The NCAA investigation into Memphis-area high school football could be leading to trouble for Mississippi State.
That's after two Tuesday reports, one from the Memphis Commercial-Appeal that the Bulldogs are the subject of questions directed at two former Memphis-area players, one of which was interviewed by the NCAA "some six months ago" and the other scheduled to be interviewed this coming Friday.
The Northeast Mississippi Daily-Journal also reported Tuesday that a Freedom of Information Act request confirmed "an MSU booster has been disassociated by the school in connection to current NCAA investigation."
Mississippi State wide receivers coach Angelo Mirando resigned suddenly August 20, citing "unforeseen personal issues," with subsequent reports tying his resignation to an NCAA investigation into his recruitment of at least one current Bulldog. MSU officials would only confirm that the school was working alongside the NCAA to "examine a potential recruiting irregularity."
That irregularity could well be the topic of conversation between the NCAA and former Ridgeway High School star Sheldon Dawson, now a freshman cornerback at Georgia. Dawson's high school coach, Duron Sutton told the Commercial Appeal that Dawson would meet with the NCAA Friday, and that he believed Mississippi State would be the primary point of discussion.
Similarly, St. George's coach Brent Hill told the paper that he and former St. George's offensive lineman Brandon Hill -- an Alabama signee now believed to be attending Hargrave Military Academy prep school -- spoke to the NCAA in the spring about the NCAA official's interest in Mississippi State and an unidentified "young man from Memphis." (The Hills denied being aware of any impropriety.)
If that news is unsettling for Mississippi State fans, the disassociation of the booster could be even more worrying. The Daily Journal reported that MSU had found the booster engaging in what an MSU letter to him or her termed "impermissible contact with the prospective student-athlete." The letter added -- chillingly, for Bulldog supporters -- that "other violations of NCAA rules also may have occurred."
The booster is a member of the school's official "Bulldog Club" fundraising organization, and as such is "a representative of Mississippi State's athletic interests." The booster has been dismissed from the Bulldog Club and had his or her payment for season tickets refunded. Per the letter, the NCAA had not interviewed the booster as of its sending on July 13.
The reports are the latest indication that the NCAA is heavily involved in uncovering a potential scandal in the Memphis area. Among the other developments in the story:
- Marcus Wimberly, the high school coach of Memphis product and current Bulldog defensive back Will Redmond, confirmed recently that he had spoken to the NCAA. ESPN reported that his conversation centered on Redmond himself, while Wimberly told the Commercial Appeal it was more general and occurred in March.
- After being notified of a potential problem by the NCAA, Memphis City Schools discovered that the high school transcript for former Wooddale High School tailback and Auburn signee Jovon Robinson had been falsified. The guidance counselor who had altered the transcript resigned, and Robinson was declared ineligible. As of now, Auburn has reportedly not been implicated in any wrongdoing.
- Both Robinson's high school coach, Lynord Crutchfield, and his summer 7-on-7 team coach, Byron De'Vinner, told the Commercial Appeal that they had spoken to the NCAA, though both said the discussions ranged across various players and coaches in the Memphis area rather than on Robinson in particular. De'Vinner is also the 7-on-7 coach for Redmond.
With any potential allegations against Mirando, Redmond and State still more vague rumor than plausible accusation, it's not time for Bulldog fans to start sweating bullets just yet. But as we stated before: if whatever's out there was serious enough to force Mirando out just 13 days before the start of the season -- and now with the booster revealed as a possible agent behind any infractions -- there's a good chance it's something serious enough that the program won't be able to simply brush it aside.
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