NCAA Can't Get It Right In Its Auburn Case

First, let's make one thing clear. Mark Komara is no Auburn booster. That the NCAA committee on infractions says he is shows just how out of touch with reality the NCAA enforcement process is.

Komara is the sponsor of a summer league team in Huntsville that has attracted most of the best prospects in the state and some from surrounding states in recent years. The NCAA has been troubled for sometime--and rightfully so--by the culture of summer league basketball.

But to use Auburn to get at Komara made no sense at all. Rising senior Brandon Robinson is the only one of Komara's players Auburn has signed, and he played for him only briefly. In the words of Komara's attorney, Dennis Goldasich, "Mark doesn't even like Auburn."

After more than two years, hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of man hours on both sides, the NCAA had to find something. It couldn't make charges stick that former assistant coaches Shannon Weaver and Mike Wilson offered money to players, so it made a mockery of its own bylaws, said Komara was an Auburn representative and gave the program a slap on the wrist.

Without finding Komara a booster, the NCAA would have had no case at all. It would have been left with no findings against the Auburn program. That wasn't going to happen.

When it was over, first-year basketball coach Jeff Lebo could breathe a sigh of relief. Losing one scholarship for two years isn't going to cause a big problem. He probably will get more good news when the NCAA rescinds the so called 5-8 rule. He can move forward now in building his program.

The NCAA said there were nine major violations, all involving Komara in one way or another, yet it basically accepted Auburn's self-imposed penalties. It would be easy to look at that and say the punishment doesn't fit the crime, except that there really was no crime committed, not by Auburn.

The most ridiculous of all the original charges was that Weaver offered former Huntsville-Lee guard Chadd Moore $50,000 and a car to sign with Auburn. The accusation, made by Moore's mother, Clara Moore, was never substantiated by a shred of evidence. In fact, Weaver had documented proof he couldn't have been where he was accused of being. Auburn never even offered Moore a scholarship.

The NCAA enforcement staff didn't care. It insisted on going forward anyway with no concern for the damage it was doing to Weaver and his family. The damage is not undone because the committee on infractions found Weaver not guilty. For two years, his name has been smeared and his family has suffered. Since Cliff Ellis was fired as head coach on March 18, Weaver, highly respected in coaching circles, hasn't even had a call about a job.

Former AU coach Cliff Ellis (left) is shown with former AU assistant coach Shannon Weaver.

This case was bizarre from the start. Mike Walker, a convicted felon and self-described sports agent from McComb, Miss., started it when he called Auburn athletic director David Housel and the NCAA with accusations of improper recruiting of Jackie Butler. He also called Kentucky and Alabama, who told him to buzz off.

From the start, enforcement director David Didion was involved. He visited Housel to discuss the case and participated in interviews. Because he was Auburn's compliance director until 1999 and never made any secret of his disdain for Ellis, Didion's involvement was a blatant violation of NCAA bylaws.

The response of Tom Yeager, chairman of the committee on infractions, to questions about Didion's involvement tells you all you need to know about the integrity of the process.

Here's what he said: "The piece of legislation that was cited about the conflict of interest was written with the view that a former employee will have a favorable reaction to an institution under investigation. The charge in this particular situation went to the contrary. The coaches' legal counsel were arguing Mr. Didion may have had an axe to grind with the coaches and their particular behavior.

"Mr. Didion was involved early on in an interview or two, was removed from the case and was not involved in any of the analyzing of the information, what should be written, what the institution should be charged with or the coaches should be charged with. The committee heard the concerns, but felt Didion's involvement did not impact the process in this case, in part because the allegations was that it was more to the university's detriment."

So it was OK for Didion to be involved if he had "had an axe to grind," but not if he had favorable feelings toward Auburn? That's what I'd call making up the rules as you go.

Once the investigation got to the committee on infractions, the outcome was as good as Auburn could have hoped for. But it was an investigation that never should have been started in the first place.

Ellis and his staff labored for two years under an unfair and unwarranted cloud of suspicion. The careers of Weaver and Wilson were, at the very least, damaged. Komara's summer league team will go right on playing.

If anything good came of it all, maybe it is that the NCAA enforcement process was shown again in the light of day to be, at best, an arrogant exercise in power and, at worst, corrupt and dishonest.

Questions or comments for Phillip? Email him at

Editor's Note: Phillip Marshall's column appears twice a week at

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories