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The charges included the old student-athlete bugaboo: ticket scalping for profit. Recruiting coordinator Sonny McGraw—later demoted, then let go by Pell, only to resurface recently as one of those the NCAA talked to—was said to have acted as a middleman in the scam. A review of the football team's academic progress revealed that the 10 courses most favored by the players included only two legitimate academic subjects, and the most popular of all was Theater Appreciation. The 1981 squad had a fall-term cumulative average of D+, and 16 of its 22 starters were reported to be in "serious academic trouble." A defensive tackle named Roy Harris admitted that he remained eligible in 1981 by receiving credit for a course, Student Development in a University Setting, he never attended. A few players on the 1981 squad "passed" the same remedial reading class four times. Others, according to the Times, collected liberal commissions selling ads for the football program. That was a violation because such generous commissions weren't available to the student body in general.
The NCAA, however, made no formal charges. A source close to the investigation said last year that police work had dragged on because "they can't find the bottom." The investigation was said to rival those against Illinois and Clemson for the depth of research. Had the NCAA reached the bottom a month ago, when the Committee on Infractions last met, Florida likely wouldn't have suffered too severe a penalty, although the evidence clearly indicated that punishment was due. Pell even might have survived.
But last month a former academic adviser on Pell's staff, a graduate student assistant named Mike Brown, applied the crusher. In a taped confession heard by Quincey and Florida president-designate Marshall Criser, Brown revealed he had been used as a spy against Florida opponents in 1980 and '81. He had earlier made the same statement to the NCAA. Brown said he was sent to gather information on California, Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Louisville and Florida State. He infiltrated practices by posing as a student and generally endearing himself to students and staff members of the rival schools. At Auburn, Brown even had an on-field conversation with then-coach Doug Barfield. Florida won only six of the 10 games that Brown worked, and in what has to be considered a rather dubious decision in the psychology of skulduggery, Pell later fired Brown.
On Aug. 26 the university confronted Pell with the evidence against him. Instead of denying the charges, he admitted everything—and added a few more violations to the list ("A long one as it was," he told McEwen). Pell repeated his story to the NCAA, sparing little. Both sides say it was a heartrending session, tearful at the finish, and that Pell went "far beyond" what he was asked to explain. His story, the sources say, is one "everybody should hear" because it shows "what can happen when you're so desperate to win."
Criser, who took over as president last Saturday morning, says that if the revelations had surfaced in March and he had been president then, there's "no question" he would have fired Pell on the spot. But in discussing the situation with all concerned, he agreed it would be better to allow Pell to finish the regular season—better, at least, for the 100 or so players who "counted on his leadership" for this year.
According to NCAA bylaws, if a school initiates "corrective or disciplinary actions" in advance of a meeting of the Committee on Infractions, that will be taken into consideration by the committee when it metes out sanctions. Hence Pell's resignation. Both Criser and Quincey say that they have enjoyed "full cooperation" and "a good relationship" with the NCAA during the investigation. They would like to clear up "everything" as "soon as possible" to "clear away the cloud hanging over us." They're prepared to abide by whatever the Committee on Infractions decides. The committee is scheduled to meet again in November, but it can call a special session at any time. Quincey thinks it may do so "within weeks."
Criser, who's characterized by the NCAA as well as members of his own administration as a "very tough, very forthright man," says Florida is in a "no win" situation. The school will be criticized no matter what it does. Already strong voices have surfaced demanding stronger action. Hubert Mizell of the St. Petersburg Times and Edwin Pope of The Miami Herald have called for Pell's immediate dismissal. Pope characterizes Pell as "the Willie Sutton of college football—a charming crook."
Criser says he's pushing to "have [the investigation] disposed of as soon as the NCAA thinks the time is ripe. But our course is irrevocable. We have a resignation that is irrevocable. We will proceed, in the meantime, with the search for a new coach, and I've instructed our athletic director, Bill Carr, to begin formulating a set of regulations that will keep this from happening again, hopefully.
"I'm not a Pollyanna, and I don't believe in the tooth fairy. I know some people believe the only way to win is to break the rules. That's distressing. Without redoing the Sermon on the Mount, I intend to make people here realize that it's not the way we're going to do it."
In his suite on the sixth floor of the Bay Harbor Inn the morning of the Miami game, Pell had the sliding glass doors open to the patio overlooking Tampa Bay. A benign Florida breeze, warm and damp as a dishrag, blew through a room already heavy with serious non-football discussion. Pell said he objected to the notion that his were the acts of a "desperate" man, that, outside of the "test" of that winless first season, he never really felt external pressures, that the pressures were all "from within." He said he steadfastly refused in his resignation statement to use the word "guilty" because it was inappropriate. He wasn't guilty but rather "responsible" for what had happened. To his thinking, the message was perfectly clear: "Everyone—the school, the players, the alumni, the coach—has got to learn his responsibility." He said the easy way would have been to quit "and go to the mountains with my family," but he felt a responsibility to his players.