MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The all-mighty NCAA nailed his beloved Alabama football program. Heck, even the feds made a case of his slipping 150 grand to the coach of a Memphis schoolboy stud. Slave trading, Tennessee faithful on their moral horses call it. Though maybe what we have here is simply a scandalous, juicy glimpse into that good ol' Southern college football tradition, long flavored with a dose of cheatin'.
Let the zealots from Tennessee and Alabama judge the sinners and their misdeeds. All we'll swear to is this being the real deal, the absolute first moneyed college booster sentenced to the big house for NCAA rules bustin'. That and overspending on a marginal Memphis-bred defensive tackle, Albert Means.
Meet the big-talking booster who's sat atop the NCAA's list of suspicious characters for the better part of three decades, longer probably than anyone else: Logan C. Young Jr.
Name doesn't ring a bell, you say? Well, if you live in SEC Country where college football is a 365-day-a-year topic of conversation at the local Waffle House, in law offices and around corporate boardrooms, you damn well know the legend of Logan Young. Heard his name bandied about on sports talk radio from Little Rock, Ark., to Lexington, Ky., often linked to 'Bama's recruiting. And the tales of his hanging with college coaches, most notably the late Paul "Bear" Bryant, whom, the story goes, valued the gregarious Logan as a close ally and drinking buddy.
So, was Coach Bryant's old chum set up for the ultimate booster fall? Did Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, fuming over getting beat on top players in Memphis, call upon a handful of Vols loyalists to dig up the goods on Young and then hand them over to Southeastern Conference and NCAA investigators, ultimately leading to charges being brought by the U.S. Attorneys office in Memphis?
Heck, yeah. That doesn't pardon Young, nor should it necessarily wipe away a pending six-month prison gig. Yet while sullying a rival program or its coach has turned trendy of late (think Larry Eustachy and Iowa State, Mike Price and Alabama, Rick Neuheisel and Washington), what went down here is rife with enough dark conspiracy and shadowy characters to carry a slam-bang John Grisham suspense novel.
Catch the images: A private eye under contract to the SEC casing Logan Young's house, waiting curbside for a chance to sift through his pea-green trash bin. The NCAA enlisting at least 11 secret witnesses, led by Fulmer and his booster buddies. Fulmer warning the SEC that one of his boosters is "a queer."
Lest we forget the NCAA hierarchy, those guardians of academic integrity, cutting a deal for Means to leave Alabama and immediately become eligible at the University of Memphis. Means just missed playing for Rip Scherer, who happened to be a secret witness in the case against Alabama before he was fired as Memphis' head coach. And, in something of a first, the NCAA never questioned Mean's eligibility even though his former Trezevant High coach laid out how he paid a teammate $30 to take the college entrance exam for Means.
All this wonderful theater going on while authorities hunted and eventually shut down perhaps college football's most notorious fan. And the irony is Young never set foot in a Tuscaloosa classroom. Vanderbilt was his school, though he never graduated.
"Logan Young got the bad end of the deal," the sympathetic wife of a secret witness told ESPN.com. "This guy was a target. ... Maybe they thought he was cheating on some players. Maybe he was, but when someone's life is altered it is wrong. It went too far."
And so the page turns on what promises to be another wacky chapter Saturday when Tennessee visits Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first time since word leaked of Fulmer's role in the NCAA case. Tennessee might have supplanted Auburn as Alabama's biggest rival. Officials say that this might be the hardest ticket to come by in stadium history. Uniformed sideline security guards around Coach Fulmer promise to be on full display in Tuscaloosa, but, hey, that's a Saturday ritual with Southern football coaches, anyway.
Fulmer, surely, will be a target of scorn by Alabama fans, who caught wind of his involvement in the investigation since the Vols came to town two years ago. In a statement to NCAA investigators, which surfaced as part of discovery in a lawsuit filed by two fired Alabama assistant coaches, Fulmer casts Young as "Bryant's bagman." In a confidential memo to then SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer, Fulmer went so far as to suggest Young "was connected to the Mafia," advising: "I don't know if he is or not, or how far he would take retaliation, but I can't operate my program with that jerk buying players from under our nose!"
Mafia, death threats and what an old Alabama coach terms the college game's "most unhealthy rivalry." As you might expect, the fallout runs deep:
• The storied Alabama football program was spared the NCAA "death penalty," only to be hit with five years probation, a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 21 scholarships.
• Two Alabama assistant coaches lost their jobs -- though they are fighting back in the courts.
• Three Alabama boosters were officially "disassociated" by the university.
As for Logan Young, the most prominent of those three boosters, Alabama officials stuck a lifetime ban on him and pulled his 24-seat skybox (price tag: $40,000) after he came under investigation for illegal recruiting in 2000. Logan says he hasn't been back since, except to spend time with old Sooners coach Barry Switzer at the Oklahoma game in 2003.
The good Lord willing, he'll prop himself up and watch the game on a TV from his bed at Methodist Hospital Central, where he underwent kidney transplant surgery Thursday morning. He might be wearing a hospital gown that ties in the back like everyone else, but he'll be recuperating in a two-room suite, with a TV tuned to the game in each room.
Young, who turns 65 in November, might be watching Alabama from behind bars next year. Once he has sufficiently recovered from his surgery, it's off to federal prison for six months, unless his conviction for bribing a "public servant" is overturned on appeal."For Your Eyes Only!!!"
On a dreary Friday afternoon in late September, Young answered the door of his English Tudor home in an exclusive neighborhood bordering the Pink Palace Museum, looking frail in a beige knit golf shirt and gray slacks that hung loosely from his belted waist. He appeared shorter than expected for such a powerful dealmaker, maybe 5-foot-8 or 5-9, with near perfect Jimmy Johnson hair. And, of course, there are gentle reminders of his 'Bama allegiance (the late-model Jaguar is white, however). The shiny, crimson No. 12 Alabama helmet -- signed "Joe Willie Namath" -- on the kitchen counter. The memorabilia scattered about his first-floor office, set off by a large photo of Logan and Coach Bryant that is hung on the wall.
Young leads the way to his spacious, second-floor bedroom. This is where he watches his sports on a large-screen TV. Where, according to former Trezevant High coach Lynn Lang, the two periodically huddled, beginning in 1999, for the payments on Means -- routinely $9,000 dispensed in $100 bills.
Now, Logan is sifting through piles of records and statements used in the NCAA case against him, seeing some for the first time. His mood runs from bursts of laughter to outbursts of rage. No matter the weight of evidence or the jury ruling against him, Young rambles on and on about his innocence. And he swears Alabama could have torpedoed the NCAA case, if only the school had investigated and fought the charges against him.
But most of his venom is spewed at Kramer, the old SEC boss, Fulmer and a band of Memphis-bred UT boosters. Guys like local Democratic Party operative, real estate developer and UT trustee Karl Schledwitz and wealthy businessman Duke Clement, for whom the last four digits of his home phone number spell "VOLS." And yes, Roy "TennStud" Adams, one-time president of the UT Alumni Association and a Young rival known for posting what he calls "street-talk" on a popular Tennessee fan Web site.
"I think they're jealous as hell of Alabama, always have been over the national championships and SEC championships," begins Young, leaning forward in his thick, cushioned seat. "I mean they won 13 SECs and Alabama has won 21. The fact that Coach Bryant used to come up here and see me, and I'm friendly with a lot of coaches."
"If you ask me," Young begins again, "Schledwitz was just looking for some kind of political publicity. I'm sure Fulmer asked him to get involved. I mean Fulmer directed the investigation. All because Alabama recruited a couple players in Tennessee and he blamed me for buying them, and it is a lie. He said I bought them. I mean he goes [into] Alabama and gets players. That is OK. But if he loses players over here, somebody paid for them."
Logan is right about at least one thing: Fulmer piqued Kramer's interest enough to kick the SEC office into an investigative mode, and later lined up potential witnesses to chat up lead NCAA investigator Rich Johanningmeier. All of this is clear from an exhaustive paper trail of documents uncovered in a lawsuit that offers a rare glimpse into the underbelly of an NCAA probe.
In faxes (at least six, between April 13 and Sept. 16, 1998) to the SEC commissioner, Fulmer lays out how Alabama allegedly is busting the rulebook. The documents, typed on Tennessee football letterhead, are variously labeled "Confidential" and "For Your Eyes Only!!!" Each cover sheet is addressed to "Coach Kramer."
Kramer forwarded the information to ex-FBI agent Bill Sievers, then under contract to the conference, who in turn hired a private eye to work the case in Memphis. It is apparent Fulmer was frustrated and consumed by Young. In a memo to Kramer, Fulmer rehashed Young's ties to the late Bear Bryant, offering up phone numbers, addresses and points of contact in a who's who of players Young allegedly bought -- "usually defensive linemen that are black and poor."
"[Young] is very wealthy and often drinks a lot and brags about his boys he gets to go to Alabama," Fulmer wrote to Kramer.
With assets worth $14 million, Young could afford to sink $1 million into his legal defense team, which was led by former Watergate prosecutor James Neal. Born into money, Young inherited Osceola Foods. By the mid-1980s, he and his partners split $25 million after selling a local Pepsi-Cola bottling operation. As owner of the USFL's Memphis Showboats, Young brought professional football and former UT standout defensive end Reggie White to his hometown.
Young was a well-heeled booster, but not much better off than UT rival Duke Clement, whose estate was valued at $5.3 million in a divorce settlement last December. Like Young, he inherited the family business, belongs to the Memphis Country Club and is a member of a couple of hunting clubs. He, too, has been known to drink to excess, at least according to his ex-wife, who graphically described his raucous, frat boy behavior in divorce filings.
In a tape-recorded interview with NCAA investigators, Clement described himself as "personal friends" with Coach Fulmer, then set out to define the lifestyle of Logan Young. He reveled in the story of Young hiring a limo one night to cart Clement and his wife, along with Young's then-girlfriend, to the Horseshoe Casino in nearby Tunica, Miss. Told of Young winning 25 grand in less than an hour at the blackjack table. Talked about a dinner party where Young, fueled by J&B and water, bragged on end about recruits he'd bought.
"He always says, 'I learned from the master,' " Clement said after being granted secret witness status by the NCAA. "I ask him, 'What are you talking about?' He said, 'The Bear taught me how to do it.' He said, 'I learned from the master.' ... He's cussin' and he's sayin', 'I'm so much smarter than that NCAA. They'll never catch me.' "
Unbeknownst to Young, SEC gumshoes already had tailed him to places like The Grove Grill and Folk's Folly, assigned to "observe Young at his hangouts and overhear conversations." Among the gems uncovered in the detailed investigative reports was news that when the scotch kicks in, Young "will begin to shout 'Roll Tide' and/or sneeze."
Thanks to a July 26, 1999, memo from his ex-FBI agent, Commissioner Kramer also knew that Mean's high school coach, Lynn Lang, had put his services up for bid -- at least six months before Means signed with Alabama. UT assistant Pat Washington called the investigator to say Lang had told him it would take a house and a car for Means' mother, plus 50 grand for Lang and something for his assistant, Milton Kirk.
In a memo to Kramer, the SEC investigator recommended using the UT assistant as bait: "We have the opportunity to have Washington tape record his conversations and have law enforcement authorities prosecute Lang. ... I believe it will put a stop to high school coaches soliciting money from SEC coaches."
Kramer nixed the idea, yet never warned Alabama officials to be careful dealing with Lang. Whether the SEC alerted other conference schools about Means' coach is unclear, and Kramer recently declined comment when asked about it by ESPN.com. What's certain, however, is that the SEC no longer hires private investigators after Mike Slive succeeded Kramer in 2002.
"Again, it's not so complicated to put together what happened here if you look at how Fulmer used Kramer to get Alabama," says Montgomery-based attorney Tommy Gallion, who represented Alabama assistant coaches Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams, who were fired for their part in recruiting Means. "They knew about Albert Means. They let Alabama fall into the trap.""I'll pay you $50 if you'll sing Rocky Top"
Almost nine months after Young's conviction on bribing a high school coach, the UT boosters who were party to his demise don't see what all the complaining is about. Logan C. Young Jr. is a convicted felon -- case closed. Move on. They did their jobs, and have no regrets.
When a visitor showed up at Roy Adams' house for one of his recent Saturday football parties, the amiable host was eager to catch up on his old drinking buddy. Told that Young continues to swear he didn't buy a soul, Adams called across the room to Chuck Cole, another Tennessee booster who played a part in Young's demise: "Chuck, you're not gonna believe this -- Logan still says he's innocent."
Laughter erupted in a domino path around a room littered with UT fans and friends, local high school coaches, current and former Memphis players who come and go until late night, checking out the games on six TVs lining a long wall. "When I see Alabama, I see Logan Young," rants Adams, playing to the crowd. "Dollar signs here, dollar signs there. Rich S.O.B. had more money than brains. Corrupting something I love."
Adams is one of Tennessee's troubling boosters. Fulmer described him as "a bad guy!" in a memo to Kramer. Questioned his sexual orientation too in another correspondence. He also claimed Adams had been disassociated from the UT program, though his own compliance director says that is not the case. Adams, in fact, says he's had two season tickets, perched above the 25-yard line, for the last 30 years (some the stubs are framed and hang on his living room wall) and still contributes $500 annually to the university.
Before the NCAA tightened restrictions on booster involvement in the late 1980s, Adams admits to taking care of some UT players. Now, the 70-year-old bon vivant claims to keep his distance, though casting himself as a "friend of athletes" in general.
But how removed is he? Adams produced a recent letter in which a former UT player implied that an Alabama booster tried to buy him coming out of high school, only to conclude his correspondence by soliciting Adams' aid in finding a job.
The reputation of helping kids isn't anything Adams runs from, and loudly declares that it's his constitutional right to lend a hand, especially at schools where he isn't a booster. He tells of buying a car for a Florida kid he steered to LSU more than a decade ago. Former Miami and Seattle Seahawks star defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, who grew up in nearby Osceola, Ark., is an occasional houseguest and has a key to a second-floor room. At Adams' house later this night, three University of Memphis players -- two redshirts and a starter lost to a knee injury -- fill their plates with ribs and chicken and watch their Tiger teammates play at Tulsa (Adams' nephew, Trey, is a backup place-kicker for Memphis).
"If he is a booster, what he does is illegal," Young says of Adams. "It's not legal to have high school coaches and give them whiskey. Give them anything. I mean Roy, he'd call players on the phone in my presence. He called [former UT tailback] Jay Graham and said, 'I'll pay you $50 if you'll sing Rocky Top.' I didn't think anything about that. I mean, so what? Yet they made a big to-do out of [me] talking about football, and laughing and joking."
The two boosters admit to enjoying a night of gambling at the casinos across the Mississippi line. Adams posted the rumor on the Internet, as well as offered it up in a sworn deposition, that Young might have funneled money to players inside one of the casinos. In his videotaped deposition, Adams explained how it works: Sign for a $100,000 marker, play a little blackjack, then cash out and walk away with the rest -- a booster's perfect laundering scheme.
"You can't go to casino and do what Roy said I was doing," said Young, shaking his head. "No. 1, the FBI went to the casino. They told them every time I came and who I came with, and how much I played and when I left and what I left with. He didn't understand that they got videos in casinos. Can't lie about what you're doing."
In some ways, Adams and Young are boosters with more in common than either cares to admit. Until a falling out 10 years ago, the two found time to comfortably kibitz about football over food and drinks.
A defining moment in this scandalous mess came in 1995 when Peyton Manning, then a mere sophomore, led Tennessee to a 41-14 victory that ended a nine-year winless string against Alabama. As Adams recalls, a few weeks later Young invited him to meet at Folk's Folly, a popular steakhouse on Memphis' east side, and proceeded to spout what Adams' took as a declaration of war.
"He'd been drinking, and he said, 'I want to tell you one God damn thing: Soon as Peyton Manning leaves y'all never beat Alabama again,' " recalls Adams, who admits to his own love of liquor. "And they had just gone through this [NCAA] investigation, had to forfeit 10 games the previous season. I had never said a negative word about Alabama or him to his face. It had built up and built up, frustration. I said, 'Let me tell you another God damn thing, we haven't been put on probation and had to forfeit games.' And that was the end of our 10-year friendship, over a damn football game.
"If that didn't happen, I would have still covered for him. Or would never have said anything or told the truth about him. I mean during that 10-year period over drinks and wine, Logan made no secret of how he was able to buy players and stuff like that. I knew. I had to cover up for him. In fact, the NCAA had come to town questioning me about something else. They said, 'You think Logan is buying players?' I said, 'Oh no, that is just Tennessee people and other people talking.' "
Says Young: "I might have said, 'Hey, y'all not gonna be worth a damn when Manning leaves.' So what? You gonna try and put somebody in prison for that?""He loved Alabama -- 'not too wisely, but too well'"
What got the feds all hot about something normally handled inside the NCAA? Young suspects Schledwitz, a political mover, of drawing interest to the case. Others speculate liquor store owner Arthur Kahn, himself a former assistant U.S. attorney who is now married to Young's one-time girlfriend, of playing a role. (Kahn admits helping the feds fill in some blanks late in the case, but nothing else.) Or maybe the story was just too hard to ignore.
The fervor picked up after Schledwitz, a booster friend of Fulmer's and now a UT trustee, met with the coach while helping arrange a donation to the athletic department. It was then that Fulmer vented his frustration over Logan Young, and let it be known he could use a friendly hand sorting through the mess in Memphis. "Yeah, I'd say that is accurate," Schledwitz told ESPN.com.
Schledwitz proceeded to phone Adams, among others, and overnight gave organization to what had been only gossip and rumor.
Cole, the UT booster with an ear to recruiting gossip, got a call from Fulmer late one night. Based on what he told Fulmer, the NCAA met with Cole in Room 930 of the Memphis Marriott East.
"Fulmer's deal was he wanted a level playing field," Cole told ESPN.com. "I advised him one time -- ran through Logan and the things he was doing -- and he expressed the same frustrations he'd told Karl."
All the rumors and innuendo still wouldn't have held the NCAA's attention if not for Adams, the chatterbox face of the boosters, getting Milton Kirk to spill his guts after a chance encounter at a Memphis Touchdown Club meeting on Oct. 24, 2000. Rumor had Kirk being stiffed on a SUV that was promised as part of the deal that sent Means to Alabama. And so, standing in the lobby of the Chickasaw Country Club, Adams jokingly asked about his ride.
"He just laughed and smiled, and began to tell me the whole story about what went down," Adams says. "Hell, we had never got any first-hand information, so I immediately called a couple of the Tennessee people over to let them listen to it in case we could do something to follow through."
The adrenaline rush was such you'd have thought Peyton Manning re-upped for another four-year gig. Adams set up a dinner meeting with guest of honor Kirk the following week at Jim's Place East, one of the top restaurants in Memphis. Schledwitz, who records reveal was interviewed at least twice by NCAA investigators, was then brought in to close the deal, to ensure Kirk's cooperation with the NCAA. His presence insured Kirk's cooperation with the NCAA and Schledwitz ultimately served as Kirk's attorney.
"Chuck Cole and a couple other folks sat there talking to Milton," Adams recalls. "I was still having him repeat this story, cause I didn't want to get involved unless I absolutely felt comfortable he was telling the truth. So I was making sure he told the same story over and over. Well, we're having a few drinks before Karl arrived. The NCAA had got on him, but he had refused to sign anything, refused to be tape recorded. He wanted this to get out, but he didn't want to get that involved. But when Karl Schledwitz walked through that door, Milton's whole persona changed, 'cause Karl Schledwitz is the white Democrat in this black community. He had managed the campaign for Milton's brother [Cleo], who is a prominent black politician on the county commission.
"So over dinner and drinks, Milton told the story again and so Karl believed him and felt comfortable. Milton threw himself at the mercy of Karl, and he did everything that Karl said to do. Karl immediately called the NCAA. And within a couple days they flew into Memphis and, at the Marriott Hotel, Milton agreed to be tape recorded, signed statements and everything.
"The NCAA, who had been after Logan Young for 20 years, finally had something."
And Phillip Fulmer had perhaps his finest coaching victory.
The booster scandal soon left the recruiting scene and Young was indicted by a federal grand jury and convicted of paying $150,000 to lock up Means, the local schoolboy defensive tackle, for his beloved Crimson Tide. Pending a successful appeal, Logan C. Young Jr. is heading to federal prison.
"Mr. Lang committed a crime for greed -- money," Neal, Young's defense attorney, argued at sentencing. "Mr. Young's sin here -- his motive -- it wasn't for greed. To quote Shakespeare, he loved Alabama -- 'not too wisely, but too well.' "
Said U.S. Attorney Fred Godwin in his closing argument: "He spent his money -- not wisely, but well."
Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.