There were more developments last week in Florida State's athletic-department scandal (SI, May 16, 1994, et seq.). In yet another embarrassment for the Seminoles, Florida State president Talbot (Sandy) D'Alemberte suspended athletic director Bob Goin with pay while the school investigates reports that Goin may have violated state ethics laws. Goin reportedly used his influence and free football tickets to persuade a contractor working on the Seminoles' stadium expansion project to put a new roof on Goin's house at a big discount.
Even more troubling than Goin's suspension were indications that Florida law-enforcement officials were going out of their way to punish those who reveal wrongdoing involving the Seminoles. One of the authorities' targets, Doug Andreaus, pleaded no contest last week to violating a law requiring anyone who solicits an athlete attending a Florida university, for the purpose of becoming that athlete's agent, to register with the state. Andreaus, who was fined $1,000 and placed on 18 months' probation, was the first person charged under the six-year-old law, and Willie Meggs, Florida's state attorney, says he expects "three or four" more agents to be charged. Meggs would not identify those under investigation, but they are believed to include Raul Bey, Nate Cebrun and Paul Williams.
Other than the fact that all have sought business from Florida State athletes without registering as agents, what Bey, Cebrun and Williams have in common with Andreaus is that they all told SI about improper payments of money or gifts to Florida State football players; in addition, Andreaus tried to warn school officials about a $6,000 agent-financed Foot Locker shopping spree involving Seminole players that SI ultimately brought to light. Meggs has evinced no interest in pursuing other unregistered individuals, among them such well-known figures as Don King, Spike Lee and former Washington Redskin player Brig Owens, all known to have recruited Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward. Others who have apparently violated the law include agents Steve Endicott of Dallas and Leonard Armato and Michael Harrison, both of Los Angeles. Also, Eugene Parker of Fort Wayne, Ind., who represents Ward, did not register until May 24, several months after he first recruited Ward.
Why would Meggs leave these offenders alone? It's true that there has been no allegation that any of them made payments to Florida State players. It's also true that King, Lee, Owens and author Ralph Wiley wooed the Ward family at its home in Georgia, which, according to Meggs, means, "We have no jurisdictional hook." Yet the statute makes it a felony for unregistered agents to recruit athletes, even if no payments are made. Also, there is nothing in the language of the statute that says the recruiting must take place in Florida for an offense to occur.
The conclusion seems inescapable: Florida authorities are less concerned about law-breaking than they are about muzzling a whistle-blower. Significantly, the investigation into possible violations of the agent-registration law is being conducted not by state officials but by Florida State's campus police. Meggs told SI that he sees no conflict in this. Neither, apparently, does D'Alemberte, who last week heralded Andreaus's conviction as having sent "a message."
It certainly did.