MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The FBI has begun a probe of allegations that a Memphis high school football coach was paid to influence a star player”s choice of college.
“We have initiated a preliminary investigation to determine if any federal violations have occurred,” Special Agent Kelli Sligh said Friday.
She declined to say what laws could be involved because the inquiry is just getting under way.
Besides the FBI, the Southeastern Conference, the NCAA and Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association are investigating how colleges recruited Albert Means, a defensive back from Trezevant High School.
An assistant coach at Trezevant, Milton Kirk, has gone public with claims that head coach Lynn Lang solicited $200,000 to get Means to sign a letter of intent with the University of Alabama.
Means, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, began at Alabama last fall but withdrew and enrolled at the University of Memphis this month after learning of the allegations. The Memphis school system has suspended Lang, Kirk and Melrose High School football coach Tim Thompson until the investigations are completed.
The Commercial Appeal reported Friday that Kirk told NCAA and SEC investigators this week that he witnessed a University of Kentucky booster give Lang an envelope containing $6,000 during Means” official visit to the school on the weekend of Dec. 18, 1999.
A message seeking comment left at Kirk”s home by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.
Kirk, who said he accompanied Lang, Means and the player”s mother on the recruiting visit to Lexington, said Lang demanded $6,000 for getting Means to the Kentucky campus.
The handoff came in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency hotel during a meeting with Claude Bassett, then the Kentucky recruiting coordinator, and a booster before attending a basketball game at nearby Rupp Arena, Kirk said.
“The lobby was packed with people because it was right before the game, and the booster I don”t remember his name handed Lynn an envelope,” Kirk said. “I knew what it was right then.
“Then, later on that same night back in the hotel, Lynn opened the envelope it was a thick envelope, like a letter-sized envelope and I saw the money in it. It was $6,000.”
Kirk also said Lang was paid $4,000 by both Alabama and Georgia for a Means official visit, but added that he never saw Lang receive money from those schools. Although NCAA rules allow a player to make five such visits, Means went to only three universities, the newspaper reported.
Kirk told his story to NCAA investigator Rich Johanningmeier and SEC investigator Bill Sievers during an interview Wednesday, the newspaper reported. Kirk couldn”t say for sure that Bassett knew about the booster”s payment to Lang.
Lang has repeatedly denied Kirk”s allegations. Kirk said that he was asked by the NCAA and SEC investigators about Memphis businessmen Logan Young and Bill Harper.
Young is a prominent Alabama booster and has denied any wrongdoing pertaining to Means.