Darren Woodruff — the Muscle Shoals businessman who is at the center of allegations regarding Alabama signee Brent Calloway — has had enough mud slung his way. Yesterday, Woodruff sounded off to The Birmingham News regarding the accusations that have been made about him by AuburnSports.com’s Jeffery Lee.
“I adamantly deny all of those wrongdoings,” Woodruff said. “Every one of them. Every one of them is a lie.”
“(Lee) alleges that I took Brent Calloway to Alabama the last visiting weekend before signing day. He alleges that I made cash payments to “Peaches” Winston (Calloway’s adopted father). He alleges that I paid (Winston) at least $2,500 on at least one occasion. He alleges that I paid his mortgage off and/or helped catch his mortgage up. He alleges that I provided Brent Calloway with a new car, which Calloway drove to school. He alleges that I promised Brent Calloway $1,200 a month.
“He also said he would be back with the information and the proof and the evidence. My question is, ‘Where is the evidence, Jeffery Lee?’ I’m calling him out.”
Sounds like Woodruff is pretty darn angry. And he has some reasons to be.
“I’ve had eggs thrown at my car. I’ve had my mailbox knocked down. I’ve been called a child molester, a sexual offender. I’ve been slandered nationwide. I want to know where this evidence is.”
When contacted by The Birmingham News, Lee said, “I don’t have any comment at this time. No comment.”
Gotta love it when a media guy who’s made major accusations against someone goes the “no comment” route. Nice. A “we stand by our story” stance would have displayed much greater intestinal fortitude.
But back to Woordruff, he says that Calloway — who he says is “like a son to me” — picked Alabama over Auburn because the Tigers supposedly misled him.
As Kevin Scarbinsky of The News writes:
Calloway’s final change of heart came after he visited Tuscaloosa on the last weekend before signing day. That visit, Woodruff said, was the key to the decision for several reasons.
One, it came three days after Auburn received a public verbal commitment from Lake Worth, Fla., running back Tre Mason. One of Calloway’s reasons for committing to Auburn in early January was the opportunity to play running back, a position with little depth.
“He mentioned that Auburn had promised him they would not recruit another running back, and they had one to commit,” Woodruff said. “That had some bearing on it.”
That’s the word from Calloway, too, who gave an exclusive interview to TideSports.com — the Rivals site covering Alabama — yesterday. When asked why he switched from Bama to Auburn, Calloway said:
“From what they had told me, it was a bigger opportunity for me because they told me they were only going to recruit me as a running back. That would leave me, (Michael) Dyer and a walk-on in the backfield. I was like, ‘That’s fine.’ They told me if I switched they would sign just me. So I switched.“
And why did he switch back to the Tide at the last minute?
“I was debating on whether to go back to Auburn that weekend becuase I had been the weekend before. Instead I went back to Alabama. When I got back to Alabama it was like, ‘This is where I’ve really been. This is where I want to be.’ Because they showed me love even though I switched on them on national TV. I didn’t feel no hard feelings. I didn’t feel awkward about being there. … On top of that, Auburn signed three other running backs before I even signed. They were misleading me. Very misleading.“
According to Woodruff, Calloway’s old high school coach also played a role in the player’s decision to switch schools. Supposedly, Doug Goodwin had a heated phone conversation Winston, Calloway’s father, on the final weekend prior to signing day.
Woodruff — who says he was not on the final trip to Bama as Lee has alleged — says Calloway told him about the conversation shortly after it occurred. Take it away, Mr. Scarbinsky:
“Brent said, ‘Darren, you ain’t gonna believe this. Coach Goodwin has called my daddy and jumped on him for bring me down here.’ If anybody wants to know what the deciding factor is, this was a pretty decisive moment, and Coach Goodwin calls down there and says some pretty hard things to Peaches.”
Goodwin, who left Russellville to become the head coach at Homewood, declined to address the specifics of that phone conversation with Winston. “My players and coaches, I love every one of them, and they know that,” Goodwin said Tuesday. “All I’ve ever wanted was what was best for them.”
Goodwin did say that he would never try to influence a player’s college decision. He is an Auburn grad, but he said: “I don’t have anything against the University of Alabama or any other program. Anyone who has a chance to play there is a lucky individual. I think Nick Saban does a great job as the coach there.”
In his interview with The News, Woodruff explained or denied nearly all of the charges made against him by Lee. He also added: “I am not anti-Auburn. Some of my best friends are Auburn graduates and Auburn fans. I’ve got a business partner that’s an Auburn booster.”
But what about Calloway? What does he say about the allegations?
When asked by TideSports.com if Alabama or Auburn had offered money to him or anyone close to him, the player said, “Heck no. I wish they would have, but they didn’t.”
Gotta love that response, no? Good to know the kid would have cheated if given the opportunity.
And what about cars? “No,” Calloway said. “You can put this in the newspaper. If I had a car, I would be driving it. I want a car so bad, but because all of this that is going on now I can’t even get a car because it’s just going to make it worse.”
Asked if Woodruff offered money to him or his father, Calloway said: “No. Darren was willing to take me to Auburn when I asked him to take me. But I didn’t go. I went to Alabama instead that weekend.”
Did Woodruff or Winston force him to visit Tuscaloosa on that final pre-signing day weekend? “No, they can’t force me to do anything. I’m 6-3, 225 pounds. You think they can force me to do anything?”
The man who suggested Calloway was forced/cajoled/brainwashed/paid to attend Alabama remains silent on all this new information. A check of AuburnSports.com this morning shows no retaliatory strike from Lee. Yet. But don’t be surprised to see Goodwin give a lengthy “Here’s my side of the story” interview to the pro-Tiger site at some point.
For now, we will continue to lump Lee in with Scott Moore, the former radio host and Alabama fan who claimed on multiple radio stations across the Southeast that he was going to play audio tapes proving that Cam Newton knew his father was shopping him.
The tapes were never heard. Moore lost his job and has pretty much stayed out of the mix ever since.
Moore told many Alabama fans what they wanted to hear: Auburn is cheating. The fact that he was discussing a situation that had spawned numerous rumors and allegations already only made his claims easier to believe… for those who wanted to believe them.
Ditto Lee. Many Auburn fans wanted to hear that Bama is cheating. “Ah, ha!” Now, is there any proof, any evidence? No. No more than what Moore had anyway.
In both cases, the conspiracy theorists started to piece together circumstantial evidence in an effort to prove that their rivals were breaking rules, but to date, nothing hard and fast has emerged. Nothing that would stand up in a court of law anyway.
Lee and Moore may well have been telling the truth. But the fact that both men are fans — who just happened to be making accusations about their schools’ biggest rivals — cuts into their credibility.
Maybe the FBI does have wiretaps that will bring down the Newtons and Auburn. And maybe the NCAA will determine that Woodruff is a Tide booster and not a family friend as he says.
Until that happens, we’re not buying what Lee’s selling anymore than we bought what Moore was peddling. It seems there’s more rivalry-driven emotion behind these claims than irrefutable evidence.
At this point.