2011 Auburn Cost To Keep NCAA Jail Away: $401K

Thanks to breaking news reported Wednesday by Clay Travis on his new website OutkickTheCoverage.com we learned why the NCAA investigation into the Auburn football program, as Travis put it today, “has now stretched into its tenth month.”

Auburn NCAA Defense Fund

(Aubs: $170K Over 7-Day Period To Keep NCAA Jail Away From The Plains)

Travis reported that the latest round of investigatory activity took place in Montgomery in late June:

NCAA investigator Jackie Thurnes checked in to the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Montgomery and conducted interviews in conference rooms there. Thurnes investigation dealt with continuing issues surrounding the eligibilty of Cam Newton and other Auburn players implicated in pay-for-play scandals. 

Travis noted Thurnes was specifically looking into allegations made by former Auburn football players during a recent HBO Real Sports episode.  During her visit to Alabama, the NCAA investigator also attempted to confirm the validity of a separate claim that Cam Newton may have received discounts from a Montgomery-based clothier.

Of the lingering inquiry into the Auburn football program, Travis added:

The NCAA investigation has now stretched into its tenth month, leaving Auburn and SEC officials chastened. In SanDestin at the SEC spring meetings, Florida SEC Commissioner Mike Slive told me that there was no doubt the NCAA’s timeframe often conflicted with the immediacy of media coverage. That dichotomy, between media coverage of allegations and tangible proof of wrongdoing, leaves programs dwelling in a perpetual cloud of impropriety.

Often that cloud can impact recruiting, a point that was driven home to me by Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley in SanDestin. Indeed, it was Dooley’s questioning of the NCAA investigator in SanDestin that led to Chizik’s insistence on whether the NCAA had completed its investigation.

Recruiting issues may have prompted Chizik’s assertive tact, though the looting of the university’s “Auxiliary Enterprises-Athletics” fund by lawyers defending the school may too have something to do with it. Read more…

Confirmed: Auburn Has Spent $170,000 On Newton

Jon Solomon of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS reports today that Auburn University has - so far - spent $170,000 on behalf of Cam Newton.

Cecil Newton was at the BCS Championship Game

Those would be attorney fees in the quest to maintain Newton’s eligibilty for the completed 2010-11 season.

Sam Franklin Auburn Lead Attorney In Newton Case Repping Robert Geddie In FBI Case

(Same lawyer for Cam is Pat Dye, Bobby Lowder personal attorney)

Solomon: Read more…

Auburn Fundraiser: Football Like “NFL Franchise”

Sunday Kevin Scarbinsky of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS profiled Tim Jackson, “the No. 2 man in the Auburn athletics department behind AD Jay Jacobs.

Tim Jackson General Manager of Auburn Football

Scarbinsky noted Jackson’s considerable influence on the football program:

Jackson said director of football relations Wayne Bolt jokingly called him “Steinbrenner,” a reference to the late owner of the New York Yankees, who was hands-on with his team to the point of suffocation at times.

Jackson is there at every Auburn football practice and every team meeting, often in a suit because he also attends senior staff meetings, but he’s more like Auburn’s general manager. That’s become his nickname among players and coaches alike: GM.

If you aren’t sure what “GM” stands for, Jackson explained the nickname to Scarbinsky:

In a rare interview in his office Thursday, Jackson said the leadership of Auburn football breaks down like that of an NFL franchise. “Jay Jacobs is the owner. Gene’s the head coach. I’m the general manager.”

Chizik said their management structure “is probably unique in college football. This may not work for everybody else. It works for us. Everybody is on the same page.”

It works because Chizik and Jackson have a unique bond and level of trust for a coach and administrator, especially at Auburn, where the last two head coaches, Terry Bowden and Tommy Tuberville, seemed at constant odds with “the suits.”

In the NFL, a team’s general manager is usually responsible for overseeing the football operation, which includes deciding the level of compensation afforded to players and coaches.

In his profile of Jackson, Scarbinsky reported, “Jacobs gave Jackson administrative oversight of the football program. Chizik didn’t just accept Jackson’s role. He embraced it and expanded it.

More: Read more…

BCS Pass For Auburn Booster Facing 285 Years

A wide-ranging FBI investigation into political corruption in Alabama allegedly perpetrated by a prominent Auburn booster and casino owner took some interesting turns today.

Cam Newton and Milton McGregor

(FBI-wiretapped Auburn booster pleads to attend Auburn BCS game)

The Auburn booster, Milton McGregor, will stand trial on April 4 on charges that he attempted to buy the influence of state politicians. If convicted on all charges, McGregor faces 285 years in a federal penitentiary and $4.5 million in fines.

McGregor is currently out on $500,000 bail and today asked federal judge Terry Moorer for a 72-hour pass to Arizona to attend Auburn’s BCS Championship Game against Oregon on January 10.

The Auburn booster’s request was promptly granted.

On November 17, 2010, TMZ.com reported, “the FBI investigation into the cash for Cam Newton scandal now involves a guy who gave more than $1 million to Auburn University … and was recently arrested in a bribery sting.

More:

According to sources connected to the probe … FBI agents looking into the Newton recruiting controversy are also asking about Milton McGregor — a dog track owner arrested last month for allegedly bribing Alabama politicians to vote pro gambling.

We’re told agents asked someone connected to the Newton case if he was familiar with McGregor or the bribery scandal.

McGregor subsequently denied that he had any connection to Newton’s recruitment.

Last Friday I reported that one of McGregor’s co-defendants in the same federal case, Auburn alumnus and lobbyist Robert Geddie, fired his personal attorney three weeks ago while retaining Auburn’s lead NCAA defense attorney since 1991, Sam Franklin.

Sam Franklin Auburn Lead Attorney In Newton Case Repping Robert Geddie In FBI Case

In exchange for his political lobbying duties on behalf of Auburn, Geddie’s firm has reportedly been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years from a private Auburn Athletics fund called Tigers Unlimited.

Today another McGregor co-defendant in the federal case, Auburn alumnus and lobbyist Jarrod Massey, pled guilty to the six charges leveled against him by the FBI.

The MOBILE PRESS-REGISTER noted of the plea reversal: Read more…

Found: Auburn Athletics, FBI Wiretap Case Link

Earlier today I reported that the attorney most prominent in the defense of Auburn against the NCAA since 1991, Birmingham lawyer Sam Franklin, was also tied to a FBI investigation into political corruption that involved two men associated with Auburn athletics.

Sam Franklin Auburn Lead Attorney In Newton Case Repping Robert Geddie In FBI Case

(Auburn NCAA defense atty Franklin quietly took over 3 weeks ago)

Auburn booster Milton McGregor and Auburn alumnus Robert Geddie, a lobbyist whose firm is paid by a private Auburn Athletics fund, were ensnared in an FBI wiretap investigation that resulted in a federal criminal trial due to start on April 4. Both have been charged with crimes related to political corruption.

Last month TMZ reported that the FBI was looking into the Cam Newton situation and that the inquiry could somehow be related to McGregor’s current criminal proceeding. While the nature of that connection has not been confirmed, we now know exactly the role of Auburn NCAA defense attorney Franklin in McGregor’s upcoming federal criminal trial.

Three weeks ago Geddie, who is also on trial with McGregor, quietly terminated his original attorney Anthony Aaron Joseph while retaining Franklin. The move was not reported in the media.

Until now. Read more…

FBI Case Filing: Cam’s Auburn Lawyer Mentioned

On November 10, 2010, Kevin Scarbinsky of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS reported that the Birmingham law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin and White had been retained by Auburn to defend the school against recent inquiries involving Cam Newton and his father.

Sam Franklin Auburn Lead Attorney In Newton Case Served FBI Case Documents

(Cam’s Auburn lawyer Sam Franklin also repped Pat Dye)

More specifically, the News reported:

According to two people familiar with the Newton inquiry, the law firm’s point men on this issue are William King and Sam Franklin.

Beginning in 1991, it’s well-documented that attorney Sam Franklin and his firm have defended Auburn and its former football coach Pat Dye against multiple NCAA inquiries, including cases which resulted in serious NCAA sanctions being placed on the school’s football and basketball programs.

More specifically, Franklin served as Dye’s personal attorney when the then-Auburn coach was forced to resign after being caught on tape facilitating an improper bank loan to Tiger football player Eric Ramsey.

On November 17, 2010, TMZ.com reported a possible link between an FBI investigation into political corruption in Alabama - supported by thousands of wiretapped conversations - and the “Newton recruiting controversy.”:

According to sources connected to the probe … FBI agents looking into the Newton recruiting controversy are also asking about Milton McGregor — a dog track owner arrested last month for allegedly bribing Alabama politicians to vote pro gambling.

We’re told agents asked someone connected to the Newton case if he was familiar with McGregor or the bribery scandal.

McGregor recently donated $1 million to Auburn to help facilitate the construction of the school’s new basketball arena.

Also arrested by the FBI was prominent Auburn alumnus Robert Geddie, whose lobbying firm was reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by a private fundraising arm of Auburn athletics called Tigers Unlimited. (The same Tigers Unlimited that current Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs oversaw before taking over as AD.)

In all, 11 men were arrested as a result of FBI investigation.

Another of the those individuals charged in the political corruption case, Ronnie Gilley, filed a motion in U.S. District Court on December 3 that requested a continuance of the federal criminal trial he and his fellow 10 defendants were scheduled to face on April 4, 2011.

While Gilley’s request, which was subsequently denied, was of little consequence, one document filed in federal court by Gilley’s attorney may indicate that Auburn athletics could indeed be intertwined with the FBI’s wiretap-driven investigation. Read more…

TMZ: FBI Newton Probe Linked To Auburn Booster

Earlier today I reported that noted Auburn sports booster Milton McGregor was arrested by the FBI last month on political bribery allegations following a lengthy federal investigation that included wiretaps.

Milton McGregor

(Auburn Booster Milton McGregor, wiretapped, arrested by FBI)

TMZ.com is now reporting:

According to sources connected to the probe … FBI agents looking into the Newton recruiting controversy are also asking about Milton McGregor — a dog track owner arrested last month for allegedly bribing Alabama politicians to vote pro gambling.

We’re told agents asked someone connected to the Newton case if he was familiar with McGregor or the bribery scandal.

As I reported this morning, also arrested last month in the same FBI wiretap investigation was prominent Alabama lobbyist and Auburn alumnus Robert Geddie. Read more…

What if a Booster Ran an SEC School’s Budget?

On January 12, 2006, Mike Fish of ESPN.com published a lengthy piece on the “most powerful boosters” in college sports. At the top of the list was Oregon’s Phil Knight, Oklahoma State’s T. Boone Pickens and Auburn’s Bobby Lowder.

Bobby Lowder

(At Auburn, failed banker, megabooster Bobby Lowder oversees school budget)

Lowder is the former CEO and chairman of Colonial Bancgroup, a banking empire he founded in 1981. In 2009, Alabama-based Colonial was the largest bank failure in the United States and sixth-biggest bank failure in U.S. history. Lowder’s company was seized by Federal regulators in a collapse that reportedly cost the FDIC $2.8 billion.

In the aftermath of the Colonial failure, last month the OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS reported:

The feds (FBI) are moving forward quickly toward prosecution of some 50 bank executives and directors of failed banks to recover as much as $1 billion paid out by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Lowder is being personally sued by Colonial employees for $50 million for alleged mismanagement of their retirement funds and the FBI has alleged that Colonial executives committed financial fraud totaling $1.9 billion. FORTUNE Senior Editor Brian O’Keefe also noted another Federal investigation of Lowder’s Colonial:

Perhaps most worrying for Lowder is an investigation by the FBI and the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program into Colonial’s so-called warehouse-lending business.

Colonial applied for $550 million in TARP funds last fall but was never cleared to receive a bailout. On Aug. 3, just 11 days before regulators shut down Colonial, agents raided the bank’s offices in downtown Orlando, where the warehouse lending was managed, and spent hours carting away boxes of documents.

After the Colonial meltdown, Lowder “retired” from his post at the bank. Despite the public ignominy that befell his finance career, Lowder continues to retain his seat on Auburn Board of Trustees. As the longest tenured member of the board, Lowder currently chairs the finance committee that oversees Auburn University entire budget - which includes the Auburn athletic department.

Of Lowder’s role at Auburn, Fortune’s O’Keefe wrote in 2009:

“His name might not be familiar outside Alabama, but he is easily one of the most feared, loathed, and some say misunderstood men to wield power in this state since George Wallace — the governor who first appointed him to the board in 1983.

“… Lowder has been accused of making backroom deals with governors and treating the Auburn football program like a private fiefdom. (Because of his influence over Auburn’s athletic program, three years ago ESPN named him the most powerful booster in college sports.)”

The BIRMINGHAM NEWS reported that some of the “big losers” in Lowder’s Colonial bank “dive” were former Auburn football coach Pat Dye and prominent Auburn booster and gambling business magnate Milton McGregor. McGregor reportedly owned $19 million in Colonial stock at one point. Lowder reportedly had many of his high-powered Auburn acquaintances, including McGregor, appointed to the Colonial Board of Directors.

As owner of the state’s largest electronic bingo casino, VictoryLand, Milton McGregor is one of the highest-profile Auburn boosters in the state. In 2008, he donated $1 million toward construction of the new Auburn basketball arena.

The morning of October, 4, 2010, the BIRMINGHAM NEWS reported:

FBI agents swept across Alabama this morning arresting state lawmakers and lobbyists as part of a federal probe into efforts to pass gambling legislation last spring.

The biggest name arrested so far has been VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, who was arrested at his Montgomery home this morning.

Before McGregor was arrested by FBI agents, the Birmingham News reported of the ongoing investigation on May 7, 2010:

Sources familiar with the investigation have said the probe has included the use of wiretaps, and several lawmakers agreed to wear wires to capture the conversations between themselves, other lawmakers and lobbyists. Read more…