Photo by Illustration by Martha Rich
"I had a son who played high school football, and I wanted him to be recruited by SDSU. I explained this to Ms. Roush." A few days later, Sutton said, he got a phone call from some associates who had found out he had been an "informant" to Roush.
"I had a son who played high school football, and I wanted him to be recruited by SDSU. I explained this to Ms. Roush." A few days later, Sutton said, he got a phone call from some associates who had found out he had been an "informant" to Roush.
Illustration by Martha Rich
On the website of the San Diego State University women's track team, there is this small entry for a young distance runner from Washington state: "Personal: Emily Yale Wynne was born August 22, 1983, in Yankton, S.D.... Daughter of Mary Wynne.... Has two brothers Ryan and Chaz.... Majoring in exercise and nutritional sciences.... High School: Lettered in cross country as a freshman in Washington and as a junior in South Dakota.... Team MVP in both track and cross country as a junior.... Also earned letters in basketball, soccer and swimming.... Graduated from Okanagan High School in Okanagan, Wash."
Until last spring, the then-20-year-old Emily had another full-time occupation, one not mentioned in her SDSU bio. She was an exotic dancer at Cheetahs strip club on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. Her stage name, according to the adult-entertainment permit she received two years ago from the San Diego Police Department, was Dreamer. Before Cheetahs, the permit says, she worked for a year at Déjà Vu, another strip joint, beginning in October 2002, when she was barely 19. In the box on the form designated "prior criminal convictions," she listed a charge of "minor in posesion [sic]," in Harrisburg, South Dakota, on October 1, 2001.
Emily doesn't run track for SDSU anymore. Last spring, she said in a telephone interview, she was forced to leave the team because of painful bunions she had developed after years of nude dancing in adult nightclubs. She said she was leaving California and moving to Arizona State University, where her mother was teaching. She denied rumors going around campus that she had been forced from the track team in the wake of an ESPN story, aired last March, in which a San Diego stripper, her face concealed, identified only as Nicole, alleged that she had entertained at parties held in the late 1990s where recruits of the SDSU football program were present.
SDSU athletic director Mike Bohn denied those charges in an e-mail circulated to football boosters and leaked to the media the day after the program aired on the cable network. "This report is just one more in a continuing barrage of unfounded allegations about our athletics programs," the e-mail said. "Such statements are, we firmly believe, false." Not mentioned in the e-mail was the fact that Bohn's predecessor, Rick Bay, told a reporter for Union-Tribune in July 2003 that he had been forced to resign after a university auditor uncovered a 2001 photograph of a group of SDSU coaches, players, and boosters surrounding a topless dancer at a strip club called Columbus Gold in Columbus, Ohio. Written across the bottom: "Party Animals!"
After promising to provide more details of her life at SDSU in a face-to-face interview in May, Wynne called back to say she had been advised (by people she declined to identify) not to say anything further. She failed to return subsequent telephone calls, and eventually her telephone was disconnected. Attempts to ascertain her present whereabouts have been unsuccessful.
Whatever the reason, the timing of Wynne's departure was convenient for SDSU and its troubled athletic program. For years, stories about the program's culture of booze, strippers, and pregame sex, financed by wealthy team boosters, have been making the rounds. Lately, even uglier rumors about connections to Las Vegas Mafia members and casino gambling interests have emerged. Allegations have also circulated that money has been paid to certain players for point shaving — the practice of keeping scores within certain ranges to allow gamblers to profit from preordained point spreads. Such allegations have been repeatedly denied by the university, but the allegations refuse to die.
Rumors of alleged financial irregularities involving the athletic program's nonprofit fundraising organization and booster club, the Aztec Athletic Foundation, have added to the intrigue and backbiting at the school. According to state records, the foundation was suspended by the secretary of state's office this August for failing to file its annual report. The university has said that the group does not file an annual tax return with the Internal Revenue Service, as most nonprofit charities are required to do. Instead, the university says, the estimated $1.5 million taken in each year by the booster club is handled by the San Diego State University Foundation, which provides no separate public accounting of the athletic foundation's finances.
Reached by phone last week, Craig Nelson, a local banker and current president of the Aztec Athletic Foundation, said he was aware that the group had been suspended by the secretary of state's office and didn't expect the foundation's official status to be renewed. "I think that it won't be reinstated and that it will lapse and the group will continue to function in the way that [SDSU administrators] have it formatted. I don't know what the exact details are. It wasn't any kind of sanction.
"There was something to do with how we fall within the university and it had to be restructured, but it was sort of a paperwork issue, sort of an administrative thing." After consulting a university official, Nelson called back to elaborate. "We let that expire because everything will go into the Campanile Foundation. All of the gifts will roll up through the Campanile Foundation." The Campanile Foundation is a nonprofit organization set up by SDSU to collect and funnel money into university operations.
"I don't know if there is going to be an announcement," Nelson added. "All of the money gets pooled and rolled up into this Campanile Foundation, which effectively manages that money and keeps it invested. But are we still a 501(c)3 charitable organization, or are we a subsidiary of the Campanile Foundation? That's a good question." In a letter dated August 8 of this year, California State University attorney Steven Raskovich said that the Aztec Athletic Foundation was not "a recognized auxiliary organization" of the university.
As is common in today's world of college athletics, select members of the SDSU coaching staff (and the university's sports executives who supervise them) are handsomely paid and receive perks such as free cars, clothing, and event tickets. According to documents obtained from SDSU under the California public-records act, the San Diego State University Foundation makes quarterly payments of $1025 for each of the automobiles furnished to at least ten coaches, including four assistant football coaches, the head women's track coach, the head swim coach, and the head softball coach.
Employment contracts for Tom Craft, the school's head football coach, and Steve Fisher, the head basketball coach, show that each is entitled to two free cars, though the university-furnished records do not indicate whether they had actually received them. Both Craft's and Fisher's salaries -- in Craft's case $400,000 and Fisher's $375,000 -- are also subsidized by the foundation, according to their contracts.
In SDSU athletic director Mike Bohn's case, his December 2003 letter of engagement calls for an entity called Aztec Shops to provide him with a $100,000 "housing loan." According to state records, Aztec Shops is a nonprofit "Public Benefit" corporation that runs the student bookstore, mess hall, and other SDSU concessions. Why and how it was called upon to subsidize Bohn's mortgage has not been explained.
According to the letter, Bohn is the beneficiary of a "goal-based performance bonus agreement," under which "the University may, but is not required to, instruct Aztec Shops Ltd. to forgive the next annual principal and interest payment on the loan for the year under review."
In addition, Bohn has reported on his state-required personal financial-disclosure form that last year he received a $5000 membership to the Stoneridge Country Club in Poway. Contacted by phone, Bohn declined to reveal the source of the free membership, although state law requires the public disclosure.
Many of the perks and payments provided to athletic staffers and players at SDSU are common in today's commercialized world of college sports. But even there, the NCAA, which is supposed to oversee the schools, has drawn lines, many of which, records of state investigations show, have been crossed by SDSU. The school's financial quid pro quos, along with the tales of drinking and trips to strip clubs in San Diego and Tijuana, have been the repeated subject of official and unofficial scrutiny from the NCAA and California State University system auditors.
An April 2003 audit conducted by California State University auditor Larry Mandel concluded that those in charge at SDSU illegally traded "clothing, gear, and equipment" belonging to the university for "access to sporting events, concerts, and other entertainment." Mandel also found that "Athletic stock was openly taken...for personal use or benefit by Athletics employees and others." In addition, some staff members "bartered shoes for merchandise with a sporting-goods vendor."
The report singled out then-equipmentroom manager Steve Bartel for strong criticism, accusing him of trading or giving away clothing and equipment that was the property of the university. "The ER Manager established a relationship with an employee at a local entertainment venue whereby he could arrange for discounted and complimentary admission to events for himself and other Athletics employees. These discounted and complimentary tickets were effected through a barter of Stock."
The auditor went on to portray an out-of-control working environment, where student helpers were plied with booze and required to work more hours than they were paid for. "Alcoholic beverages were found to be stored in four different locations within the facilities controlled by the equipment room manager. All but one of these locations was accessible by student workers," the report found. Further, the equipment-room manager "encouraged underage consumption of alcohol."
"The equipment room manager was regularly seen taking items from inventory for personal use or being traded for personal benefit," the audit alleged. "He traded clothing and gear for air travel upgrades to first-class seating, admission to a local amusement park and sporting events, and for other athletic clothes and gear, which were said to include golf clubs for himself and others. Personal services unrelated to Athletics business were also traded for stock.
"We were told that the most commonly misappropriated items were caps, shirts, and shoes. However, direct evidence which could support the precise amount that was mishandled/misappropriated could not be established.
"Various Athletics employees have stated that they observed the loading of athletic shoes from the athletics equipment room manager to a nonstate vehicle during nonbusiness hours. This loading was being performed by the Senior Associate Athletic Director (AAD), the equipment room manager, and the principal for a local sporting goods dealer.
"In addition, we obtained statements from University employees and others which described this removal of shoes from the areas having occurred for a number of years. According to the equipment room manager and the senior AAD, this transaction was a barter for other stock. The equipment room manager indicated that few records of these transactions were retained by him. Athletics accounting personnel indicated that they had no record or knowledge of this transaction."
In the wake of the audit, equipment-room manager Bartel was fired by the university, but in February 2004, after he filed an appeal with the state personnel board, SDSU backed down and agreed to rehire him. "Mr. Bartel and his family are pleased to see that San Diego State recognized [its] serious errors in judgment," Bartel's attorney, Paul Kondrick, said in a statement. "It was unfortunate that Mr. Bartel has had to bear the humiliation of the last 18 months. Steve is now looking forward to returning to his job." Bartel continued on the university payroll but did not go back to his previous job. Instead, he works in the events office.
Ex-athletic director Rick Bay, forced out by SDSU president Stephen Weber after the audit, saw Bartel's reinstatement as a vindication of sorts. "I was fired because I believed the audit to be irresponsible and inaccurate," he told reporters. "Clearly there were holes in it, otherwise these allegations would have held up.... I would hope this situation gives pause to a lot of the other allegations that were in the final audit report."
Some university insiders had another interpretation: SDSU administrators did not want any more of their dirty laundry aired in public and decided to cut their losses. They had not initiated the state audit and were more than happy to see its findings called into question and the issues that it raised die an early death. Bartel subsequently filed a defamation suit against the university, several of its officials and employees, along with some boosters who had criticized him on the Internet. The bulk of that suit is still pending.
In it he called the auditor's investigation sloppy and inaccurate and lashed out at the SDSU president and his top aide, Sally Roush,claiming that he had been scapegoated for practices that had long been common on the campus. He alleged that there had been "ongoing requests directly to Bartel, by Weber and Roush and other executive managers and officers in CSU and SDSU for [Bartel's] time and attention and in particular to satisfy their specific requests and demands for equipment and clothing to be supplied directly from the sports equipment rooms under Bartel's supervision.
"For instance [they] requested six or more 'golf umbrellas' from Bartel when such items were not within the equipment or athletic department inventory or stock or stores."
The lawsuit also attacked Weber for talking to the press about the by-then-infamous Polaroid photo taken of Bartel and several "student assistants" with a naked dancer at the Columbus Gold strip club in Ohio. Bartel, the lawsuit said, had posed for the photo "during his recreation and off-duty hours in the company of a topless dancer."
The circumstances surrounding the photo, Bartel maintained, were harmless enough. But in an attempt to smear the equipment manager, the complaint charged, Weber went to the media, exaggerated the seriousness of the incident, and "spoke publicly and openly and with disdain and total disregard for plaintiff Bartel's privacy rights and interests, commenting on plaintiff's own personal lifestyle."
The administrators were so eager to get dirt on Bartel, the suit alleged, that they searched his personal property for damning evidence and downloaded data from a small computing device he owned. The university "further invaded plaintiff's privacy by, and through, their 'hot synching' of plaintiff's private, personally owned Palm Pilot to extract personal and confidential information."
In support of his claims, Bartel filed with the court a number of e-mails, memos, and other material he said the state had based its audit on. All of them, he insisted, were bogus. "As well as being connected around the country," according to one of the statements, "Bartel is well-wired on the SDSU campus. He has close contacts with John Carpenter, the campus chief of police, and his assistant, Captain Steve Williams, Mike Smoger, the public safety administrator for parking, Dan Nowak, the ex-vice president of student affairs and many numerous businessmen and women (boosters included) in the city of San Diego. He has close relationships with these people because he gives them state property [clothing] on a yearly basis.
"Bartel could furnish these people clothing by over-ordering for sports teams and by neglecting to issue it to its intended purpose -- the SDSU athletes. Bartel is a bully without bite. He knows he has support from Redfern, Bay, and anybody from the aforementioned group. He plays double standards with the football players and coaches. If you're a coach and you kissed Bartel's butt, then he would reward you with your designated list of coaches' clothing. In addition to this, he would give you 'gifts.' These gifts would be a range of different items from Oakley sunglasses to Nike apparel."
As a result of those allegations, which his lawsuit called "part of a sinister scheme to discredit and humiliate him," along with the battle over his job, Bartel "developed a major depressive disorder and a generalized anxiety disorder" requiring him to see several psychiatrists. He was "frightened to start over at age 50," and his "son has been victim of abusive teasing as a result of newspaper stories" about the firing. He also experienced "significant weight gain," "sleepwalking," and "paranoid thoughts," forcing him to begin taking several antipsychotic and sleep-inducing drugs, including Wellbutrin, Xanax, Paxil, and Ambien.
But as his attorney sought to discredit many of the witnesses in a series of depositions, a host of fresh allegations and ugly details about life on campus also emerged.
In a deposition taken for the case in January of this year, then-defendant John Spriet, a former student who had once worked for Bartel in the equipment room, testified he had seen Bartel looking at pornography on a university computer. "In some of our early-morning practices, one of Mr. Bartel's favorite sites was www.thehung.com. This was a site that displayed a lot of pictures. And there was joking a few times that I personally caught Mr. Bartel there early in the morning viewing these pictures."
Spriet also testified about alcohol abuse. "My freshman year, fresh out of my small farm town, there was an incident after a game where Mr. Bartel and I shared a bottle of Jack Daniel's. I passed out in my dorm room, walked into a woman's restroom, and had to go to an alcohol class for that. I was almost kicked out of the dorm. So it was a giant joke.
"Other incidents, our coaches' clinics. Beer being provided for the coaches, beer in the locker room for the coaches, and we were encouraged to finish it, to get rid of it."
Asked by Bartel's attorney whether Bartel had provided the encouragement, Spriet responded, "Exactly, sir." He also described drunken road trips. "We had a situation where we could fly first class, and one of the complimentary things of first class is being able to drink for free."
There was, Spriet said, "competition among us student managers to see who could get the drunkest or drink the most in the shortest amount of time. Mr. Bartel traveled with us."
And Spriet shed new light on how the underage students managed to make their way into nude dancing clubs using boosters' connections. "We used a booster's ID one night for a short time to get in. The boosters would usually distract the bouncer, and we would just go right by, or they knew somebody there that we just walked right by."
At one point Bartel's attorney asked Spriet, "But how did Mr. Bartel make you go to these clubs if he wasn't driving the truck or the vehicle? I'm kind of curious."
Spriet responded, "As our immediate supervisor, Steve asking us to go, whether he was driving or not, we felt obligated to go. We felt that we were underage. We knew we could get in because we had Steve and the boosters. Therefore, it was fun for us."
In another deposition, David Ohton, then the football team's strength-training coach, testified about an airline upgrade Bartel had arranged. "I was at an airport in LAX and waiting for a redeye flight to Miami, and Steve showed up with an assistant equipment manager. We didn't even know we had the same flight. And he took my ticket, went to the counter. I came back and they called me up. She asked me for my ticket, and she switched me. And I looked at my ticket and I was in first class."
Asked by Bartel's lawyer whether Bartel had given "some equipment or property belonging to San Diego State to get that," Ohton responded, "Yes... I boarded the plane and the captain came out of the cabin wearing a San Diego State hat." Ohton added that "Steve had a bag of San Diego State hats and shirts [and said], 'I do this all the time.' "
But the equipment room was not the only troublesome aspect of SDSU's athletic operation. The auditor said he had discovered other evidence of fraud and criminal conflict of interest. "Athletics employees permitted a sporting goods vendor access to the University and its employees, which was not offered to the same extent as to other vendors," according to the report.
"Athletics failed to accurately report its revenues and expenses. This failure potentially impacts various mandated reporting requirements established by the Internal Revenue Service and Title IX. The failure also falls short of the procurement goals of the CSU with regard to elimination of favoritism, fraud, and corruption.
"Documents and statements indicate that the vendor was provided, without charge, tickets to Athletics events and clothing similar to that received by boosters. We also were informed that the vendor presented gifts and gratuities to Athletics employees, including golf outings and meals for the Equipment room manager...
"Athletics traded game tickets, media time and advertising, and other services and intangible benefits for cars, trucks, golf, airline tickets, hotel rooms, restaurant meals, and other tangible benefits." The practice of trading tickets for things of value supplied by private parties is not unusual in college sports, the auditor said, but in SDSU's case, accounting was woefully inadequate. "Athletics also received goods and services for which no trade of tickets, media time, etc. was maintained. Examples of these are golf course rounds for team practice, credit allowances at hotels, and gas for the Athletic Director's vehicle...
"Tickets were released with little documentation," the report said, and "The equity of trades was inadequately managed, and certain instances existed where the value of what was given was greater than what was received."
In late 2001/early 2002, the athletic department came under scrutiny for violation of NCAA bylaws governing impermissible out-of-season practice activities and a failure to monitor the football program. The NCAA report states that some of the violations were uncovered through on-campus interviews and also concludes that the department failed to successfully establish an environment that would have caused staff to report possible rule violations.
"Several employees interviewed during this investigation explained that they did not report violations or other problems because they saw the senior [assistant athletic director] as quick tempered and intolerant, other athletics administrators as being incapable of appropriately carrying concerns forward.
"The natural reticence of an employee to bring problems concerning colleagues to a supervisor, and most particularly to a top administrator several levels removed from the employee, has not been erased or sufficiently mitigated by the existing policies, procedures, and practices in Athletics."
When finally released in the spring of 2003, the auditor's report caused an uproar. SDSU president Stephen Weber pledged to clean up the sports program and vowed that he would root out whatever fraud and corruption remained. But in-house critics, pointing to the sloppy way in which the university has monitored fundraising activities and spending of the Aztec Athletic Foundation, argued that Weber's promises were mostly phony public relations moves to get the state off his back and end further investigations into potentially embarrassing athletic-department scandals.
And although Weber repeatedly promised that staff members who blew the whistle on abuses would not face retaliation, strength coach Ohton -- who had worked at SDSU for 18 years training athletes from 16 teams, including baseball, football, and basketball -- was soon to learn otherwise.
As later described in a lawsuit Ohton filed against the university this February, the strength coach was dragged into the investigation after getting a call from Cal State auditor Michael Redmond. "Mr. Redmond advised Coach Ohton of his duty to truthfully cooperate in CSU's audit of SDSU's athletic programs, including football. Although Coach Ohton was apprehensive, he was also cognizant of his legal and ethical duties to cooperate with CSU's auditor. Unlike others who lied to, concealed facts from, or otherwise intentionally misled Mr. Redmond, Coach Ohton responded candidly, truthfully, and in good faith to Mr. Redmond's inquiries."
According to Ohton's complaint, he had been suspicious of incoming head football coach Tom Craft ever since a 2002 incident in which Craft allegedly conducted illegal football practices in contravention of the rules of the NCAA. "In violation of these rules, SDSU football coaches ordered the football players to line up in traditional formations and run plays using a taped-up towel as a football. Notably, Coach Ohton personally warned Coach Craft that NCAA regulations prohibited these practices.
"These illegal practices resulted in an NCAA investigation, findings of NCAA violations and resulted in a penalty against the SDSU football program, including a two-year probation." Furthermore, Ohton claimed, "The NCAA increased the penalty against the SDSU Aztecs football team because Coach Craft and/or others on his coaching staff lied to NCAA investigators."
In the belief that his identity would be shielded from Weber and the subjects of the investigation, Ohton supplied Redmond with hundreds of pages of what he said were carefully documented leads to wrongdoing, fraud, and criminal activities he alleged were being committed by university employees. The revelations featured in the resulting audit, notes Ohton's complaint, "led to the forced resignation of SDSU's Athletic Director Richard Bay, the early retirement of former Senior Associate Director Vance Redfern, and the termination of Senior Associate Athletic Director Jana Doggett."
Ohton says he didn't expect to get a medal for turning in the athletic program, but neither was he prepared to be betrayed by the university. Despite Redfern's assurances, Ohton's unease grew as he began to hear murmurs that people in the highest echelons at SDSU had somehow found out about his cooperation with the investigation and were out to get him. In May 2003, a month after the audit was issued, SDSU president Stephen Weber distributed a memo in which he purported to be concerned about protecting whistleblowers from retaliation.
"As we begin to receive more specific information with regard to the auditor's findings, it is possible that information will emerge about colleagues in the department that have been interviewed by the auditor," Weber wrote. "I want to make it absolutely clear that there must be no retaliation in any way against people who have done a public service to the citizens of California, to this university, and to the Department of Athletics by calling these problems to the attention of the auditor. I want everyone on notice that if there are any retaliatory actions taken toward employees who have cooperated in this audit, those retaliating will be subject to disciplinary action."
In June 2003, about two months after the audit exploded over the school, Ohton learned that his role as whistle-blower had been exposed to David Powroznik, the director of football operations. "Coach Ohton later discovered that Coach Craft had improperly obtained and distributed to several SDSU Athletic Department employees copies of Coach Ohton's written report to the CSU auditor Mr. Redmond," according to Ohton's lawsuit. "Thereafter, members of SDSU's administration and staff began to retaliate against Coach Ohton because of his cooperation with CSU's audit.
"During September 2003, the SDSU Aztecs football program stripped Coach Ohton of the benefits of his position, which he had earned over 18 years of exemplary service to the University. Coach Ohton did not receive the allocated equipment, including shirts, shorts, and warm-ups, bearing the SDSU logo and a Nike stipend which he was normally authorized. In addition, Coach Ohton was stripped of his sky-box privileges, field pass, and parking pass for SDSU Aztec football games."
But the blood feud that grew between Ohton and Craft became far more personal. Defensive lineman Brook Miller told Ohton's lawyers that he had personally witnessed Craft's rage during a team meeting in the autumn of 2003. "I could tell Coach Craft was angry because his tone was loud, sharp, and he was pacing back and forth in front of the whole team. He was wearing his sunglasses, as he usually does, and he told us that there were people who were trying to bring down the football program.
"Then, he said the 'strength coach' or 'strength program' is one of those people who were backstabbing him and this was going to hurt us," Miller continued. "Coach Craft told the players not to socialize with the strength coach anymore and to keep everything we do in-house and not to trust 'him.' He said these things as he was pointing down towards the first floor, where Coach Ohton's office is located."
In August, Ohton himself sent a memo to Weber, describing his treatment at the hands of Craft. "One assistant warned me that Craft stated to all of them that 'Ohton is trying to fuck me, and I'm going to fuck him twice.' On Wednesday August 6, at noon, Gene Bartow and Dave Powroznik came to my office and asked me for a quick minute. Bartow explained to me that 'Football was a family and that I was no longer part of that family.' He told me effective immediately I was relieved of all field responsibilities for football."
Craft's allegedly erratic behavior and his vendetta against Ohton became the talk of campus insiders as Ohton sat out the rest of the 2003 football season. But the strength coach turned out to be a formidable opponent. As he prepared to sue Craft and the university under the state's whistleblower statute -- intended to protect government employees from intimidation and retaliation when they report fraud and other criminal activities -- Ohton's legal team, led by attorney Dennis Schoville, began to take sworn testimony from those who claimed that Craft was more than just mildly out of control.
In short, witness after witness told Ohton's lawyers, Craft had a big-time drinking problem, and university administrators had looked the other way while their $400,000 football coach (who, records show, had pled guilty to a North County drunk-driving charge in 1997) was taking its vaunted football program into the ground and putting its student players at risk.
"Drinking became a problem with the football program," related defensive lineman Miller. "During the two-a-day camp, players were going out to get drunk and coming back just before the morning. Curfews or bed checks were inconsistent. Road trips were the same. No one checked to see if we were in our rooms. During this past season a group of six to nine players would meet every Thursday at 11 a.m. at the 4.0 Deli and drink until they had to report to meetings at 1:30 p.m. Oftentimes, the players would just skip the meetings and show up to practice. Some of the players were seriously drunk, and not a single coach said a thing."
Teammate Anthony Foli provided even more detail. "He would close his [regular Friday-night road trip] speech by saying, 'My mouth's dry and I need to get a tall drink of water.' All of the players would laugh because we knew he was talking about going to get some beers. Many times on the plane ride home from road games, players would pour liquor into their soft drink beverages. I remember seeing Coach Kaumeyer telling player Ryan Iata to keep it down. He didn't tell him to put it away, rather he told him to keep it down so the boosters and administrators couldn't see him drinking.
"Two years ago, 2002, before our road game in Idaho, we were in the locker room, and just before the game, Coach Craft walked by me and several of my teammates. He reeked of liquor. His breath was heavy with the smell of alcohol. I wasn't the only one that noticed. I talked about it with a few teammates sitting next to me. Our assistant coaches, like Coach Craft, were all very lethargic during the game and at halftime. We got beaten soundly by a weaker opponent that day.
"At our recent postseason football awards banquet, free beer was served to any football player who walked up to the bar area. It seemed that at least 80 percent of our team was drinking, and many players were underage. Prior to the banquet starting, the players, coaches, and others were in the hallway drinking very heavily. I had free mixed-drink tickets, which were provided by the coaches, and when the banquet started, I received free beer. Many senior players repeatedly left their chairs during the ceremony and returned with several drinks in their hands.
"The coaches could see that the players were drinking, but they never said a word. My parents were very surprised and disgusted that the SDSU football coaches did nothing to stop the players from drinking.
"On every Thursday, between six to ten players would meet around 11 a.m. and drink beer until the 1:30 p.m. [football practice] meetings. I attended one of these rituals, but I didn't get drunk like many of my teammates who did at this time. On two occasions, I recall some of our defensive linemen falling down.... It was obvious that they were drunk, and the coaches would just tell them to go over and stand on the sidelines.
"What made it worse was that the younger players saw this and believed it was acceptable. This is likely why 'positive' results on drug tests have doubled in the past two years. The young players don't seem to care because they are not held accountable for their actions.
"We had players get arrested for felony theft and driving under the influence, but the public doesn't find out about it. It seems to me that our own administration is in the dark or doesn't care."
During a July deposition in the case, player Jonathan Ingram, now an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, related another experience he said he'd had while on the road in Laramie, Wyoming, with the team in the fall of 2002.
Asked by a lawyer for Ohton whether he believed that Coach Craft and his assistants had been out drinking late one night, Ingram responded, "Yes." Asked why he thought so, he said, "The loud commotion, how they were behaving themselves, and Coach Ohton had discussed with me that Coach House's family member owned a bar in Wyoming, and that just gave me even more reason. And the time of their coming back in." He also described an incident during a game in New Mexico during which, Ingram claimed, he smelled alcohol on the breath when Craft came into the huddle.
Don Sutton, a team booster, told a similar tale in another declaration. "On or around November 8, 2002, I was invited by the San Diego State University's athletic department to travel with the SDSU Aztec football team on an away game to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to watch them play the New Mexico Lobos. I was a booster, hired by Barona, for the SDSU athletic department during that time period."
Sutton recounted sitting in the lobby of the team hotel with some friends. "We were facing the main doorway, and at around 1:00 a.m., SDSU Coach Craft and [Coach] Powroznik walked in. Coach Craft was stumbling, and I easily recognized that he was very drunk. In reference to Coach Craft's drunken appearance, I said... 'Some things never die,' because I had been told...that Coach Craft had also gotten drunk the night before the Idaho road game during the same season." Shortly afterwards, Sutton said, "I saw Coach Craft using the wall to hold himself up."
But Sutton claimed he was troubled by more than just Craft's drunkenness. His complaint mirrored Ohton's allegations of having been outed by university administrators for blowing the whistle on the coach's bad behavior. "During the summer of 2003, I received a phone call from SDSU Vice President Sally Roush," Sutton said. "I told Ms. Roush what I knew. She told me that she wanted me to come in and sign documents. I explained to Ms. Roush that I would provide this testimony confidentially to her, but only if the others, the administrative employees in the athletic department who would corroborate my information, failed to come forward.
"I was hesitant to come forward because I had a son who played high school football, and I wanted him to be recruited by SDSU. I explained this to Ms. Roush, and I thought she would be sensitive to my situation." A few days later, Sutton said, he got a phone call from some associates who had found out he had been an "informant" to Roush. "I was angry at Ms. Roush because she knew my constraints and yet she revealed my identity after I had asked her not to. I called Ms. Roush to voice my opinion and left a voice mail message. I never heard from her again."
There was also a slapping incident, as related by player Jonathan Ingram, for which Craft later was forced to apologize. "Coach Craft then began to talk to the whole team about a fight that some players were involved in a few days before this meeting," Ingram recalled. "Coach Craft was extremely upset and his voice was raised above his normal level of talking. I was standing next to the red-shirt freshman player Mike Kracalik, who was on a knee while listening to Coach Craft.
"Coach Craft had his hands on his hips, and he was explaining to us that he was tired of hearing about football players retaliating and fighting when confronted by people looking for fights. He stated, 'I'm tired of hearing you players getting caught and getting kicked out of school.' He further added, 'If someone walks up to you, just walk away. If someone walks up to you and hits you, you can't hit back.'
"After saying this, Coach Craft raised his right hand and slapped player Mike Kracalik across the left cheek of his face. The slap was hard and unbelievable. Mike dropped his head down. I asked myself, 'Did he just do that?' I was shocked at how hard he hit Mike, and I was embarrassed for him. Coach Craft continued to talk, and I watched Mike raise his head back up and pay attention to Coach Craft. This incident scared me. I looked at Coach Craft much differently from then on."
Craft has since aplogized for the slap, but he and the university have denied many of the other allegations in Ohton's lawsuit. They claim that many of the sworn statements were made by friends of Ohton, who defendants allege lied or exaggerated their allegations. With dozens of new depositions in the works, the scandal at SDSU is sure to grow.