COMMENTARY: President Barker Breaks Silence


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON -- The wall of silence surrounding Clemson University came down late Tuesday
afternoon.


Sort of.


Three days after I first broke the story of apparent internal sanctions
levied against the Clemson football program by the Compliance Services
office, President James Barker Tuesday issued an e-mail response to those that had tried to contact
him while on a university trip to Florida.


Barker's e-mail is as confusing as it is welcome.


While it served to pull Clemson's head out of the sand — temporarily, at
least — it appears to indicate that the inquiry into the Gaffney
debacle that began last year is still ongoing.


That would be contrary to reports which followed the mess leading up to
signing day in Feb., in which at least one publication said the NCAA had
investigated the recruiting of linebacker Roger McIntosh and defensive
lineman Jeff Littlejohn and found no violations.


However, Barker's e-mail states, in part, the following:


"Reports surfaced in late September concerning possible improper contacts
with high school football student-athletes in Gaffney. In keeping with
standard procedures, our compliance office began looking into these
allegations. At about the same time, officials from the NCAA began to do the
same. As has been our practice, we worked closely and cooperatively with NCAA
staff, sharing information and seeking their advice. Although the athletic
director is in charge of the athletics program and compliance, I have been
kept fully informed throughout the review. Any actions that are taken as a
result of rules violations must be approved by the athletic director and the
president. The process has not yet been completed, and that is why no
information has been released to date by the university. As has been our
practice in all compliance matters, when we have full and complete
information, we will release it externally, and we will share it internally
as well. I ask that you not rush to judgment until all the facts are known."


As I reported last week, a source close to the situation told me that
compliance already had stripped Clemson of two scholarships for next season,
and took away anywhere from 5-20 official visits, depending on which media
report you catch from day to day.


Additionally, my source told me at least two coaches and an administrative
assistant had salaries frozen, while one coach apparently has been taken off
the road. Two coaches were ordered to attend an NCAA rules clinic at their
own expense, the source said, and compliance also took away a week of
recruiting time in both the spring and winter contact periods.


The penalties apparently stem from secondary violations, and seem to be a
case of severe overreaction by Becky Bowman in the compliance office.


At least that's how it appears on the surface.


What exactly is going on inside Clemson? My source told me when my original
story hit the paper Saturday and began to making its way around the state via
the internet, the you-know-what hit the fan inside the school's athletic
department.


Who can blame them? After all, this is the last kind of information Clemson
University wants brought to the public's attention considering its sordid
past with the NCAA.


But it's precisely what Clemson fans, who give money to IPTAY by the
truckload, deserve to hear. Their dollars drive the school's athletic
program, and Clemson owes them an explanation.


So instead of enacting a code of silence, or bludgeoning us with official
rhetoric, it's time for Barker or Athletic Director Bobby Robinson to step
forward and explain, in detail, exactly what has happened or is going to
happen.


Much of the information may become available in a couple of weeks anyway,
thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request I filed with Bowman's office
last week. But the administration shouldn't make us wait that long.


If, as Barker said in his e-mail, Clemson is committed to "...maintaining
full compliance, achieve notable recognition with another national football
championship, two championships in Olympic sports and two Final Four
appearances in basketball," changes in the school's standard operating
procedure must be made.


A better balance must be struck between athletics and academics, and those
Board of Trustee members, Faculty Representatives and liasions who have been
given too much say-so over what goes on inside the athletic department must
be muzzled.


The final say-so should come from Robinson, with the approval of Barker.


As it stands now, Robinson appears to be merely a puppet with too many hands
in his back.




FULL BARKER EMAIL:


Dear Clemson:


We recently adopted a set of strategic goals, and one of those goals reads as follows: "While maintaining full compliance, achieve notable recognition with another national football championship, two championships in Olympic sports and two Final Four appearances in basketball." That goal contains two equal and tandem objectives -- full compliance and national championships. I am confident that we can achieve both. We have made a commitment to invest energy and resources into athletics facilities and staff, and we have made an equal commitment to compliance in order to achieve our goals.


You may have read recent news articles about possible NCAA rules violations in our athletics program, and you may have wondered why the university has not commented. In the spirit of open communication, I would like to share information about our athletics compliance process.


Reports surfaced in late September concerning possible improper contacts with high school football student-athletes in Gaffney. In keeping with standard procedures, our compliance office began looking into these allegations. At about the same time, officials from the NCAA began to do the same. As has been our practice, we worked closely and cooperatively with NCAA staff, sharing information and seeking their advice. Although the athletic director is in charge of the athletics program and compliance, I have been kept fully informed throughout the review. Any actions that are taken as a result of rules violations must be approved by the athletic director and the president. The process has not yet been completed, and that is why no information has been released to date by the university. As has been our practice in all compliance matters, when we have full and complete information, we will release it externally, and we will share it internally as well. I ask that you not rush to judgment until all the facts are known.


I have full confidence in our athletic department staff and coaches. They demand a high standard of behavior from everyone associated with our program, on and off the field. We are all committed to maintaining the integrity of the institution. Any decisions regarding sanctions or corrective measures will reflect that commitment.


Sincerely,


Jim Barker , FAIA
President


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Dan Scott is the host of SportsTalk (10AM-Noon) on 104.9 FM in Upstate SC and
Managing Editor of Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger

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