Bowden Has A Problem With The Truth

Phillip Marshall talks about former Auburn Coach Terry Bowden's problems telling the truth about his time on the Plains.

Terry Bowden lied.

That's one thing that is clear out of the sordid mess that has emerged in recent days from his accusations that players were being paid to play football for Auburn during his early years as head coach. He either lied about that or he lied on numerous occasions when he signed his name to affidavits and swore that he knew of no unreported violations within the Auburn football program.

What does it mean for Auburn beyond that? Probably just some embarrassment, negative publicity and not much more. Though it is never wise to assume anything about the NCAA, the time frame for Bowden's accusations is well beyond the four-year statute of limitations. There are exceptions to that statute. A school can be held accountable if there is a pattern of violations or if violations show blatant disregard for NCAA "fundamental recruiting, extra-benefit academic or ethical-conduct regulations or that involve an effort to conceal the occurrence of the violations."

There are cases, the most recent being Michigan basketball, in which findings went back 10 years or more when a pattern of violations was established. Since Auburn's football program has been accused of no major violations since being hit with sanctions, it would seem unlikely such a pattern could be established. A review of the NCAA's major infractions database shows no case that has gone back that far without an established pattern.

Accusations that boosters were paying players other than Eric Ramsey were investigated by Auburn officials and by the NCAA during the probe that led to sanctions in 1993. There was not enough evidence to support a finding that players other than Ramsey were paid.

Bowden has often said that he had to clean up Auburn's program when he arrived. The quotes are new. The story is not. Bowden said the system was in place when he arrived and he put an end to it. But he also says it took him two years to do it. The obvious conclusion is that players were being paid while he was head coach.

It's been a rough three weeks for Auburn – an ugly fall from No. 6 in the nation to 0-2, an official letter of inquiry for the basketball program and now this. No school needs the kind of publicity Auburn is getting today, even if it is an old story about old news.

But it doesn't look any better for Bowden, who seems to have a problem with "off-the-record" interviews. Bowden, now a color analyst for ABC Sports, and Georgia assistant coach Rodney Garner, an assistant for three years under Bowden, engaged in a verbal battle last year.

In a story in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Bowden said Garner "played by a different set of rules" when he was Auburn's recruiting coordinator. Garner fired back with some hostile words of his own. Bowden said he thought his comments were off the record.

Bowden's latest tirade, from an interview two years ago, first went public in the Opelika-Auburn News on Sunday. A spokesman for ABC Sports said Bowden thought his comments were off the record. Whatever.

Bowden's tenure as head coach was one of the stranger times in Auburn history. He left Samford and promptly won 20 straight games in 1993-94, the best start ever for a Division I-A head coach. In 1998, with the talent level depleted and the season spinning out of control, he walked out on his players and coaches at midseason.

He left a bitter and angry man. He made the accusations detailed Sunday to two newspaper reporters and former Auburn history professor Wayne Flynt, who is writing a book. He certainly succeeded in embarrassing Auburn, but in the process he branded himself a cheater, a liar or both.

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