From big time to big house
Glendon Alexander's sad tale is a microcosm of college hoops' woes
Posted: Wednesday October 29, 2003 3:51PM; Updated: Wednesday October 29, 2003 3:51PM
SEAGOVILLE, Texas -- In the real-life Casablanca that is college sports, this has been a year like any other -- only more so, from the unhappy exits of coaches Rick Neuheisel, Larry Eustachy and Mike Price to the Maurice Clarett saga of greed and deception. In between were the usual NCAA letters of inquiry and slaps on the wrist for infractions large and small. And hovering over the entire college sports landscape is the tragedy of Baylor -- a basketball player murdered, allegedly by a teammate, and a coach scrambling to hide the sordid underbelly of his program that the murder investigation revealed.
One college athlete you probably haven't heard about is Glendon Alexander, but the particulars of his story may start to sound familiar. A high school scoring-machine once coveted by most every college basketball program, Alexander had his moments at Arkansas and later at Oklahoma State, where the 6-foot-4 guard's deft outside jumper helped the Cowboys advance to the Elite Eight at the close of the 1999-2000 season.
That's the official resumé. Underneath all that, Alexander's career comprises just about every imaginable ill associated with the big-time business of college sports. Before Alexander ever set foot on a college campus, shoe companies and college recruiters had pampered him with gifts and money. Once enrolled in college he didn't bother with academics, yet was always eligible to play. Today, administrators and former coaches portray him as a scoundrel of the worst sort, with former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson describing him as a "troublesome person, an habitual liar." But Alexander was never suspended or cut from either college program.
Alexander and his family were also receiving cash loans on an almost monthly basis for four years from a family trust tied to a onetime Dallas sports agent. The loans to the Alexanders, which began when Glendon was in high school, continued throughout his career at Arkansas and Oklahoma State and eventually totaled more than $75,000. The loaned money could result in NCAA penalties for Oklahoma State; the school could be forced to return a large sum of tournament revenue to the NCAA.
Glendon Alexander's dream from boyhood was to make it to the NBA, a goal actively encouraged by his imposing father, Rupert, until recently a high school coach. College was seen as a brief but necessary stopover on the way to the pros. Like most college athletes, Alexander did not make it to the NBA. Nor did he acquire the consolation prize, a college degree. Roaming through parts of five years at college, Alexander left 15 hours shy of his degree in sociology.
Three years after his last college game, the 26-year-old still works on his moves -- only now he does it on the concrete courts at the Seagoville Federal Correction Institution, a low-security prison 30 minutes south of Dallas. Alexander is scheduled to be there until after the 2006 Final Four, doing time for bank fraud and wire fraud. Among various scams and con jobs, Alexander's most brazen was transferring nearly $1.5 million from the account of an adult-entertainment industry executive into his account.
The outcome of Alexander's story is obviously not typical of the college athlete --not many wind up in prison -- but the journey itself is not altogether unusual. Like so many who pass through the system, Alexander was in college to play ball. Period. He had little contact with any official outside the athletic departments of the two schools he attended. It is difficult to say that his fate would have been any different had university officials tracked the young man more closely. But the Glendon Alexanders of college sports have moved many college presidents to insist on fundamental reforms, with one, Gordon Gee of Vanderbilt, going so far as to dismantle his athletic department, placing it under the direct control of the president's office.
Sitting in the sweltering visitors' lounge at Seagoville, perspiration seeping through his prison-issue khaki shirt, Alexander has plenty of time to reflect on his life. "Damn, you already knew the only reason why I went to college -- get to the next level,'' Alexander says. "I didn't go for no education or to make friends.
"When I went through all that stuff in high school, getting paid and doing things, I knew it was a business," Alexander continues. "To be honest, I wanted to go from high school to the NBA. I was a gym rat and a loner. All I wanted to do is get paid and play basketball.''
"NBA dreamin' " is a phrase directed with remarkable frequency at Glendon, the only son among five children, and his father. Rupert was his boy's biggest cheerleader, but also a grueling taskmaster, singularly focused on seeing Glendon make it to the pro level. "Only person I've seen shoot better than Glendon was Jerry West," says Rupert.
While his son was still a schoolboy, Rupert hooked him up for workouts with NBA players, past and present. He was his son's assistant coach in high school, nightly putting him through a private practice after the rest of the team had headed home.
"They programmed him so hard,'' Richardson says of the young man he recruited at Arkansas. "God, they wanted him to get to that NBA.''
Alexander's story begins at Newman Smith High, in the north Dallas suburb of Carrollton, where he averaged 34.5 points a game as a senior. He was big stuff. Alexander made the high school All-America teams that matter, McDonald's and Street & Smith. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Texas, and remains the top schoolboy scorer in Lone Star State history with 3,634 points. He held his own against fellow '96 grad Kobe Bryant when they faced each other in summer AAU tournaments.
According to Alexander, some college coaches were paying him simply to stay in the running for his future services. In the prison visiting room, Alexander pulls out three crumpled pages of notes and starts reading off names and amounts: $3,500 from a Pac-10 coach at a summer basketball camp; tickets to the 1995 Final Four in Seattle from another Pac-10 coach; $6,500 from one Big 12 coach during a campus visit and $1,000 from another; $2,000 tucked inside a media guide from an SEC assistant.
It is impossible, of course, to prove these allegations. But Alexander persists. "If they're willing to give me money, man, no 17- or 18-year-old player is going to turn down inducements like that,'' he says. For a graduation present, someone associated with Alexander's Dallas-area AAU team sent him off to Arkansas with a used, blue 1992 Jeep Cherokee.
Not all of the gifts went directly to Alexander. During Glendon's recruitment, his parents got in on the act when, during the young man's junior season, they accepted airline tickets and spent five days in a Las Vegas Hilton suite on the tab of a UNLV booster.
"I know it was a violation of NCAA rules and everything else,'' Rupert says. "But guess what, everybody else was doing it. It was like a mini-vacation to get away, me and my wife.'' Rupert Alexander says he can't recall his benefactor's name.
In March of Alexander's senior year at Newman Smith High, he and his family began accepting monthly cash loans, which ranged from one thousand to three thousand dollars. The loans were made from a family trust overseen by Sherwood Blount Jr., a banned booster whose cash payments to players were central to the 1980s SMU football scandal, the only case in NCAA annals to lead to the ultimate sanction for a college sports program, the "death penalty." After the scandal Blount entered the sports agent business while also tending to his growing commercial real-estate empire, and represented another Dallas native, former UNLV star Larry Johnson, who would go on to have a 10-year career in the NBA.
Blount has a history of loaning money to college athletes before their eligibility has expired. In the early 1990s, Athletic Associates Inc., a sports agent firm co-owned by Blount, filed suit against at least eight football players who had failed to pay back promissory notes, including Texas A&M quarterback Kevin Murray and Georgia running backs Tim Worley and Keith Henderson.
According to Glendon, Blount began coming around during his senior year in high school, handing him cash after games. By this time, Blount had let his agent registration expire, but Glendon and Rupert maintain that Blount wanted to represent Glendon when he turned pro. Rupert Alexander says that Blount often dropped by his house with the payments. "He'd say, 'This is for the young fella,' '' Rupert adds.
"[Blount] said that everything that he loaned or gives me is strictly for the benefit of our relationship, so he can represent me when the time comes for me to go to the NBA,'' says Glendon. "He talked about how he got Larry Johnson the contract with the Charlotte Hornets . . . and his relationship with Larry Johnson, because at the time Larry Johnson was my favorite player."
Blount does not dispute that more than $75,000 was loaned to the Alexanders through the Blount Family Trust III, and that Rupert and his wife, Louise, were required to sign promissory notes. Court documents reveal that a final loan, of $1400, was made to the Alexanders on March 2, 2000, three weeks before Oklahoma State advanced to the NCAA East Regional final against Florida.
However, Blount maintains that the money was never intended for Glendon, and that he never sought to represent Glendon were the young man to turn pro. Blount says it was the Alexanders who first approached him asking for money.
Because the Alexanders had accepted the cash loans from Blount, their son was almost certainly ineligible while playing for Arkansas and Oklahoma State. NCAA officials told SI.com that Oklahoma State might be forced to repay more than $250,000 as a penalty for having had Alexander in uniform in the 1999 and 2000 NCAA tournaments. (In Alexander's one full season at Arkansas, the Razorbacks did not make it to the NCAA tournament, though he made the SEC all-freshman team in 1996-97, averaging 9.6 points.)
In June 2000, Alexander was passed over in the NBA Draft, and though he sought NBA tryouts and considered playing in Europe, his big-money dreams were dashed. Suddenly, the promissory notes held by the Blount trust began to loom impossibly large. Six months later, in December 2000, when it was clear that the Alexanders were either unable or unwilling to repay Blount, he filed a lawsuit against Glendon's parents. Four months after that, Blount filed an amended petition, adding Glendon as a defendant in the suit. Technically, the loans had been made by the Blount Family Trust III, and the lawsuit was brought by Benefit Realty Corporation. However, Blount told SI.com that he was the trust's representative with the Alexanders, and was the president and sole director of Benefit Realty.
The suit filed by Blount's corporation alleges 47 cash payments over four years, with each note signed by either Rupert or Louise Alexander. Included in court documents are a list of expenses incurred by Rupert for Glendon to attend the Pete Newell Basketball Camp in California and the Rocky Mountain Review in Salt Lake City, where he worked with NBA assistant coaches.
The suit, a copy of which was obtained by SI.com, states that the payments to the family were for "living expenses and expenses for the purposes of preparing Glendon D. Alexander for life as a professional basketball player.''
In September 2001, a Dallas County District Court granted a default judgment to Benefit Realty, and ordered the Alexanders to repay the original loans of more than $75,000 plus interest and legal fees. In November 2002, after twice failing to appear in court, Rupert and Louise Alexander filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, claiming debts of more than $150,000. Included in that amount is almost $100,000 owed to Benefit Realty, the corporation headed by Blount.
By this time, Glendon was sitting in a federal penitentiary after pleading guilty to bank and wire fraud. Alexander admitted to writing checks totaling $46,500 off the commercial account of a Dallas area dentist.
He also admitted using the Social Security number and date of birth of Henry Mohney, a California adult entertainment figure, to transfer nearly $1.5 million from Mohney's stock account into his own bank account in Dallas.
Prosecutors said Mohney told them he had ownership interests in 57 strip clubs. Court documents indicate Alexander took the money after meeting the nanny of Mohney's children in an Internet chat room and visiting her in Encinitas, Calif., late in 2001. "It was crazy to transfer it on my account, but I had done so many other scams,'' Alexander says. "That dude right there, I could have took his whole 40 million.''
Mohney got his money back. Blount and his family weren't so fortunate. Asked by SI.com about the lawsuit against the Alexanders, Blount initially denied any knowledge of it or of having loaned money to the Alexanders. Later, Blount acknowledged that he had indeed been the contact with the Alexander family. He also told SI.com that the cash was loaned only to Glendon's parents, although the suit clearly names Glendon as one of the defendants.
"Those two people, as it appears now, never intended to repay that money,'' Blount says.
"I felt to myself that Sherwood went into it knowing there was no guarantee," says Rupert. "There was no guarantee this kid was going to make it to the NBA. We hadn't come looking for his services. He came in with the intention that if it paid off he was going to represent Glendon. If he didn't make it, then everybody took their losses, including Glendon."
Regardless of whether Blount initiated the transactions, or whether the Alexander family sought him out for the loans, the bottom line for the NCAA is that Alexander and his family received money, which would put Glendon in violation of NCAA rules.
A closely related issue is whether Arkansas or OSU had any knowledge that they were suiting up an ineligible player. They may not have known at the time the payments were actually made, but in May 2001 the Texas secretary of state sent a copy of Blount's lawsuit to Glendon via registered mail in care of the OSU basketball office.
Assistant equipment manager Matt Davis told SI.com that he signed for the document and believes he gave it to an Oklahoma State basketball secretary.
OSU officials say they never opened the envelope, though Alexander and his father claim there were signs the suit had been read before it was forwarded to their Dallas home. Nor do officials readily accept Alexander's claim of his having accepted money from Blount.
"There is no evidence that I have been aware of, or anybody has made me aware of,'' says Rick Allen, OSU's associate athletic director for compliance. "I mean, we had Glendon here for two-and-a-half, three years and he's just not a real credible source for information, based on our experience.''
But the financial relationship between Blount and the Alexanders is well documented in Dallas County District Court filings, and the paper trail could prove costly to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys' postseason records for 1999 and 2000 could be vacated if Alexander were found to have been ineligible, and NCAA officials say the school could be required to return 45 percent of revenue earned from the tournaments -- 90 percent if it's ruled they knew or should have known he was ineligible.
Oklahoma State received distributions from the NCAA of almost $565,000 those two postseasons, including $376,344 after reaching the Elite Eight in 2000. Alexander never lived up to his schoolboy hype, but proved a valuable shooting guard while averaging 10.6 points in his two seasons for the Cowboys.
Dan Beebe, assistant commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, told SI.com the conference is aware of Alexander's allegations and has asked OSU for a response. SI.com has learned that an NCAA investigator met with Alexander last week and that the NCAA is gathering documentation to further evaluate the allegations.
Certainly, athletic officials can't deny having had their own suspicions about Alexander in the past. Allen, the OSU compliance director, confirmed that his department went so far as to require Alexander to take a polygraph test before his senior year to determine whether he had forged signatures on university checks he later tried to cash.
"I was supposedly suspended, but I still played,'' says Alexander, recalling that one polygraph question was whether he had received cash payments or gifts while at OSU.
Allen described the findings as "basically inconclusive,'' and Alexander was allowed to remain on the team. Allen said the questions pertained solely to criminal matters, not NCAA issues.
The check inquiry followed a pattern of questionable behavior that began while Alexander was still at Arkansas. Alexander flirted with off-the-court trouble in his season and a half as a Razorback, yet walked away unscathed and eligible to play.
While avoiding schoolwork like the plague, Alexander says he was awarded grades good enough to keep him eligible. "I wasn't going to class -- none of the players were,'' he boasts. "We just played basketball and hung out.''
The summer after his freshman season Alexander drove home to Dallas in a black 1996 Ford Expedition. How Glendon happened to acquire such a vehicle is, to say the least, unclear, and Rupert Alexander says he felt uneasy about his son's pricey ride. Nevertheless, father and son took turns at the wheel of the Expedition on an extended trip that summer to Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Afterward, Rupert arranged for Glendon to drive the Expedition back to an Arkansas car dealership and leave the keys in a drop box.
Apparently, Richardson was curious about the vehicle as well. The former coach recalls that he phoned the dealership and was told a bad check for $10,000 had been written to get the car.
"I asked the [salesman], how do you let someone write a check that is 20, 21 [a friend of Glendon's] for $10,000?'' Richardson recounts. "He said, 'I'm trying to make a sale.' I said, 'You guys are ridiculous.' ''
Rupert says he hadn't been told anything about a bad check being used to pay for the SUV, and asks why charges were never filed if indeed a bad check had been written.
"Everybody is switching up,'' he says with a laugh.
Alexander says he went on to sell game tickets for a handsome profit in Fayetteville and hit up at least three Razorback boosters for cash, totaling nearly $10,000. Richardson says this was news to him, but Richardson does remember calling Alexander into his office after learning he'd used a stolen credit card in treating himself and two teammates to a shopping spree at a local Wal-Mart.
After crafting several stories for his coach, Alexander eventually admitted to having stolen his mother's business credit card. Rupert Alexander says the family covered the nearly $3,000 bill, and Glendon remained eligible, though he quit the team and left Arkansas shortly after.
While the Glendon Alexander case is destined to become just another number in the NCAA's investigative files, no one walks away from this saga unblemished. Not the two universities that admitted him and kept him eligible; not Alexander's parents who saw visions of NBA riches in the athletic young man; not Blount, who ladled debt on the Alexander family, possibly in hopes of cashing in on Glendon; nor Glendon himself, who, unable to realize his pro basketball dreams, tried yet another route to easy money. That failed as well -- but, of course, what else did he know?
Mike Fish is a senior writer for SI.com.