Curtis Anderson did not go out looking for the spotlight.
But, for the last two days, the Athens, Ala., resident has reluctantly found himself at the middle of an Alabama football controversy.
And he’s had enough of it.
Anderson, 56, was first identified in a Birmingham News story Sunday as the man who paid for a chartered spring fishing trip in Gulf Shores that included Crimson Tide football standouts Julio Jones and Mark Ingram. The situation could land Alabama in hot water with the NCAA, the organization that placed the school on probation in July for a separate matter.
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When contacted by phone Monday afternoon, an obviously frustrated Anderson declined to say where he met the two sophomore football players as he had in previous interviews with other news outlets.
“It has nothing to do with anything,” said Anderson, owner of Eagle Wholesale Supply in Athens. “That’s been a long time ago.”
He went on to say Jones and Ingram were “extremely good friends,” and that he was sick of answering questions on the matter.
The story, which had been the subject of rumors for several months, was investigated by the university and Alabama’s assistant to the president and vice president for university relations released a statement on the matter.
“The University is aware of Mr. Anderson, and has taken appropriate steps,” said Deborah Lane. “Mr. Anderson is not affiliated with UA. He is not a UA booster, fan or alumnus, and is not a UA season ticket holder. In fact, Mr. Anderson told us that all of his family are fans of another SEC school.”
Anderson, who has a condominium in Gulf Shores, disputes one detail from previous news coverage of the story. The marina where Jones worked, Zeke’s Landing, was not where the fishing trip in question originated, Anderson said.
“I’ve never been out fishing from Zeke’s Landing — don’t go to Zeke’s,” Anderson said. “I haven’t been there in 15 years. That’s not the case. That’s what people have said, but that’s a lie. The only reason I’ll talk to anybody is because I’m sick and tired of lies.”
Nevertheless, the NCAA questions remain.
The Tuscaloosa News reported a compliance officer from UA traveled to Indianapolis, the home of the NCAA, to meet with enforcement representatives.
The determination of Anderson not being an athletic booster of Alabama’s would bode well for the university.
Should the NCAA conclude he had affiliations with the school, his payment for the players’ trip could be considered a major violation. Otherwise, it could be considered secondary.
Anderson told the Birmingham News that he didn’t even know who either player was before meeting them.
“When I was told, ‘This is Julio Jones,’ I said, ‘Whoopty-do,’ ” Anderson told The Birmingham paper. “I had no idea who Julio Jones was. I’ve got my right hand on this Bible. I swear to Jesus Christ, I had no idea who Julio Jones and Mark Ingram were when I met them and they became friends of mine. I didn’t know for weeks and months.”
NCAA rules prohibit “preferential treatment, benefits or services because of the individual’s athletics reputation or skill or payback potential as a professional athlete.
Since UA’s investigation on the matter opened, Anderson was asked to cease communication with Jones and Ingram.
The value of the trip has not been made public, but if it were less than $100, NCAA rules state the players can repay Anderson without losing eligibility.
Since any potential violation did not occur during the 2008 season, their eligibility for those games are not in question, nor would any wins have the potential to be vacated.