Fitting Ending To A Sad, Twisted Drama

Phillip Marshall discusses the Logan Young trial and the verdict in the case that was announced on Wednesday afternoon.

It was fitting that the verdict came down on national signing day.

As Logan Young's trial on federal racketeering charges progressed, it became obvious to most following it closely that Young had, indeed, paid former Memphis high school coach Lynn Lang a substantial sum of money in return for defensive lineman Albert Means' signing with Alabama.

Now Young, a wealthy friend of late Alabama coach Paul Bryant and a hard-line Crimson Tide fan, is facing the possibility of prison time. And it's all because he wanted so desperately for an 18-year-old high school kid to go to Alabama that he was willing to compromise his integrity to make it happen.

Anyone who wants proof of the silliness of recruiting rankings and the danger of bestowing celebrity status on high school kids before they ever step on a college field needs look no further than Albert Means.

He was reputed to be the nation's No. 1 prospect. He was said to be so talented that, at more than 300 pounds, he had the speed and athleticism to play linebacker. There was talk that he might be the best defensive lineman ever. He was not a creation of recruiting analysts. College coaches, who say great defensive linemen are as hard or harder to find than great quarterbacks, streamed into Memphis from all over the country.

Means signed with Alabama, reported overweight, and eventually transferred to Memphis as the scandal grew. He was an ordinary college football player, nothing more.

But Means' recruitment resulted in Young, Lang and Milton Kirk, who was Lang's assistant, either pleading guilty or being found guilty of criminal activity.

There are plenty of villains and no heroes in this vile story. Means is a victim of sorts, but he willingly went along with his high school coach getting someone else to take the ACT for him. He says he didn't know his coach was selling him like a piece of meat, but he knew he was lying to a grand jury when he said he took the test himself.

Young's actions make it easy to believe the claims that he has been buying football players in the Memphis area for years. Kirk came forward as the whistle-blower, not because he was trying to do what was right but because Lang didn't give him his cut.

But the darkest villain of all is Lang. Instead of trying to help a young man overcome his circumstances and make something out of his life, he tried to make himself rich. Instead of trying to help a young man who had little guidance at home make the best decision for his future, he thought only of himself.

Sadly, he had little trouble finding people – and Young wasn't the only one – who were willing to deal.

Now everybody has lost. Young, Lang and Kirk are disgraced. Means will be remembered only as an actor in this sick drama, not for any accomplishments as an athlete. The already shaky image of college athletics has taken a hit. The University of Alabama, which pleaded guilty in its hearing before the NCAA and has served its time on probation, would like nothing better than for all of this to go away. But people who claim to love the Crimson Tide keep it going.

And the circus isn't over yet.

In June, the lawsuit filed against the NCAA by former Alabama assistants Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams is scheduled to be heard in Tuscaloosa. Who knows what will come out of that? After Williams' performance on the stand in the Young trial, he might want to reconsider going forward. Williams, who recruited the Memphis area, made the preposterous claim that in none of some 200 telephone conversations with Young was recruiting discussed.

When Lang started naming schools during the trial, one he didn't name was Auburn. Former offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who recruited the Memphis area for Auburn, recognized early that the recruitment of Means was going to be trouble. He talked with head coach Tommy Tuberville, who told him that Auburn would not recruit Means.

That might be the best recruiting evaluation Tuberville ever made.

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