Texas Christian University alumnus Dick Lowe said today that 50 to 60 boosters contributed to a recruiting fund that paid 29 players under former coach F.A. Dry, and he detailed how payments were made to six football players suspended last week.
He outlined the particulars of the fund, which he said he helped establish, in a letter of resignation from the school's Board of Trustees that he mailed today to Chancellor William Tucker, and embellished them with figures later in an interview. Tucker has said the letter will be turned over to the NCAA investigators who were expected to arrive here later this evening. The university and Coach Jim Wacker had asked them to come.
Lowe said he will cooperate fully with the NCAA investigation. His motive for providing the information on the recruiting scheme, he said, was to set an example for other schools.
"All I'm trying to do is something positive," he said. "I want to see college football go back to what it was meant to be, a good clean game."
Last Thursday night Wacker suspended the six players, including All-America running back Kenneth Davis, when they admitted after a team meeting that Lowe had given them money. Wacker said the meeting was held partly in reaction to a news story earlier in the week that identified TCU as one of four Southwest Conference schools that the NCAA suspected of violations.
In a further shock this afternoon, Ron Zell Brewer, a senior tight end, came forward and told Wacker that he, too, had been paid in violation of NCAA rules. Brewer was suspended and reportedly went home to Dallas. He was recruited in 1981 under Dry and was a redshirt last year. Wacker had no immediate comment on Brewer's suspension. But an official statement said all information will be turned over to the NCAA.
Wacker said Brewer, a reserve, went to a position coach at about 2 p.m. and admitted that he had received payments on and off over two years from an undisclosed alumnus, who he did not believe was Lowe. Wacker added that he had suspected Brewer might be receiving payments with the others, and that the tight end's motive in coming forward was the impending NCAA investigation.
The NCAA was to begin its investigation at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday by talking to Wacker and his staff, who have not been implicated.
Athletic Director Frank Windegger said he, Wacker and Tucker would meet with the NCAA staff. He did not know, however, if the players would appear.
"Hopefully they'll get to the players tomorrow, but, if not, that's okay," he said. "The NCAA will be here for more than a day."
Wacker has stated that he will not appeal to the NCAA to have them reinstated.
Lowe, who emphasized that Wacker had no knowledge of the existence of the fund, paints a fascinating picture of how improper recruiting began at a school that until now was the only one in the Southwest Conference that never had been sanctioned by the NCAA. The Texas oilman long has been known as one of the most influential boosters, and was a TCU lineman under famed coach Dutch Meyer in 1947-1950.
Lowe said he has no idea how big the fund was because payments were made in cash and not accounted for. But he said 29 players were paid in 1982, Dry's last season. That number, he said, dwindled to the six players suspended last Thursday, who continued to receive money as recently as this fall.
Those six received a total of at least $1,800 monthly, $1,100 going to one player. While Lowe would not confirm those numbers, he did discuss player values in general terms.
"A normal blue chip player costs between $10,000 to $20,000, a car, and $1,000 a month," he said.
Dry, now an assistant at Baylor, has denied all allegations and today refused comment. He has said he will talk only to NCAA or SWC officials. Baylor Coach Grant Teaff, a noted crusader against recruiting violations, has expressed confidence in Dry.
In his letter, however, Lowe said that the fund began in 1980 at a dinner with Dry and two of his assistants, during which one of the coaches said: "Everyone else in the conference was buying players and the only way we could compete was to buy players, also."
The next day, three boosters and a TCU assistant coach met with him in his office at the Texas American Bank Building in downtown Fort Worth, where they "discussed methods and people to wrongfully recruit in competition with those already doing it," Lowe wrote.
That meeting led to a system in which one group of boosters recruited and another group supplied the money, he said. Assistant coaches would collect the money and divide it between the players. The system continued into the 1981 and 1982 seasons, according to the letter.
After Dry was fired in 1982, an assistant coach whom Lowe would not identify today brought a list of 29 players receiving monthly payments to Lowe, he said.
A suggestion of blackmail is also included in the letter. Lowe wrote that the assistant told him he was afraid that if the players didn't continue to get their monthly payments they would transfer and report TCU to the NCAA. Lowe said he told the assistant that he was unable to support payments to 29 players, and that the assistant replied that he would try to narrow it down.
"As a result, he came back with a list of, I believe, nine," Lowe wrote. "He said these nine wanted their payments and would probably turn us in if they didn't receive them. A number of other alumni and I supplied these payments reluctantly. This was my second big mistake."
Lowe said that when Wacker was hired to replace Dry, he insisted that he would run a clean program and would turn in any violations he found. Lowe, fearful that NCAA probation would ruin TCU's chance of rebuilding under a new head coach, did not tell Wacker of the fund.
Lowe, president of American Quasar Petroleum, Inc., said he continued, from his office, paying the players. They went undetected, three of the players graduating in that time, until the six admitted the payments to Wacker Thursday night, both Wacker and Lowe said.
"When he asked me if there was anything going on, there was a moral decision and a practical decision," Lowe said. "If I make the moral decision and tell him, he turns us in, the squad is stripped of its talent and he comes in under probation. We would have had no chance of rebuilding."
Despite Lowe's claims to the contrary, both Wacker and Windegger have faced increasing speculation that they may have had prior knowledge of the illegal payments, and both have denied it.
Wacker said he would take a lie detector test and invited those making accusations to do the same.
He said today that he checked into allegations of payments as recently as 10 months ago, but had found no hard evidence. The allegations stemmed from a report that TCU players had been seen picking up money at Mama's Pizza, one of a chain owned by TCU alumnus Chris Farkas, a source said. Wacker wouldn't divulge names, but said he confronted an alumnus and a player, who later became one of the six suspended, and that they denied it. He said that the alumnus told him the informant who supplied the information had been fired for stealing.
"I was told there were improprieties," Wacker said. "It wasn't the first time. Every time I've heard something, I've checked it out. They denied it."
He met today with the six suspended players for the first time since they returned to classes Monday. In addition to fifth-year senior Davis, the players removed from the team Thursday were senior defensive starters Egypt Allen, Gary Spann, Gearld Taylor and Darron Turner, and reserve Marvin Foster.
The players met with Wacker for almost an hour, then with Windegger. The players discussed their concerns, but were most anxious that they would keep their scholarships, as Wacker and Windegger had said earlier this week. They asked for a written guarantee, which they expected to receive Wednesday.