Means without End

Is a tomato a vegetable or a fruit? Albert Means doesn't know.

(You can click here to find out)

Was the University of Alabama football program an outlaw in his recruitment, or just part of the pack?

I can't answer that one, either, Big Al.

Thursday's developments in the Albert Means recruiting scandal, a story that, four years and counting after it broke has better legs than Mary Hart, confirm that Memphis is one of college football's strangest outposts.

They also answer as many questions as they raise.

If former Trezevant High School football coach Lynn Lang gave $60,000 of the $150,000 he allegedly received from convicted former Alabama booster Logan Young to Means, why wait until now to say so?

If other SEC schools like Arkansas and Tennessee allegedly offered Lang thousands or dollars and/or assistant coaching positions for Means' services, why hasn't the NCAA taken notice?

And, most importantly, can Lang – a man who changes stories like Jennifer Lopez changes husbands and fiancées – be trusted?

The only thing we know is this: the Means scandal is a mess. And apparently it isn't going away any time soon.

A fascinating article published in The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal (click here to view: registration is required to read) Thursday painted a very detailed picture of what Lang claims actually went down during Means' recruitment.

And the more you look at it, the more you realize that no one is innocent in this ugly cesspool of a story.

Not Alabama. Not Tennessee. Not Arkansas. Not Kentucky. Not Ole Miss. Not Georgia.

And especially not Means.

Did Means and his family play the role of innocent victims well? You bet.

Especially if you believe what Lang told the Commercial Appeal.

"Albert said a lot of things to you, but did he ever tell you how I took care of him and his family, put food on his mama's table?" Lang asked CA reporter Gary Parrish. "On any given day, Albert would have $500 in his pocket."

That's a lot of money for an inner-city kid from Memphis.

Asked to respond to Lang's charges, Means, who is out of football entirely after getting cut as a free agent by the Houston Texans, responded with one of the stranger quotes of the whole saga.

"Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?" he asked Parrish. "I don't know."

Then, he hung up.

If what Lang said is true, Means' victim act of the past few years looks rather hollow.

So does the idea that Alabama was a rogue program.

Heck, if you believe Lang, boosters connected to UA were merely the highest bidders. Lang says Arkansas assistants Danny Nutt and Fitz Hill offered him $80,000 and a job as the Hogs' defensive line coach, with the money to be left in a bag under a bridge, as if it were some sort of ransom in a kidnapping.

He added that Tennessee assistant Pat Washington offered $50,000, then $75,000, for Means' services.

Alabama won the auction – which is wrong – but they were only playing the game.

Tide assistants weren't perfect either, of course; Lang says former UA recruiting coordinator Ronnie Cottrell gave him $1200 in cash to pay for Means' UA summer school tuition.

But the idea that Alabama was the only school with its hands in the cookie jar that was Memphis in the late 1990s is absurd. Kentucky was taking its share of cookies too. Lang says Georgia gave him small cash payments for Means, too. And if Arkansas and Tennessee were offering money for Means, who else did they pay cash for?

The Tide and Wildcats may have been guilty of wrongdoing, but they weren't the only ones.

The Means scandal is one of the most fascinating things to happen to SEC football in many years. The cast of characters, all, seemingly with colorful stories to tell and axes to grind, make for an engrossing soap opera, and the person who writes the definitive book on it all someday will make some serious cash.

When it happens, that author had better have a great fact-checker. So many tales – with so many variations – have been spun that it seems impossible to tell who is telling the truth and who is just out for vengeance and blood.

That's a concept that would take more than one column, on one day, to tell, if the author had any hopes of getting the story right.

This much is known, though: In the Albert Means scandal, there are no winners.

Just losers. With mud and tomatoes smeared all over their faces, more by the day.

Greg Wallace is the Alabama beat writer for the Birmingham Post-Herald. He writes a weekly column for

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