The star, Albert Means, a 19-year-old defensive lineman, announced last Friday that he was withdrawing from the university after learning his high school coach and trusted mentor Lynn Lang had allegedly been paid as much as $200,000 to get him to sign with Alabama.
In his senior year, Means, a fleet-footed 300-pounder, was a force to be avoided on the high school football fields of Memphis. His coach at Trezevant High School, Lang, called him "a house that moves," and ran interference as Means fielded scholarship offers from dozens of big time college programs before the student signed with Alabama.
Milton Kirk, an assistant coach under Lang, says Lang used his position as a father figure to Means to demand huge sums of cash as well as automobiles from colleges interested in the All American.
Kirk said he helped Lang make the plan to get money in exchange for Means signing a National Letter of Intent, but never took any money. He claims he came forward because he was afraid the football star would be blamed in a scam he knew nothing about. Means' family claims to have received no money.
Even so, Means' future is now under a cloud, as is Lang's. The coach has denied involvement.
"None of it's true," the coach has said. "It's totally false."
Kirk, Lang, and Melrose High School football coach Tim Thompson all have been suspended by Memphis City Schools. Thompson is being investigated on allegations he accepted $1,400 to send players to Kentucky.
Investigations are under way by the Interscholastic Athletic Association, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA. District Attorney General Bill Gibbons plans to meet with his staff this week to consider looking into the matter.
At least one coach questioned as part of the NCAA probe says his former school was offered Means as part of a pay-for-play scheme. Sports analysts say colleges don't always report this kind of thing, because the risk of losing future recruits in a place like Memphis is just too high.
"It's the same reason why people don't blow the whistle on politicians," said Paul Finebaum, a writer at The Birmingham Post Herald. "You're afraid you're gonna get locked out of doing business."
Means was considered the nation's top defensive line prospect last year. He played in seven games in 2000, starting three and making 18 tackles and two stops behind the line. He said Monday he was planning to contact other schools to see about the possibility of transferring.
Means will apply to the NCAA to play in 2001 because of the circumstances of his case, Kirk said. Normally, a transfer student would have to sit out a season.
"I'm stll kind of shocked that everything happened the way it did, and that I didn't know anything about it," Means told The Commercial Appeal in an interview published on Sunday.
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