Gallion's Agenda Bad For Conference

Phillip Marshall takes a look at the continuing saga in Memphis and Auburn's match-up with Mississippi State.

It is difficult sometimes to figure out just what Tommy Gallion's agenda is.

Gallion, the lawyer representing former Alabama assistant coaches Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams in their lawsuit against the NCAA and six other defendants, seemingly takes delight in going on Paul Finebaum's radio show with tantalizing tidbits. Thursday, he revealed an affidavit signed by a man he characterized as a sports agent.

The affidavit leveled accusations that at least three former Tennessee players received thousands of dollars in extra benefits during their college careers. The most damning accusation was that coach Phillip Fulmer helped set up a $50,000 line of credit for former All-America defensive lineman John Henderson.

It didn't take long for Fulmer to respond.

"That's ridiculous," he told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. "Who is saying that? I'll sue their butts."

During the interview, Gallion hardly mentioned Cottrell or Williams. From the start, a large part of his mission seems to have been as much to bring down Tennessee and expose shady practices by the NCAA as to help his clients.

"What's good for the goose is good for the gander," Gallion said, pointing out that the NCAA had destroyed the football program at the school he loved. He repeated the worn claim that Alabama's penalties were unfairly harsh and that there was no proof of any wrongdoing in the Albert Means saga in Memphis. He did not point out that Alabama pleaded guilty to most of the charges and that it was a two-time repeat offender.

There is no doubt a lot of things the NCAA does are, in fact, shady and downright wrong. Any right-thinking person would say the NCAA enforcement staff needs to be forced to follow basic rules of fairness and due process.

But true or false, right or wrong, Gallion's crusade is not a good thing for the Southeastern Conference.

Historically, SEC schools have turned one another in for recruiting violations, but there are no recruiting violations alleged in Gallion's affidavit. It is unlikely there is a big-time college football program in the country that is totally free of athletes receiving extra help once they are on campus.

The old Southwest Conference imploded because member schools turned on each other. Those that got in trouble it wanted company. Will the SEC soon be swarming with private investigators hired by supporters of those who have been caught breaking rules? It could happen, and if it does, the SEC as we know it will be in peril.

It should be pointed out that the University of Alabama has offered no aid or support to Gallion's efforts. In fact, until told to do so by the court, it refused to turn over documents that Gallion wanted. Gallion's crusade will do nothing to help Alabama. It won't get a single scholarship back or a cent of lost bowl money.

Gallion caused a stir by going public with the affidavit. For whatever reason, he likes to do that. Will it come to anything in the end?

My guess is it won't.

DANGEROUS GAME

Saturday's game against Mississippi State at Jordan-Hare Stadium could be a dangerous one for Auburn's rebounding football team. It is the classic sandwich game – between two wins over top 10 teams and a West Division showdown at LSU.

It's a conference game, meaning it counts exactly the same as games against Tennessee, Arkansas and LSU. And the Bulldogs will come ready to play. There is no denying the disdain Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill have for one another.

After an 0-4 start, Mississippi State has won back-to-back games over Vanderbilt and Memphis. The Bulldogs have a dynamic offense that can move the ball through the air and on the ground. Saturday's game will be their one and only chance to turn their season around. Confidence that was missing early has returned.

The problem for the Bulldogs is they have the SEC's worst defense. They have been burned for more than 300 yards per game through the air. But throwing the ball is not what Auburn does best.

Auburn should win, but I don't expect it to be easy. If Sherrill is truly on his way out as Mississippi State's coach, what better going away present could his team give him than a victory over Tuberville?

Until next time …


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