AUBURN, Ala. - Former Auburn coach Terry Bowden said on tape two years ago that boosters were funneling thousands of dollars to players when he became coach in 1993, a time when the Tigers were on NCAA probation.
"They were paying players cash, $12,000, $15,000 to sign," Bowden said on a recording reviewed by the Associated Press. "All I was told to do was shake hands and say, "Thank you. I appreciate how much you love Auburn.' "
Bowden did not make clear whether he reported the payment scheme to the NCAA, but said on the tape: "When I came here, I put an end to it."
Bowden's comments were reported Sunday by the Opelika-Auburn News. A columnist taped the comments in a meeting about two years ago, and a copy of the tape was made available to AP.
Bowden did not return a call by the AP to his Orlando home. He is a commentator for ABC Sports, where spokesman Adam Freifield said Bowden contended the remarks were off the record and had no further comment.
A statement issued by Auburn questioned why remarks made by Bowden in 2001 are only now being reported. The columnist who taped the comments, Paul Davis, said there had been concern Bowden's remarks were "off the record" and not for publication. Davis said Bowden has sent him an e-mail encouraging their publication.
The school's statement also said Bowden repeatedly had certified to the NCAA from 1993-98 that "he was unaware of any unreported violations of NCAA rules by anyone involved with the Auburn football program."
Though there is a four-year statute of limitations for NCAA violations, there is an exception if the infraction is considered "blatant." NCAA spokeswoman Kay Hawes wouldn't comment on the specifics of the allegations.
William Muse, who was president of Auburn during Bowden's term as coach, also said in newly released transcripts that he had heard rumors of a pay-for-play scheme but that it was never verified during the NCAA investigation.
Bowden resigned as coach during the 1998 season as his relations with a powerful trustee, Robert Lowder, became strained.
On the tape, Bowden said 25-30 boosters would meet in Birmingham and 15-20 would meet in Rome, Ga., and that they would give $5,000 each. He said that when he arrived at Auburn, an assistant collected the money.
On the tape, Bowden said he took a stand against the practice. "I'm going to finish that deal. That's over with," he said he told one of those involved.
In other team news, coach Tommy Tuberville brought in ex-NFL quarterback Zeke Bratkowski to decipher what's wrong with the offense. Bratkowski spent Monday and Tuesday reviewing the offensive schemes, meeting with first-year offensive coordinator Hugh Nall, new quarterbacks coach Steve Ensminger and other offensive coaches.
The Tigers (1-2) did not score a touchdown and had three points in opening losses to Southern Cal and Georgia Tech.
UAB: Offensive coordinator and ex-Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan was diagnosed with cancer after having three lumps removed on his neck Monday.
"The good news is that it is treatable," Sullivan, 53, said.
UCF: Stanford Rhule will return as the starter at middle linebacker after missing the Virginia Tech game with a knee injury.
GEORGIA: Receiver Fred Gibson (hamstring) and tight end Ben Watson (sprained ankle) will miss Saturday's game at LSU.
KANSAS ST.: Quarterback Ell Roberson could miss his second straight start with an injured left wrist when the Wildcats host Marshall on Saturday. "He's uncertain, if that's the right category," coach Bill Snyder said. "He's on the practice field, yes, but he's not doing much of anything."
MIAMI: Running back Frank Gore missed parts of practice because of a sore left knee. Gore injured his knee against East Carolina on Saturday when he was tackled low. Coach Larry Coker said he kept Gore from practicing as a precaution.
Also, starting linebacker Roger McIntosh (knee), defensive end Alton Wright (elbow) and fullback Jon Beason (shoulder) missed practice.
NOTRE DAME: Former player Donald Dykes, 23, was acquitted of rape and sexual battery in an attack last year on a 20-year-old woman. He also was acquitted of conspiracy to commit rape. He was one of four former Notre Dame players accused in the attack.
Abram Elam, 21, of Riviera Beach was convicted last month of sexual battery but acquitted of conspiracy to commit rape and criminal deviate conduct. Two more former players, Justin Smith and Lorenzo Crawford, await trial.
OHIO STATE: Quarterback Craig Krenzel might miss Saturday's home game against Bowling Green with an elbow injury. If he is unable to play, senior backup Scott McMullen will take his place.
TENNESSEE: Sophomore receiver-defensive back Jonathan Wade will have surgery next week on his left shoulder and will miss the rest of the season, including Saturday against Florida.
TEXAS: Players decided not to talk to reporters until after Saturday night's game against Rice.
The No. 13 Longhorns (1-1) fell seven spots in the Associated Press poll after a 38-28 loss at home to then-unranked Arkansas.
VA. TECH: Thursday night's game against Texas A&M will go on unless Hurricane Isabel veers farther west than expected.
"The latest report indicates we will have scattered showers . . . and not until late in the evening," AD Jim Weaver said.
WEST VIRGINIA: Starting safety Jahmile Addae needs surgery on his injured left shoulder and likely will miss the rest of the season.
MUSIC CITY BOWL: Tiremaker Bridgestone/Firestone has signed a two-year deal to become the presenting sponsor.