On April 7, Auburn Rivals website (AuburnSports.com) Publisher Jeffrey Lee reported allegations that suggested NCAA violations may have occurred during the recruitment of University of Alabama football signee Brent Calloway.
Lee’s allegations included:
- Before Calloway’s last trip to Alabama before Signing Day, the “supporter” is alleged to have made cash payments to Harland “Peaches” Winston, Calloway’s adoptive father.
- Winston received $2,500 from the “supporter” on at least one occasion.
- In addition to the aforementioned payment, Winston was also behind on his house mortgage, but made cash payments to catch up and then asked how much it would be to pay off the mortgage.
On April 12, Jonathan Willis of the FRANKLIN (AL) COUNTY TIMES reported comments made by Winston in response to Lee’s allegations:
Winston and Woodruff denied all allegations that anything improper took place during Calloway’s recruitment.
“My mortgage has been paid off for 15 years,” said Winston.
An official Franklin County, Alabama, Probate Office public document may suggest otherwise.
KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS That First Metro Bank, the owner and holder of that certain mortgage executied and delivered by Harlan Lindsey Winston, Linda Graham Winston, as joint debtors, on August 7, 2000, in Book 568 Page 601-605 in the office of Probate Judge of Franklin County, acknowledges payment in full of the indebtedness secured by said mortgage.
Reporter Bryan App of the FLORENCE (AL) TIMES-DAILY reported on October 30, 2008, that Alabama football signee Calloway began living with Winston in 2007. That year Calloway transferred from the Florence High School district to the Russellville High School district in order to further his football career. From App’s report:
During Calloway’s days at Florence, (then-Russellville High School football player Darrian) Graham befriended Calloway, thanks to a mutual friend in former Russellville all-area basketball player Siran Winston.
Calloway said he started seriously thinking about joining his friend at Russellville after noticing former Golden Tigers running back Michael Abernathy, a nationally top-ranked fullback prospect, receive attention from Division I colleges.
“(Graham) said I should come down here,” Calloway said. “I was just thinking, ‘Well, they’ve got Mike down there, and he’s got colleges coming to see him. Next year, they could be coming to see me, too.’ I just felt like Russellville had a better (college) recruiting program than Florence.”
Calloway has a mother, two brothers and a little sister who still live in Florence. Calloway lives with Winston’s father, Harlon Winston, and he’s made a home for himself at Russellville.
After a stellar 2008 season as a sophomore running back for Russellville, Alabama coach Nick Saban offered Calloway a scholarship in June, 2009 - before Calloway suited up for his junior season.
Franklin County Probate Judge Moore noted Winston’s mortgage payment in full, via First Metro Bank of Muscle Shoals, on Sept. 9, 2009.
Calloway went on to star for Russellville during the 2009 and 2010 football seasons, before signing a letter-of-intent with Crimson Tide two months ago.
On April 9, 2011, Aaron Suttles of the TUSCALOOSA NEWS reported that the University of Alabama’s NCAA rules compliance department had investigated the allegations against Winston and Woodruff and concluded that no NCAA impropriety had taken place.
Sources with direct knowledge of the investigation told TideSports.com on Saturday no violations were uncovered in UA’s inquiry into allegations of payments and other inducements to steer Calloway to sign with Alabama.
UA compliance department officials spent Friday in Franklin County interviewing Calloway, his adopted father Harland “Peaches” Winston, officials at First Metro Bank, Russellville High principal Tim Guinn and Russellville resident Darren Woodruff.
In particular, Woodruff was accused of having paid Winston $2,500 for Calloway to attend Alabama as well as giving Calloway a car.
UA’s investigation found that Woodruff had a preexisting relationship with Winston, a relationship that dates back 20 years. Woodruff said he has known Calloway since he was a freshman at Russellville, a year in which Calloway came into Winston’s care and also sat out of football - long before anyone could predict he would be a highly-recruited Division I athlete.
NCAA rules stipulate that if Woodruff indeed had a “preexisting relationship” with Winston, Woodruff would be allowed to provide Winston any manner of benefits. That could include paying off a Winston mortgage - regardless of Winston’s relationship with Calloway.
So why then did Winston tell the Franklin County Times that his mortgage had been “paid off for 15 years,” when a Franklin County Probate Office document may suggest otherwise?
Some might construe Woodruff possibly providing benefits to Winston, who housed Calloway during his days as a Russellville football star after transferring from the Florence high school district, as an activity that might lead to undue influence over where Calloway decided to attend college.
Especially considering Winston’s mortgage was paid off in full two months after Calloway first verbally committed to play football at Alabama.