Dame, and Clemson each logged Rivals five star recruits from 2002-2007 but increased the number of five star recruits over the threshold level of one per year from 2008-2012 while Tennessee failed to average one five star player from 2008-2012 while averaging more than two per year from 2002-2007.

[table id=196 /]

      Regarding Rivals four star recruits, the total number of recruits attending schools have fairly clear groupings.  At the top of the list is the University of Texas with 142 Rivals four star recruits.  After Texas comes a grouping involving LSU, Oklahoma, Florida, Florida State, USC and Georgia who each have signed between 133 and 126 Rivals four star recruits since 2002.  The next grouping has Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Tennessee, Auburn, and Miami (FL) who have had 114 to 104 Rivals four star recruits each.  Below that, the groupings taper off drastically.  Notre Dame is the only school in the 90s (94). UCLA is the only in the 80s (80).  South Carolina, Clemson, Penn State, and Oregon are in the 70s.  Nebraska and Texas A&M are in the 60s with North Carolina showing to be the only other school averaging at least 5 Rivals four star recruits per year from 2002 through 2012.   These top 23 schools account for almost 64% of all Rivals four star recruits.
When all eleven years of recruiting are compared to the last five years, none of the schools in the eleven-year list above fell off the list when considering whether they have at least 5 Rivals four star recruits per year for the last five years.   Five schools, however, make their way onto the list of those averaging 5 four star recruits for the last five years.  They are Oregon, Ole Miss, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Stanford.

      When 2002-2007 is compared to 2008-2012, only Virgina previously recruited on average five four star players per year in the first six years and then failed to do so more recently.

[table id=197 /]

      Over the last 11 years 17 teams have recruited an average of one five star recruit per year. Those teams are: USC (54), Florida (44), Texas (38), Florida State (34), Oklahoma (33), Ohio State (29), Miami (FL) (28), Georgia (26), LSU (24), Tennessee (20), Michigan (19), Notre Dame (19) Alabama (16), Auburn (16), Pittsburg (11), South Carolina (11), and Penn State (11). Altogether they account for 444 of all five star recruits from 2002-2012 or 71% of all five star recruits, leaving the other 50 schools who have been fortunate enough to land five star recruits to share the remaining 179 five star recruits over the last 11 years.

      Like the analysis for Rivals above, from 2002 through 2007, the following 19 schools recruited at least one Scout five star recruit per year: USC , Florida, Miami (FL), Texas , Oklahoma, Tennessee, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Georgia, Ohio State, Virginia, Penn State, Notre Dame, Auburn, Pittsburg, South Carolina, Mississippi and Illinois. Over the last five years Illinois, Mississippi, Penn State, Virginia and Tennessee fell out of the ranks of those teams recruiting at least one five star recruit per year while Alabama (14), Oregon (5), UCLA (7), and Clemson (5) eclipsed that mark. Of the “new additions” over the last five years, for the most part the teams are not recruiting much differently than they were from 2002 through 2007. Oregon had 5 five star recruits from 2002 -2007 and 5 five star recruits from 2008-2012. UCLA and Clemson each had 4 five star recruits in the earlier period. Only Alabama has changed its recruiting drastically having only 2 Scout five star recruits from 2002-2007 but scoring 14 over the last five years. On the negative side, Tennessee plummeted from 17 five star Scout recruits from 2002-2007 to only 3 over the last five years. It’s hard not to wonder whether Alabama’s increase of 12 over the last five years and Tennessee’s decrease of 14 are directly related given that they are neighboring states in the same conference. Virginia’s program reeled in 8 Scout five star recruits from 2002-2007 but only managed 1 over the last five years, and Illinois fell from 6 in the first six years down to none in the last five. However, those are the extremes of the negative side. Ole Miss is down 2 five star recruits and Penn State is down three.

      Over the last 11 years 22 teams convinced at least 5 four star prospects to commit to their schools per year. Texas (119), LSU (112), Florida (109), Ohio State (105), USC (102), Michigan (101), Alabama (98), Oklahoma (96), Auburn (94), Tennessee (93), Notre Dame (93), Georgia (91), Florida State (89), Miami (FL) (85), UCLA (73), Penn State (71), Oregon (67), Texas A&M (65), California (64) South Carolina (61), North Carolina (55), and Clemson (55). Showing that Scout four star recruits are more diverse in their choices, altogether the 22 schools accounted for 60.6% of all Scout four star recruits from 2002-2012.

      From 2002-2007 20 teams averaged at least 5 four star recruits per year: Florida, Texas, LSU, Tennessee, Miami (FL), Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Florida State, USC, Auburn, Georgia, UCLA, Texas A&M, California, South Carolina, Penn State, Nebraska and Arizona. Fast forward to 2008-2012, only South Carolina, Nebraska and Arizona failed to average 5 four star recruits per year having 23, 21, and 7 Scout four star recruits over the last five years. However, Oregon, Alabama, North Carolina, Clemson and Stanford gladly added to their Scout four star recruits and joined the ranks of those with an average of 5 Scout four star recruits per year. North Carolina pulled in 27 while Clemson and Stanford had 33 each and Oregon had 38. All of this leads up to the elephant in the middle of the recruiting room. Alabama hauled in 70-four-star-recruit-team from 2008-2012 which is an increase of AN AVERAGE OF 9.3 Scout four star recruits per year.

      The necessary, mind-numbing number review above allows us to make observations about college football recruiting based generally on facts and not guesses.

• Roughly two-thirds of the elite five star football recruits consistently take their talents to approximately 15% of Division I schools.

• 85% of the Division I football programs share the remaining one-third of the five star athletes.

• About one-half of all Division I teams will not have a five star recruit over a decade.

• Approximately 20% of the Division I schools recruit between 60-70% of all four star athletes.

• Although slightly broader than the list of schools reeling in most of the five star recruits, schools getting the bulk of four star recruits are the same.

• Around 85-90 BCS and FCS teams share between 30-40% of all four star recruits.

With only very limited exceptions, sustained and substantial changes in the schools and in the number of schools recruiting of four and five star athletes recruited over the last eleven years has not happened. Said another way, the numbers of four and five star football players attending any particular school may vary from one year to the next (or even spike, see Clemson’s Rivals five star recruits in 2011), but based upon the last eleven years, there is little variation over time for the vast majority of schools.

• BCS Champions from 2002 through 2012 have only come from teams with the most four and five star recruits over the last eleven years.

BCS Champion Standards Regarding Four and Five Star Recruits

     Although any number of rating systems exist to quantify the quality of a recruiting class, the simple method of multiplying the number of four star recruits for a school’s class by four and the number of five star recruits by five and adding them together suffices here. Since we are dealing with two recruiting services, the composite scores for each service are added together. This simple method allows us to make uniform comparisons from one recruiting class to the next across different teams and to set standards.

      No one is in a twist about three star recruits who are much more plentiful in number, and for this evaluation, the quantification is limited to four and five star recruits.

     The BCS Champion teams from 2006 through 2011 are listed below using this method. As one last detail, the previous five years of recruits are considered for each team so that no recruit with potential to impact on-the-field play is omitted. These six teams have composite scores ranging from a low of 462 by Auburn’s 2010 championship club to a high of 644 for Florida’s 2008 squad. For the moment, 462 is the minimum target number for BCS Champions.

2011 Alabama 638
2010 Auburn 462
2009 Alabama 496
2008 Florida 644
2007 LSU 599
2006 Florida 555

      At this point it seems virtually certain that recruiting four and five star players is the only way to the BCS Championship, doesn’t it? From the first post the schools which came from the areas closest to the highest numbers of prospects have been the only ones to win the BCS Championships over the last 11 years and moreover, BCS Champions have only come from the small percentage of schools who recruit the most four and five star athletes. However, the presence of four and five star players on any given roster as recruited over the previous five years does not ensure success at the end of a season nor does the lack of presence of four or five star players on any given roster guarantee failure.

Teams, Four and Five Star Recruits over the Last 5 Years, and Final Associated Press Rankings

The following chart takes all teams which have recruited four or five star players as designated by either service, formulates the composite number representing both Scout and Rivals recruiting classes for the previous five seasons, and places each schools’ AP Final Rank next to each school.

[table id=198 /]

With some study…
• Frequently teams have composite four and five star recruit scores higher than the BCS Champion. (2011- Texas and Florida; 2010 – a dozen schools; 2009- nine schools; 2008- none; 2007- one; 2006- two)
• Teams with low four and five star recruit composite scores may be highly-ranked at the end of a season.
2011- Oklahoma St. ranked 3rd with a 29th best score while No. 5 Arkansas had the 27th.

2010 – No. 2 TCU had the 62nd best score, No. 4 Stanford had the 35th, and lowly No. 11 Nevada had the 104th.
2009 – With recruiting composites of 65, 66, and 67 TCU was AP No. 6, Cincinnati No. 8, and Boise St. AP No. 4. Also, with a composite score of 0 Central Michigan was No. 23.
2008- AP No. 2 Utah scored 57th while No. 7 TCU scored 69th.
2007- Missouri was No. 4 in the A.P. Final Poll with a composite score that was 45th best.
2006- A.P. No 7 Wisconsin ranked 51st while A.P. No. 6 Louisville, Bobby Petrino’s team, was 45th.
• Teams with top recruiting ranks may be unranked at the end of the season.

2011- Florida, Texas, and Ohio State
2010- Florida, Texas, USC, and Georgia
2009- Georgia and Florida State
2008- LSU and Michigan
2007 & 2006 – Florida State and Miami

      Through the lens of recruiting the best College Football players, two worlds exist with little exchange between the two. Teams that currently sign the best college football players for the most part are the same teams which recruited the best college football players 11 years ago. These are traditional powerhouse programs and long-standing names in college football. Some have huge stadium capacities or are nestled in glitzy cities, or are schools located in prime high school recruiting areas. There is little indication that any school not already in that elite group of schools can take a place in that group; for instance, despite Tennessee being down now, it could return as Alabama has, but Boise State has never been there and likely never will be there despite its success. For schools in the group, recruiting can take the team far and can produce success but it is no guarantee of success. For schools not in that group, fans can hope that their team will find a place there.

      The reality gives rise to the second world of College Football. Becoming one of the recruiting elite is a worthy effort, but more current success will not come strictly from recruiting better players because there is no evidence that any school can manage a sustained, long-term increase in recruiting elite athletes. For all of the concern that the University of Arkansas fans have expressed regarding recruiting success during the Bobby Petrino years, the reality is that the Razorbacks have averaged an additional 1.3 four star recruits per year over the last five years compared to the previous six under Houston Nutt. In essence the Hogs have five more four star players. Recruiting five star players remained about the same. Teams in the second world like Arkansas, Oregon, Stanford, and Clemson must develop players, find great unrecognized players, or have unique and creative schemes to overcome the disparity in recruiting. These teams can have success although the scant data has yet to show one that has accomplished a BCS Championship.

      To boil it down, elite recruiting teams can go a long way with recruiting. Everyone else must hunker down and find a way. -- Sharp

**I apologize in advance for what appears to be a lack of sorting capacity. The size of the charts matters, and these are too large. As a caveat, these numbers are as accurate as they can be within reason. A number of recruits for each service continued to have multiple schools listed as of 2012 even though they were recruited years ago. Some were recruited, signed, placed at a junior college, or were part of the class and then came back or went to another school in a subsequent year. As another observation, these numbers are for signees. As observed in the first post, some percentage of players (estimated at 4% ) are duplicated. Further this post doesn’t take into account the practice of over-signing.

On the other hand, in the time shortly after a class is signed, the airwaves and print are filled with a wide varieties of opinions and rankings of each recruiting class. Some will try to project which players will actually make it to campus, and some don’t. The fate of some signees isn’t known until the end of the summer. The point is that none of these imperfections, or in data terms, “error”, stop the regular practice of evaluating recruiting classes. These numbers should be considered accurate for the purposes of trying to understand which schools get four and five star commitments and how those commitments impact the bottom line.

Have Those Around Auburn Ever Quit Paying Players?

Many thanks go to ThrowItDeep from for asking questions which take me down this road.  Originally published May 7, 2011. 

      Auburn University's athletics history of NCAA rules violations can do nothing but make their current investigations both more shocking and less shocking at the same time. Stretching back at least 55 years, those around Auburn’s football and basketball teams have repeatedly pushed or blatantly violated rules, both admittedly and provable in the face of denial, to entice athletes to play for Auburn. The time before 1979 appears to provide the mindset for what occurs later.  But since then, despite repeated major infractions the issue is legitimately posed as to whether those around Auburn University have ever quit paying players.

      In the earliest days of college football, “scholarships” meant “academic scholarships.”   Articles suggest that Auburn (originally, Alabama Polytechnic Institute Plainsmen) and others, mainly Southern schools, regularly gave players academic scholarships with little or no requirements upon the player to make progress toward a degree. Others arranged for classes at less than a college-level.  Depending upon their own criteria, boosters or boosters' organizations might pay money or things of value for things such as tuition, room and board, regular expenses, more than regular expenses or occasionally in exchange for an agreement to attend school at the booster’s institution.  Whether in the form of a scholarship or some other kind of payment, the exchange of money was called “subsidizing” players.  In the early leagues transportation and communication necessitated that conferences wielded power, so logically, when southern teams wanted to provide players with legitimate athletic scholarships, deep south schools split from the Southern Conference to form the Southeast Conference.  They adopted uniform athletic scholarship rules including academic progress provisions for conference members and banned non-scholarship practices of “subsidizing” players. By 1952 significant numbers of people supported athletic scholarships as having a place in a well-rounded education, and transportation and communication had developed to the point that the NCAA's time had come to establish and enforce nationwide, uniform rules regarding player eligibility.

     Within four years after the NCAA enforcement structure began in January 1952, Auburn found itself in hot water for the first time. Auburn head coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan had begun his tenure in 1951.  On May 2, 1956, the NCAA infractions council hit Auburn football with the most severe sanctions given to any school in short history of rules enforcement committee.  An Auburn assistant coach gave $500 each to two twins to entice them to go to Auburn.  Auburn, Florida, and Louisville Put On Probation, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, May 3, 1956, p. 13, via Google News Archive.  The penalty consisted of three years probation, no participation in NCAA Championship events or invitational events, and a television blackout.  The council also recommended expulsion for additional transgressions during the probation period.   $500.00 in 1952 was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000.00 in 2010 and 2011. (See,,, and’s inflation calculators for 1952 to the present.)  While on NCAA probation Auburn’s 1957 football team managed a 10-0 record and was awarded the national championship from the Associated Press and others.  Auburn National Championships,
Even though more rules violations came while Auburn remained on probation, once again the headlines read, “NCAA Slaps Probation on Auburn,Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 22, 1958, p. 22 via Google News Archive.  Tacked on to the Plainsmen’s previous three-year probation was yet another three-year probation.  They were barred from all NCAA post-season play and NCAA title contests for the same time period.   For the second time penalties resulted because Auburn “offered illicit financial aid for the benefit of [the athlete] and his family.”  As explained by Walter Byers, executive director of the NCAA, “The penalty against Auburn was doubly hard…because the school knew and alumnus offered the illegal aid to the player and must be held responsible.”

    After spending 5 or 6 of the first 9 years of the existence of the NCAA enforcement committee on probation, when Auburn’s probation ended toward the end of the 1961 season, it was 17-18 years before Auburn would come under NCAA scrutiny again but that is not the same as avoiding any scrutiny.  The SEC investigated Auburn after a former Alabama player, Sidney Roche of Columbus, GA claimed that he and another player, Ken Emerson (who denied the allegations), were offered money, a new car and clothing to play for the Tigers during his recruitment prior to the 1967 season.  Roche was quoted as saying, “It was as if we signed it would be $1,000 then, we’d get $1,000 that summer apiece and that every year at school we’d get $1,000 during the season and another $1,000 at Christmas and that we’d have a new care our sophomore year.”  Interestingly, the article also reports, “At Auburn, the athletic director Jeff Beard, and an assistant coach, Gene Lorendo, denied the charge.”   Gridder Claims Auburn Offered Pay to Play, (AP) Daytona Beach Morning Journal, September 11, 1970, p. 21 via Google News Archive. By January 7, 1971 the SEC cleared Auburn of any wrongdoing.  SEC Grants Clean Bill On Roller Investigation, Gadsden Times, Gadsden, Alabama, January 7, 1971, p. 15, via Google News Archive.

     Initial indications in July of 1978 were that Auburn football and basketball recruiting violations were being investigated all the way back to 1971.  SEC will assist Auburn probe, (AP), The Tuscaloosa News, July 12, 1978, p. 21 via Google News Archive. “Red Bamberg,” an Auburn University Trustee called one allegation “a pretty silly one” and said, “The NCAA’s rules are too stringent.  I believe every university is guilty. Some schools are caught and some are uncaught.”  NCAA investigating Auburn, (AP), Lewiston Morning Tribune, July 12, 1978, p. 2B via Google News Archive.

      The “pretty silly” allegations over rules which were “too stringent” consisted of 18 individual rules infractions in football and basketball resulting in Auburn’s teams being placed on two years of probation, a television ban for the 1979 season, and a post-season ban for the 1979 season.  Auburn’s probation would end on April 24, 1981.  The Associated Press wrote:

In accordance with the “show cause” provision of the NCAA enforcement program, Auburn has disassociated itself from two former football coaches and will not accept recruiting assistance from seven representatives of its athletic interests during the probationary period.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions found in its investigation of the university “a pattern of deliberate violations on the part of certain representatives of the university’s athletic interests”…

The 16 violations, dating back to 1974, cited 21 instances of improper recruiting practices within the Auburn football program as well as 11 cases within the basketball program.  In addition, one instance of improper aid to a football player already at the university was cited.

The infractions committee listed several cases in which a prospective football or basketball player was offered clothing, money or an automobile to attend Auburn.  In at least two cases, a player was offered all three.

In another instance, a football player was offered cash and his mother a washing machine, money and a round-trip air fare between her home and the university.

Auburn teams put on probation, (AP), The Bangor Daily News, May 11, 1979, p. 11, via Google News Archive. Allegations going back to 1974 were at the end of Shug Jordan’s twenty-five-year reign as Auburn’s head coach which ended after the 1975 season. Although the dates of the allegations aren’t named in detail in the referenced article, it is implied that they didn’t occur solely on Shug Jordan’s watch.   One has to wonder whether Las Vegas would have posted a proposition bet on whether Auburn would make it out of its probation period without any additional NCAA violations.  A bettor would have lost by picking Auburn to make it out of probation before anything else occurred.

     By November 1980 the NCAA Infractions Committee found several rules violations occurring after the NCAA placed Auburn on probation mainly related to the conduct of an Auburn booster.  NCAA to extend Auburn probation for more violations, (UPI), Eugene Register-Guard, November 18, 1980, p. 5D, via Google News Archive. Auburn went on probation in May of 1979. The NCAA found, among other things, that only six months later “in November 1979 a booster offered cash to a prospective recruit in exchange for his signature on a conference letter of intent” and in “the same month the booster offered to purchase a recruit’s complimentary football tickets in excess of their face value and arrange for a job following graduation from high school.”  The player was Steve Booker who accused an Auburn booster of offering him $300 and other illegal inducements and who went on to play at the University of Texas. Texas has AU connection, Gadsden Times, September 14, 1983, p. B2-6 via Google News Archive. Somehow the NCAA determined that the booster’s actions were isolated incidents and merely extended the Tigers’ probation a little more than five months, which did not effect any post-season play for the 1981 season. However, after the 1980 season Auburn Coach Doug Barfield was gone, and on January 3, 1981, Auburn hired as head football coach and athletic director, Pat Dye, who had resigned as Wyoming’s head football coach during the previous month. Pat Dye Named Auburn's Coach, UPI, New York Times, January 4, 1981 Dye was a Georgia native and UGA alum who coached as an assistant under Bear Bryant at Alabama.  In hindsight, Dye hardly seems like a man hired to come into the Auburn program and bring it into compliance.

     After having extremely successful seasons (with 9 wins in 1982 & 1984, going 11-1 in 1983 and 10-2 in 1986), Auburn football started to wobble before the fall.  Surely to have been Cam Newton's inspiration in 2010, during the 1987 season Auburn quarterback Jeff Berger was described as having “more lives than a cat with a death wish” after having his eligibility restored for the third time during the season because he accepted “an illegal free airplane ride for a hunting trip Oct. 11.” For Auburn's Burger, where's the justice?, College Notebook by Steve DeShazo, The Free Lance-Star, Fredricksburg, Virginia, October 30, 1987, p. 13  via Google News Archive. More was to come.
In December 1987, senior cornerback Kevin Porter revealed his association with a sports agent. For that, Auburn suspended Porter for the Tigers’ Sugar Bowl appearance against the Syracuse Orangemen.  However, Alabama prosecutors charged Porter’s sports agent Jim Abernathy with misdemeanor counts of commercial bribery, tampering with a sports event, and violation of the deceptive trade law, and Porter was called to testify in March, 1988.  He revealed that payments to him actually occurred before the 1987 football season which potentially jeopardized Auburn’s season and Sugar Bowl revenue for playing an ineligible player. The trial also featured testimony from someone well-known to us,  Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter Chris Mortensen regarding sports agents and college football. Porter testifies in agents' trial, by Kendal Weaver of the Associated Press, The Times-News, March 1, 1988, p. 16, via Google News Archive.

      Hardly three months later, around June 15, 1988, Auburn and Pat Dye inked a four-year contract which included an annuity that could be worth up to $1,000,000 dollars when Dye retired.  Sports Et Cetera -- Compiled by Vincent Butler from AP, The Milwaukee Journal, June 16, 1988, p. 2C. Dye’s contract and annuity were a ho-hum “sports extras” until August 3, 1988, when Bob Dare, the father of heavily recruited high school lineman, Charlie Dare, publicly accused Pat Dye himself making illegal inducements in exchange for Dare’s signature. Keep in mind that this was an accusation against Auburn’s head football coach and athletic director because Dye held both positions.  Dare’s father accused Dye of promising that Charlie Dare’s grades and ACT scores would be good enough for the younger to enter Auburn.  On the day prior to this article, The Huntsville Times reported details from anonymous sources that the ACT would have been taken in Florida with the relative of one of Auburn’s assistant coaches.  In fact, Auburn assistant Bud Casey had a brother-in-law who was a director of ACT testing at a Florida high school.   When questioned about the circumstances, Auburn officials revealed that they had begun an internal investigation into a recruiting matter about six weeks previously, which coincided with Pat Dye’s contract extension. Father of Recruit Says Pat Dye Made Improper Offer, (AP) Waycross Journal-Herald, August 5, 1988, p. 6, via Google News Archive. Pat Dye denied the charges, sometimes with a smile (Auburn's Dye unconcerned with charges, (AP) The Gadsden Times, Gadsden, AL, May 10, 1989, p. C1, via Google News Archive) while Auburn suspended assistant Bud Casey, and Robert Dare complained that Auburn engaged in personal attacks on him.   Dare Blames Auburn for 'Smear Campaign' , (AP) The Gadsden Times, August 14, 1988, p. C1, via Google News Archive. Ultimately the NCAA did not find enough evidence to support the allegation, but it was nothing more than a battle in a larger war. Profile of UA's Dye-hard enigma, (AP) The Gadsden Times, November 8, 1989, p. D4, via Google News Archive.

     It wouldn’t be known publicly for another three years or so, but it was almost certainly known in advance what Auburn basketball player Chuck Person would say in sworn deposition testimony provided in July, 1988.  (Again, Dye inked a new contract the month before.) He testified that he received payments from an Auburn booster as early as 1982 and also received several other payments before his eligibility completed.  Tapes support Auburn payment allegations, (AP) The Post and Courier, North Charleston, S.C., October 21, 1991, p. 6-C, via Google News Archive.  After the Montgomery Advisor broke Person’s story and the details regarding Eric Ramsey, below, it so infuriated Pat Dye that he urged fans not to buy the newspaper or its advertisers, and later, he denied it was a call for a boycott. Auburn AD urges boycott of newspaper, (AP) The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, October 26, 1991, p. 5, via Google News Archive. However, for all the unrighteous anger Pat Dye summoned, he could not stop the first shoe from falling.  “The infractions committee found a number of recruiting violations in the basketball program: providing gifts and benefits; offering to assist in obtaining a car loan; exceeding the number of allowed visits; falsifying the time when a national letter-of-intent was signed; and providing improper transportation.” Auburn basketball was barred from the NCAA tournament which brought with it a prohibition from even playing in the SEC tournament.  Once again, an Auburn assistant coach was disciplined. NCAA Slaps Auburn with 2-year Probation, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota, Florida,  November, 19, 1991, p. 4C, via Google News Archive.

     Separately from Person and Auburn basketball, the Tigers’ cornerback Eric Ramsey figuratively had Pat Dye, Auburn football, and institutional control by the balls.  Ramsey secretly taped his conversation(s) with Pat Dye, (see, Tapes support above) and after revealing possession of those tapes, Auburn administrators chose to ignore allegations of multiple students that Ramsey cheated in a class.  Auburn professors detail earlier threats Eric Ramsey Made, (AP) The Gainesville Sun, December 22, 1991, p. 5C, via Google News Archive. The twisted beginning of the end of Pat Dye’s tenure at Auburn came as excerpts of Ramsey's tapes aired in the 60 Minutes episode just prior to Christmas, 1991.  60 Minutes airs parts of Ramsey's tapes, (AP) The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, December 23, 1991, p. 20, via Google News Archive. The tapes were not so significant for what Pat Dye said, because he did not verbally incriminate himself, but as both the head football coach and athletic director, he made no further inquiry when Ramsey suggested he received improper benefits. Even for a head football coach/athletic director in denial, Pat Dye could see the signs.

      On April 30, 1992, Pat Dye resigned as Auburn’s AD.  Dye quits as Auburn's AD, The Milwaukee Journal, May 1, 1992, p.C-3, via Google News Archive. Giving himself one more football season, Pat Dye resigned as head football coach on November 25, 1992.  Under pressure, Dye resigns Auburn post, Eugene Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, November 26, 1992, p. 4C, via Google News Archive. Earlier that month, Dye admitted that Auburn violated of NCAA rules by paying Ramsey.  Within a month later, Auburn hired Terry Bowden, son of Florida State’s Bobby Bowden, as the War Eagle head coach.    Auburn Tabs Terry Bowden To Succeed Dye, (AP) Waycross, Journal-Herald, Waycross, Georgia, p. P-10, via Google News Archive.

      On August 18, 1993, the NCAA Infractions Committee sentenced Auburn to two years of probation to be served after the Tigers finish the probation they were on.  The NCAA banned Auburn football from post-season play for two years, and once again banned them for one year from television, including tape-delayed broadcasts.  Auburn lost scholarships over the next three years and was forced to disassociate from a former assistant football coach, an executive assistant at Auburn, and two other university representatives.   The NCAA forced Auburn to split the position of head coach / athletic director into two positions. For these circumstances alone, the Tigers managed six major violations, and although the NCAA did not find that Pat Dye knew about cash payments, he did know about loans and other benefits, as if there was truly any distinction. Dye said that he was bothered that he did not know the NCAA violations were happening.  Auburn hit hard by NCAA, by Jerry Felts, The Times Daily, Florence Alabama, August 19, 1993, p. 1 via Google News Archive.  However, Dye's plausible deniability ultimately became implausible.

In 2003, tapes of a 2001 off-the record interview of Terry Bowden surfaced.

Former Auburn coach Terry Bowden said on tape two years ago that boosters were funneling thousands of dollars to players when he became coach in 1993, a time when the Tigers were on NCAA probation.

"They were paying players cash, $12,000, $15,000 to sign," Bowden said on a recording reviewed by the Associated Press. "All I was told to do was shake hands and say, "Thank you. I appreciate how much you love Auburn.' "

Bowden did not make clear whether he reported the payment scheme to the NCAA, but said on the tape: "When I came here, I put an end to it."

Bowden's comments were reported Sunday by the Opelika-Auburn News. A columnist taped the comments in a meeting about two years ago, and a copy of the tape was made available to AP.

Bowden did not return a call by the AP to his Orlando home. He is a commentator for ABC Sports, where spokesman Adam Freifield said Bowden contended the remarks were off the record and had no further comment.

A statement issued by Auburn questioned why remarks made by Bowden in 2001 are only now being reported. The columnist who taped the comments, Paul Davis, said there had been concern Bowden's remarks were "off the record" and not for publication. Davis said Bowden has sent him an e-mail encouraging their publication.

The school's statement also said Bowden repeatedly had certified to the NCAA from 1993-98 that "he was unaware of any unreported violations of NCAA rules by anyone involved with the Auburn football program."

Though there is a four-year statute of limitations for NCAA violations, there is an exception if the infraction is considered "blatant." NCAA spokeswoman Kay Hawes wouldn't comment on the specifics of the allegations.

William Muse, who was president of Auburn during Bowden's term as coach, also said in newly released transcripts that he had heard rumors of a pay-for-play scheme but that it was never verified during the NCAA investigation.

Bowden resigned as coach during the 1998 season as his relations with a powerful trustee, Robert Lowder, became strained.

On the tape, Bowden said 25-30 boosters would meet in Birmingham and 15-20 would meet in Rome, Ga., and that they would give $5,000 each. He said that when he arrived at Auburn, an assistant collected the money.

On the tape, Bowden said he took a stand against the practice. "I'm going to finish that deal. That's over with," he said he told one of those involved.

On tape, Terry Bowden says boosters had paid Auburn recruits to sign, The St. Petersburg Times, online, September 17, 2003. In his position of a whistleblower Bowden did not stand alone in his assertions that he told Auburn's AD of payments to players, albeit after Bowden's tenure at Auburn.  “Lude, who became Auburn's athletic director in 1992 to help the university work with the NCAA in an investigation of illegal payments to player Eric Ramsey, said he had no "concrete evidence" players were paid as claimed by Bowden. But he said Bowden told him of such payments in 1999 and 2001.”   Statements support Bowden's Revelations, (AP), September 23, 2003 Bowden answered no further questions about the tapes, and  the reporter did not talk either.  The question of when Bowden “took a stand against the practice” left a hole as big as Dallas in the story.

In 2001 it was Auburn Basketball’s turn to come under an investigation which simmered and percolated for almost two years. On September 5, 2003, the story read, “NCAA charges against Auburn include a claim that an assistant basketball coach offered a high school star $50,000 and a car to sign with the school, The Birmingham News reported Thursday…the offer went to Chadd Moore of Huntsville…The NCAA also charged Auburn in the recruitment of Jackie Butler of McComb, Miss….The News said Auburn assistant coach Shannon Weaver and former assistant Mike Wilson were accused of making improper offers to recruits…”   Report: Player offered car and cash by Auburn coach, Rome News Tribune, Rome, GA, p. 2B, via Google News Archive. On April 29, 2004 the NCAA decided that the conflicts in the evidence were too great for Auburn to be found guilty of any major violations including the allegations of offers to pay recruits.  Nonetheless, for excessive contacts with prospective players the NCAA put Auburn basketball on probation for the next two years. NCAA Hits Auburn with 2 Years' Probation,, April 29, 2004.

      Most recently 4 Auburn players who were on Tiger teams from 2002 through 2007 alleged that boosters or an assistant coach gave them money while playing for Auburn.  Probably the most complete article detailing the piece which aired on HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel is Ex-Auburn Players Claim Systematic Pay-To-Play,, March 29, 2011.

      Lastly, the Cam Newton story can be read just about anyplace else but here.  There is no need to start now (unless someone can track down whether the "Curtis Jackson" who was sued in a little-reported lawsuit along with Cecil Newton in a small town in Georgia over a building and land as I recall is the same "Curtis Jackson" a.k.a. rapper 50 Cent.  Now that might make me reconsider.)

Fair Conclusions from History
What do the following men have in common?
Ralph “Shug” Jordan
Doug Barfield
Pat Dye
Terry Bowden
Tommy Tuberville
Gene Chizick
If you said that all have been head football coaches at Auburn, award yourself a gold star for having a really heightened perception of the obvious.  The better answer is that every one of them has had some allegation that prospects or players were paid during their tenure at Auburn. Every Auburn head football coach for the last 60 years suffers with that taint.
Here is another set of tendencies.

An Auburn assistant coach gave $500 each to two twins to entice them to go to Auburn.
“At Auburn, the athletic director Jeff Beard, and an assistant coach, Gene Lorendo, denied the charge.”

Auburn has disassociated itself from two former football coaches and will not accept recruiting assistance from seven representatives of its athletic interests during the probationary period.
On the day prior to this article, The Huntsville Times reported details from anonymous sources that the ACT would have been taken in Florida with the relative of one of Auburn’s assistant coaches.
Auburn lost scholarships over the next three years and was forced to disassociate from a former assistant football coach, an executive assistant at Auburn, and two other university representatives.

NCAA charges against Auburn include a claim that an assistant basketball coach

Most recently 4 Auburn players who were on Tiger teams from 2002 through 2007 alleged that boosters or an assistant coach

The point is not so much that assistant coaches have been involved in payment allegations as much at it is with the consistency with which they are included.  Their contacts with players and boosters fail to raise suspicion even at odd hours or in private settings.  At the same time they are expendable.
Of all the information provided in some detail above, Terry Bowden’s allegations, if true (in fact, add “if true” to paragraphs that follow), provide the best suggestion of how money may have funneled to Auburn players in an organized manner over the years.  From one side, cathartic confessions like his usually contain a good deal of truth.  Bowden “outs” himself when he admits that he oversaw a program that cheated because players were paid on his watch, or he inescapably brands himself as a liar now or a liar at the time he certified to the NCAA that he knew of no organizational violations each year. While we usually tell the truth about something which hurts us to relieve ourselves of carrying personal burdens of wrong-doing, some also speak out without considering the implications. For those who believe simply that Bowden is an idiot, Bowden’s words weigh heavily against his credibility.  For them, Bowden opens his mouth and removes all doubt as the expression goes.  After all, he was a mid-level school head coach at best before and after his time at Auburn.  But the argument proves its point too well.  Over five-and-a-half seasons Bowden had a 47-16-1 record at Auburn, winning just more than 73% of his games.  If Bowden were a dolt, then his players likely made the difference.

“On the tape, Bowden said 25-30 boosters would meet in Birmingham and 15-20 would meet in Rome, Ga., and that they would give $5,000 each. He said that when he arrived at Auburn, an assistant collected the money,” the article said.  Bowden does not elaborate on how often any of these meetings would be held.  Was it every year? Was it every two years?  All in all, a total of 40-50 boosters between Birmingham and Rome, GA, would provide a slush fund ranging from $200,000 to $250,000 at one time.  The money would be more than enough to pay a whole recruiting class thousands of dollars each and have money remaining for “performance bonuses” throughout the year.  Allegations made by Chadd Moore and Jackie Butler were within the realm of possibility under such an arrangement just as the alleged $180,000 thrown about as a number in Cam Newton’s story was possible without any additional efforts.

Whether as a continuous effort or not, the blueprint for such an organization may have existed before NCAA enforcement.  Boosters and booster organizations were sometimes the ones who “subsidized” players, and rules reformed the practice to require schools to award scholarship money and not the boosters or booster organizations.  But the assistant coaches were always the key. They would never hand out money for the school.  Rarely having the money to pay players as admitted or alleged, the assistants who did such things were mules carrying money from boosters to the players from Auburn’s very first NCAA infraction where an assistant paid twins $500 each to sign with the Plainsmen.

My conclusions are derived from what we know to be true or alternatively what has been alleged to be true, but even with the Terry Bowden story around 2003,  reaching the conclusion that an organization started sometime before NCAA enforcement smacks of theory, doesn't it? This will start to close the gap. When a topic is enough out in the open enough that someone will speak publicly about it, and an audience will listen, then people may be persuaded to act.

"Columbus, GA -- Auburn alumni have no right to protest unless they want to make money available to make it interesting for some of the better players to wear Auburn uniforms, Auburn coach Carl Voyles told the Columbus quarterback club yesterday.
"Auburn offers a scholarship, all expenses and a $10 per month for choice football talent just as the southeastern conference rules permit," said Voyles. "But recently a fellow who wanted to enroll at Auburn very badly complained that he just couldn't make a go of it for that money. He entered another school."

Referring to football players being paid to play, the Auburn coach said, "I don't know how they do it. I wish I did. And I also wish some of the disgruntled alumni would get busy if that is what they want at Auburn.""

Auburn Coach Says Alumni Can Kick In, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota, FL, October 14, 1947,p. 6, via Google News Archive.

It's stunning to see a printed quote from an Auburn coach which encourages Auburn alumni to organize and come up with money to pay players if they wanted to compete.

Since the allegations arose in 1978 dating back to the end of Shug Jordan’s coaching career in 1975, specific allegations or findings of wrongdoing cover the end of the 1970s, the majority of the 1980s, and they continued at least in 1993 according to Terry Bowden as the NCAA investigated Auburn.  Auburn basketball was alleged to have engaged in the same conduct toward the end of the 1990s and current allegations pick up the time periods from 2002-2007 and 2010.

[Edit 2017]

When senior football writer for took an interest in the above story, it was easy to construe it as him being appreciative of the effort.  By itself, that was cool even if my penned words began on blogs.  Mutual friend Steve Rivet, a Florida Gator Fan who passed away last year, made the introduction but the post above helped a lot. It remained just a curiosity until last year.

Matt Hayes' post on Bleacher Report,  Cheat or Go Home: Inside the 'Dysfunctional Hell' of Becoming a CFB Coach was nothing short of stunning. It WAS confirmation of the most critical part of this article having to do with the post-Pat Dye days when an Auburn hammered by the NCAA was claimed to STILL CHEAT as if nothing ever happened.

Hayes deals with the current affairs of trying to play by the rules in SEC/College Football and then comes this BOMB. Hayes breaks person and delivers his own first-hand account, of being in a room with Terry Bowden:

Everything changed within his first week. An assistant coach from the previous staff, whom Bowden was told he had to retain, walked into his office and placed a black ledger on his desk. It was a list of players who were being paid.

This is how we do it around here, Bowden was told.

This story has been told throughout the years and has almost become folklore, with too many incorrect iterations clouding reality. Auburn officials have always denied it, the NCAA could never nail it down and the statute of limitations on infractions has long since passed.

But here's the catch: I've seen the ledger.

Saw it 13 years ago when Bowden—now the coach at Akron—was a studio host for ABC's college football coverage and lived in my hometown. I went to his house one sleepy spring morning, expecting to talk about why such a successful coach had walked away from it all. He sat behind the desk of a makeshift office in his master bedroom, pulled out the ledger and plopped it on his desk.

Just like it had happened to him.

I saw the names, saw the money, saw the way players were recruited and what they were paid.

"See that!" Bowden said that day. "The look on your face was the same look on my face when I first saw it."

Bowden told the assistant coach, "Pay off the players that were promised and never do it again."

There is every reason to believe that the accounts of meetings in Rome, Georgia and on the plains were true because the dollars for the journal Hayes saw came from somewhere.
The conclusion is hardly a stretch.  Paying players at Auburn is ingrained in the plains cultural.  The original question which ended this post is almost too cautious:

Since the 1970s, have those around Auburn ever stopped paying players?

Catching flack as I usually do on message boards, I went ahead and listed the years in which public allegations of payment of players were alleged to have occurred for an overjoyed Auburn fan.
1977  See article or May 11, 1979 Tuscaloosa News, page 7.  It's not searchable because the pages are scanned in the wrong way. Funny how that happens.
1982  Person
1983  Person
1984  Person
1985  Person
1986  Ramsey Allegations
1987  Ramsey Allegations
1988  Ramsey's "bonus money from last year"
1989  Payment on Ramsey's car
1990  Ramsey Allegations  Cite for all of the above and "yes" Ramsey was on the 5 year plan
1992 or 1993  Terry Bowden  (count only one of the two)
2000 or 2001  Chadd Moore allegations
2002     Jackie Butler Allegations
2002  HBO 4  allegations (count one of the 2002s)
2003  HBO 4  allegations
2004  HBO 4  allegations
2005  HBO 4  allegations
2006  HBO 4  allegations
2007  HBO 4  allegations
2010   Cam Newton Allegations

It's been 37 years since 1974.  I can locate public allegations of payment to players against Auburn in 24 of them.  -- SharpTusk