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ABC calls two-year-old remarks 'off the record'

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

"They were paying players cash, $12,000, $15,000 to sign,"
Bowden said on the recording. "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 the Associated Press.

Bowden did not return a phone call to his home in
Orlando, Fla, seeking comment. He is currently a sports 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 Tuesday there had been concern that
Bowden's remarks were "off the record" and not for publication.
Davis said Bowden has sent him an e-mail encouraging their
publication.

Bowden had no comment when reached Tuesday night by ESPN.com, where he is a college football analyst.

The school's statement also said Bowden repeatedly had certified
to the NCAA from 1993 through 1998 that "he was unaware of any
unreported violations of NCAA rules by anyone involved with the
Auburn football program."

Even 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. His comments were transcribed by
Auburn history professor Wayne Flynt for a book and were made
public recently by university archives.

Mitch Sneed, who became managing editor of the Opelika-Auburn News in
February, said Tuesday he decided to publish Bowden's taped remarks
after the recent release of the Flynt transcripts, which included
Muse saying Bowden told him much the same things that were on the
tape.

Muse also said he had heard there was "a network of alums who each had
agreed to provide X number of dollars per year for a particular
player and that there was a book that listed all of these
individuals and the amounts that they paid."

"There was even a rumor that, at one time, (an assistant coach)
was the keeper of the book," Muse said. "In fact, after he left
Auburn, Terry even told me that. But that has never been verified.
In the NCAA investigation, there didn't turn out to be any evidence
of that."

Auburn came under NCAA scrutiny when Pat Dye was head coach.
Tapes secretly recorded by football player Eric Ramsey disclosed
financial and other help being given to Ramsey in violation of NCAA
rules.

Dye stepped down after the 1992 season and the NCAA hit Auburn
with penalties that included scholarship reductions, two years of
probation and a one-year ban on television appearances.

Dye, currently a fund-raiser for Auburn, did not immediately return a
telephone message left at his office Tuesday.

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 to 30 boosters would meet in
Birmingham and 15 to 20 would meet in Rome, Ga., and that they
would give $5,000 each. He said that when he arrived at Auburn, an
assistant coach was collecting 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.

Muse, amid his own difficulties with some trustees, left Auburn
two years ago to become chancellor of East Carolina. He resigned
that post Friday, taking a tenured faculty position, in the wake of
two critical internal audits.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.