|01-07-2005, 02:15 PM||#1|
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Eastlake OH
Auburn under NCAA investigation
Well, guess the NCAA has another school to worry about other than Ohio State
AU will probe Williams' ministry
New York Times story prompts review
Friday, January 7, 2005
The beloved spiritual leader of the Auburn Tigers' football team will be investigated by the university's NCAA compliance office, Auburn University Athletics Director Jay Jacobs said Thursday.
A recent story in the New York Times, which raised questions about the Rev. Chette Williams' role in the athletic department, has prompted a review of the ministry. The Times' column, written by an AU graduate, detailed payments made to Williams' campus ministry, some of which came from Robert Lowder, a powerful AU trustee often accused of interfering in athletics.
"There's not a finer guy around," Jacobs said of Williams, the team chaplain. "I hate it for him that his name has been put into this deal ... It's just something that's come up and we're going to check into it like we would anything else and move on."
At issue is whether Chette Williams Ministries Inc., a non-profit 501c3 organization, has engaged in any activities that violate rules set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The charity is linked to Lowder and former AU defensive coordinator Wayne Hall, two men whose names came up often in the firestorm after former AU football coach Terry Bowden's exit. Through the Robert and Charlotte Lowder Foundation, Lowder donated $90,000 to Chette Williams Ministries over three years, and Wayne Hall is listed as the organization's treasurer.
The Times' column, written by Selena Roberts, never overtly accuses the ministry of NCAA violations. It does, however, quote a former AU player who notes that Williams wanted to guard against the impression that he was cheating. Williams, in a Thursday interview with the Opelika-Auburn News, said he had never paid a player nor had he referred a player to anyone who would pay.
"That would not even cross my mind," Williams said, appearing surprised at the question. "It scares me to even think about that. I have a wife. I have three small children, and I have a son whose name is Chette Jr. And I could never even think of doing anything to even hurt my family in any way like that, much less this university's athletic department. So, no, no. Never have, never would. Never even crossed my mind."
Preacher or Puppet?
The concerns about Williams may have as much to do with who holds influence over the team chaplain as anything else. AU says Williams, who has an office and a phone line in the university's athletic complex, is not an employee of the university. He and AU both say he is an employee of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
But Williams, who drew a $50,000 salary from his ministry in 2003 according to tax records, owes much to Lowder and Hall. Lowder is an annual contributor, and as a board member Hall has the authority to supplement Williams' salary beyond the $50,000, Williams said. When Williams goes on speaking engagements, for instance, and receives a check written to the foundation, Williams said the board can sign a check over to him as compensation.
"It's just to help supplement, just to help support my family," Williams said. "I've got three kids. I've got a wife. And I appreciate (the board) so much for wanting to do that.
"It's such an uncomfortable question."
The ministry recorded about $119,000 in total assets in 2003. But Williams assures the board's ability to boost his earnings and Lowder's generous donations don't buy influence.
"Do I feel beholden to (Lowder)? No, I don't," Williams said. "I'm not beholden to anybody except God."
Lowder refused an interview request and Hall could not be reached for comment.
A full offering plate
Salary supplements approved by the board, Williams said, explain the fact that he lives a rather plush lifestyle. Williams lives in a home valued at an estimated $350,000, which - contrary to the Times' report - was sold to him by AU's associate AD, Terry Windle, according to Lee County property records.
"It's kind of odd that people think a minister has to be poor," Williams said.
By all accounts if there's a minister deserving of compensation, it's Williams. His guidance is seen by many as a primary reason for AU's perfect football season this year.
"What he's done for our student-athletes here on campus, it speaks volumes," Jacobs said. "You can talk to any of those student-athletes, it's unbelievable."
Questions about Williams' ministry couldn't be more ill timed for a university that just wants to celebrate an outstanding football season. But apart from how it affects his young children, Williams said he welcomes a probe of the organization. Leaning against his bookshelf, which holds a book called "How to Be Born Again" and a biography of former AU great Bo Jackson, Williams said all of this is a test from God.
"I view this thing just like anything else in life," Williams said. "You try to do what's right. You do good things and opposition is going to come. You just never know how, where or when.
"But you want to be prepared. And you want to have a foundation. And I'm prepared, my wife's prepared and I think the people on my board (have) been prepared.
Ok, any have a clue on what could possibly happen to AU if they are in violation of NCAA rules? Probation, scholarship revoked? I'm not sure how big this is really so I'm clueless on it, just curious.