Editorâ€™s note: Shane from Centerpoint first wrote this column for the Finebaum website May 18, 2007.
By Shane from Centerpoint
Selena Roberts, a sports columnist for The New York Times wrote in January 2005, “As wealthy contributors gain more influence in college football, the financing behind Chette Williams Ministries illuminates the elasticity of a booster’s reach into every last pocket of a program. No telling who is under their thumb. Even a trusted chaplain could be vulnerable.”
What if there was a system in place at a university where college football teams’ “big money” boosters could utilize a charitable non-profit, 501(c)(3) fund, based on religious principles, to funnel cash money to anybody, anywhere, anytime?
Would the system appear legitimate if it were lead by an established member of the clergy who also serves as the football team chaplain â€“ a man with the ability to maintain constant contact with every player and who has the freedom to report directly to boosters?
What if the members of that system had mastered the act of stretching the rules to the point that power hungry boosters could keep an inside eye on the heart of the program through it’s team chaplain?
Hypothetically, that person could serve in as many capacities as required by the head coach or a prominent booster if needed. The possibilities are endless.
Every word written above brings me to my next question â€“ why do the chief executive officer of one of the south’s largest banks and the Auburn football team chaplain have so much in common?
The appearance of a prominent booster of any institution being that close to the man who councils the players on a daily basis, not to mention all the money linked to the same two men, is oddly suspicious.
However, publicly questioning the legitimacy of a minority run, charitable, non-profit football organization would be difficult and unpopular at best.
Brother Chette Williams was hired by Tommy Tuberville in 1999. A former standout player for legendary Coach Pat Dye from 1982-84, Williams not only serves as the football team chaplain, but he is also the Alabama State Director for Urban Ministries.
To emphasize Chette’s importance to the players on the team, I’ll refer to former standout Reggie Torbor’s comments to The Times Selena Roberts. Torbor said, “If you ask anyone in that program, Brother Chette is the reason Auburn is where it is right now”. I’m not sure what he means when he tells Roberts, “He wants to help people. At the same time, him doing that would give off the impression of cheating and doing something he knows he shouldn’t do. It’s a fine line there. He helped us, but he didn’t do it for us, he pointed us in the right direction.”
Statements of that type lend to the perception that Chette Williams, not Tuberville, is actually running the day-to-day affairs of the majority of Auburn’s football players.
After all, Brother Chette lives three blocks from Tommy Tuberville in a 350,000 dollar home that at last check belonged to Auburn’s Associate Athletic Director, Terry Windle.
Windle also keeps the books for Chette Williams Ministries Inc., whose address is listed as the Auburn Athletic Department. By the way, there is no phone number listed for Brother Chette’s organization in the national phone number registry.
According to The Times Roberts, in 2003 Williams drew $55,824 in compensation as president for 20 hours work per week. Also, according to Windle, Chette earns a salary from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. It’s just a hunch, but I’ll bet Brother Chette doesn’t have a car note.
For a humble, “man of the cloth”, Williams has an apparent limitless source of money to draw from. Surely, the temptation to help poorer players must’ve crossed his mind at least once?
Truthfully, the deeper we look into C.W. Ministries, the more suspect it appears, especially to those who remember Auburn’s past dealings with the NCAA.
First and perhaps most curious, none of the officers of CWM are compensated. Ben Thomas, a former defensive lineman for Pat Dye is the vice-president. Strangely, he is listed as a member of Auburn’s event management staff. He was also the former resident director for Sewell Hall – the athletic dormitory.
Mike McCartney, a former Auburn board member with a history of close association with controversial trustee Bobby Lowder, is the chairman.
The single most controversial member of the CWM team is former Auburn defensive coordinator and Pat Dye clone, Wayne Hall. The Orlando Sentinel reported once that “Hall, a holdover from Coach Pat Dye’s staff when Terry Bowden coached at Auburn, was dismissed by Bowden because he suspected that Hall wasn’t as devoted to NCAA rules as he demanded”.
Amazingly, Wayne Hall is the treasurer for Chette Williams Ministries, Inc.
For the record, Pat Dye, the Auburn consultant, is on the board of directors for Bobby Lowder’s Colonial Bank. Wayne Hall is Dye’s lifelong friend. Williams and Ben Thomas are former Dye players who’ve been around since the early 80′s. Mike McCartney is a longtime friend and associate of Lowders. Also of interest, current outgoing school President Ed Richardson’s daughter works for Colonial Bank. That’s why they call themselves the “Auburn family”. The point is all these people, including many more, apparently rely on Chette Williams to be a guide for the players.
Along those lines there are so many questions left unanswered. For example: How much money does CWM actually pull in every year? Where does the money actually go?
With Lowder’s shady past, which includes the SACS probation concerning micromanagement and his $5,000,000 donations to Auburn athletics, coupled with large donations to Chette Williams Ministries, Auburn is treading on thin ice regarding the appearance of improprieties.
Finally, Chette serves as an FCA agent when he leads the Tiger assistants in Bible study. He’s the team chaplain when counseling individual players and it’s unclear what he does as the State Director for Urban Ministries.
Prior to Selena Robert’s column in The Times, Chette Williams made radio appearances and speeches all over the state. He was Tuberville’s poster boy for Auburn’s success. Lately, he’s the only Tiger in the state quieter than Tommy Tuberville.
That said, Auburn’s system definitely works and may be totally legitimate, but if The New York Times suspected enough foul play to investigate and report the issues surrounding Williams’ Ministry then the public needs to see an open book on the program.
Chette Williams or Tommy Tuberville should address the issue up front and put out the fire once and for all.
You can reach Shane via email at firstname.lastname@example.org