The case of former cornerback Eric Ramsey, who claims that he received illicit financial benefits from Auburn football coaches and boosters during his college career and that he has tape recordings to prove it (SI, Oct. 7, et seq.), took several puzzling twists last week.
Privately, Auburn officials have been saying they think the tape recordings may have been edited and spliced. That suggestion gained credence when The Montgomery Advertiser reported on Friday that last September when Ramsey played portions of a tape for the newspaper, "Mr. Ramsey implied he had copied snippets of several tapes onto one tape." Ramsey's attorney, Donald Watkins, told the Advertiser that "teaser" or "preview" versions of the tape do exist but so do "meatier" versions.
Originally, Watkins said he would release the contents of tapes implicating Auburn coach Pat Dye on Sunday. Then last Friday he said that he would not do so. He told the Advertiser that he wouldn't make the release because NCAA investigator William Saum, who was to have listened to the tapes at the same time as reporters, had been taken off the case, and no one had replaced him. However, NCAA communications director Jim Marchiony said Friday that no such change in investigators had been made. Watkins did not return SI's calls.
Meanwhile, another former Tiger player, fullback Vincent Harris, told SI, "Auburn is corrupt to the core. Everything Eric Ramsey says is true." Harris, who lettered from 1986 to '88, leveled the following charges:
On "three or four occasions" he asked assistant coach Bud Casey for $50 to $60, and Casey obliged. Says Harris, "I was just testing them to see how much I could get." Casey says, "I can't comment."
When Harris received more than $400 in parking tickets in 1986, he went to Dye and said, "I'm not paying these. They're not my problem." He says Dye told him, "Go see Coach Hall." Harris claims that he then went to see defensive coordinator Wayne Hall and that Hall "was kind of mad at me for getting all those tickets, but he gave me the money." Asked about this, Hall says, "We have been instructed to say, 'No comment.' " Dye says, "My lawyer has put a gag in my mouth."
When the engine in his '74 Pontiac threw a rod, Harris went to Casey, who told him, "Okay, cuz, we'll take care of it." The car was fixed within a week. Harris says he has no idea how much the repair cost or who paid for it. Casey declined comment.
Harris has a list of 30 Auburn players who, he contends, were receiving improper benefits—as much as $12,000 a year plus a car. He refused to provide all the names, but said that two former teammates, Stacy Danley, who was recently cut by the Seattle Seahawks, and James Joseph of the Philadelphia Eagles, were paid. When confronted with these allegations, Joseph said, "No comment," and Danley denied Harris's charge. In fact, Danley said that on two occasions he asked for money—once from Dye for a $40 part for his car, another time from Casey for $400 in campus parking tickets—and that both times he was turned down. "I would have loved to have been paid, and I would have accepted," says Danley. Notwithstanding Harris's claims, of the dozen other current and former Auburn players SI contacted, none could confirm that Casey or Hall made illicit payments.
With his accusations, Harris, who quit the Tiger team in 1988, clearly turns up the heat on Auburn. "The point is, if you were a good nigger, you got lots of stuff at Auburn," says Harris, who is black. "If you weren't, you didn't."
—DOUGLAS S. LOONEY