After the meeting, as Williams was being driven home by Fuller, Williams says that Fuller said to him, "Man, if you mess with Florida State, you're messin' with your career. You won't be able to get a job in Tallahassee again."
Two days later, after following up on the information obtained from Williams and gleaned during questioning by SI reporters researching this story, Florida State announced at a press conference that it had determined that two players had received clothing from "a recruiter for an out-of-state, unregistered sports agent," and that one of those players had admitted accepting $40. School officials said that they had reported the infractions to the NCAA and the ACC earlier that day, had hired a law firm to investigate whether other violations had occurred and would work with law-enforcement officials to gather information that might lead to criminal prosecution of individuals who had improperly dealt with Seminole athletes. Calling the tactics of unscrupulous sports agents a "cancer," Goin lashed out at "the sleazebags who filter onto our campus" and "coerce" athletes to go astray.
The thrust of the press conference was that both Florida State and its players were victims. Bowden had said much the same thing in an interview earlier in the week. Asked whether the school could have been more scrupulous about keeping agents away from its players, Bowden said, "If your daddy's running around on his wife, she's the last one to find out. What do you expect us to do? We can't put security guards outside in the bushes at Reynolds Hall."
At stake in this burgeoning scandal, besides the eligibility of players last season, is the fate of at least two Seminoles who have eligibility remaining—McMillon and McNeil. There is the further question of Florida State's national championship. It is unlikely that either the Associated Press or USA Today, whose polls determine that honor, would try to strip the Seminoles of their title. Bowden said last week, "I feel like we earned the championship very fairly. It's kind of like the fifth down at Missouri—the officials missed it. If we're guilty, we should pay some price, but not forfeiting the national championship. They gave it to us. We don't intend to give it back."
Sawyer, for one, feels the same way about the loot he received. "At Florida State you work so hard to give to that program and get nothing out of it," he says. "The most you can get out of it is a trip to the NFL. I felt I was entitled to money or clothing. Why couldn't I have it?"
On Friday, Oct. 8, Cebrun arrived in Tallahassee to scout for Florida State players. Cebrun says he works on a free-lance basis—"I'm not on any agent's payroll"—though he has frequently intimated that he has some connection with Dallas agent Steve Endicott and has told of having ties with a fledgling Los Angeles agency, Spectrum Management. One of Spectrum's principals, Michael Harrison, denies having had any formal arrangement with Cebrun and last January wrote Cebrun that the agency would not welcome "referrals" from him.
In Tallahassee, Cebrun stayed with Lockhart, a widow who had been introduced to him by two old friends, Anne and Cecil Herndon of Valdosta, Ga. The Herndons called the 48-year-old Cebrun Mr. Las Vegas. His black-and-gold business card reads COACH NATE CEBRUN: PLAYER RELATIONS. He is smooth-talking and charming, 6'3", 270 to 280 pounds, gruff-voiced and big-bellied—outsized in every way. He wears two size-15 rings on his massive hands, one from the University of Nebraska, where he played freshman basketball, the other from UNLV. The UNLV ring has a diamond-or rhine-stone-studded number 1 set into its red stone face. It reads COACH NATE on one side and UNLV 103, DUKE 73 on the other.
Cebrun, like Bey, lives in Las Vegas. They were introduced by a mutual friend. "We [Bey and his associates] got involved with him as a business venture. We were going to help black athletes choose representation, to make sure the white man didn't screw over the black man anymore," says Bey, who is Puerto Rican. "Cebrun said he could produce athletes to wear our merchandise and promote our products. He said he could get any UNLV athlete. He said he used to be a coach or a recruiter or something at UNLV. He has a championship ring. He said that [Jerry] Tarkanian and he are close and that Tarkanian gave him the ring."
Tarkanian denies having given Cebrun the ring. UNLV officials say that for fund-raising purposes they sold a certain number of championship rings with fake stones for $100 each and that copies of the ring are sold at Vegas souvenir shops. Although he likes to be called Coach Nate, Cebrun was never a coach at UNLV. He was, however, involved in two NCAA violations at UNLV in 1993. Cebrun arranged for an airplane ticket to be bought for a Rebel player, Kebu Stewart, and he finagled complimentary rooms at the Sahara Hotel for the parents of another UNLV player, Isaiah Rider.
"Nate Cebrun is like one of those summer league coaches," says a UNLV official. "They get young guys when they're vulnerable and try to take care of them to establish a relationship, so later they can guide the player to an agent. They see making easy money on these kids."