David Berst, the NCAA's director of enforcement, said yesterday he has not ruled out an investigation into a published report that Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker had signed a contract to play for the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League.
Vince Dooley, football coach and athletic director at the University of Georgia, talked with Berst last weekend, a Georgia spokesman said yesterday.
Berst said it is NCAA policy neither to confirm nor deny whether he spoke to Dooley. He said there would be no announcement of a formal investigation. Walker has denied signing with the Generals or doing anything to jeopardize his eligiblity for his senior season.
Berst said: "If there are several stories that are involved, we aren't precluded from talking to people and finding out which one is right.
"He's eligible, unless he's determined to be ineligible, just like anybody else in America."
The Boston Globe, quoting two unnamed sources "close to the negotiations," has reported that Walker signed a three-year contract worth about $5 million Thursday night in Athens, Ga., during a meeting with J. Walter Duncan, the Generals' owner. According to the Globe, the contract stipulated that Walker could change his mind within 24 hours. Walker did, according to the Globe.
According to the NCAA, Walker would be ineligible if he signed a contract or even negotiated further than finding out his pro value, or if his lawyer-adviser, Jack Manton, had become Walker's agent and was negotiating for him.
Manton has been a longtime friend of Walker's family. His wife comes from Wrightsville, Ga., Walker's hometown.
"If we don't believe we had the full information (from correspondence), we may conduct interviews to corroborate the story," Berst said. "That may not be (called) an investigation. But if we found answers (that) didn't stand up, then we probably would conduct an inquiry--or investigation."
Duncan, Walker, Manton and Dooley were unavailable for comment yesterday.
"Coach Dooley has been in touch with Dave Berst in the last couple of days," a university spokesman said. "I don't know what he told them."
Berst said the enforcement department wanted to resolve the Walker issue as quickly as possible, but it may be delayed by higher priorities. The NCAA is busy with the letters of intent recently signed by high school football players.
"We want to do it fairly quickly," Berst said, "but it doesn't have to be overnight, because there aren't any games this weekend."
When told that the USFL had games scheduled the following weekend, Berst replied, "We don't care about that . . . It doesn't help anyone to leave the question unresolved."
Late Sunday night, the Associated Press quoted John Toner, president of the NCAA and athletic director at the University of Connecticut, as saying, "From what I know, there doesn't seem to be a story. Based on what I understand . . . Herschel Walker's going to play his senior year."
Asked about Toner's comments yesterday, Berst said, "All that's based on what's known now. You have two unidentified sources and two direct denials." Berst also said, "The fact that it is denied doesn't mean that we won't talk to more people and try to figure out which story is correct."