Columbus police interviews conducted during an investigation of the Parks and Recreation Department reveal that director Tony Adams and top lieutenant Herman Porter may have jeopardized the amateur status of two University of Georgia athletes who played on the Georgia Blazers, their city-funded, Nike-sponsored AAU basketball team.
Police records show that an unauthorized bank account controlled by Adams and Porter was used to pay for flights to and from Los Angeles for Jarvis Jones, a two-sport star at Carver High School who played football for one season at the University of Southern California, and for the cell phone bill of the mother of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a five-star shooting guard from Greenville High School.
NCAA rules do not allow amateur sports organizations to provide expenses for athletes in excess of actual and necessary travel, room and board, apparel and equipment for competition and practice.
Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren said the NCAA was “aware of the investigation, allegations and actions of the individuals we had under investigation.”
It is NCAA policy to refrain from discussing an ongoing investigation.
Asked if Georgia has had any contact with the NCAA regarding the status of Caldwell-Pope or Jones, University of Georgia Director for Compliance Eric Baumgartner said, “I have not received or heard of anything.”
Jones, a former Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City Player of the Year in both football and basketball, signed a football scholarship with USC in February 2009. He sprained his neck during his freshman year and was not cleared medically by the USC training staff, prompting his transfer to Georgia last June. He redshirted in 2010 but is a projected starting outside linebacker for the Bulldogs this season.
Caldwell-Pope is a McDonald’s All-American shooting guard considered Georgia’s best basketball prospect in years. He recently qualified academically and is reportedly already in school.
The NCAA has recently punished players for extra benefits provided by AAU coaches.
In the spring, Baylor basketball forward Perry Jones was declared ineligible after an investigation determined that while he was in high school an AAU coach provided his mother with three 15-day loans that did not total more than $1,000. The loans were repaid in a timely manner, but the NCAA also determined that the coach paid for the player to travel to a professional preseason football game in San Diego, a trip valued at $4,100.
Perry Jones was suspended from Baylor’s first-round Big 12 tournament game, a loss to Oklahoma, and must sit out the first five games of the 2011-2012 season to complete his suspension.
On June 1, 2010, police interviewed Shelley Stephens, a Parks and Recreation employee for 10 years. Jones, whose mother lived in Richland, had lived with Stephens after his mother gave her power of attorney.
Stephens told police investigators that after Jones signed with USC in 2009, Adams used the Georgia Blazers’ credit card belonging to Porter to pay for four different flights between Atlanta and Los Angeles for her and Jones:
From Atlanta to Los Angeles on June 1 at a cost of $339.20.
From Atlanta to Los Angeles on June 17 at a cost of $144.60.
To Atlanta from Los Angeles on Sept. 17 at a cost of $175.00.
To Atlanta from Los Angeles on Oct. 9 at a cost of $169.60.
The total cost of the flights was $828.40.
Stephens chose not to comment on the issue. Jones could not be reached.
Also during the investigation into the Georgia Blazers, investigators attempted to speak to Caldwell-Pope on Aug. 3, 2010. According to police reports, he wasn’t at his mother’s house in Greenville, Ga., but his older brother had a contact number to reach him. Kentavious, who was at his father’s house in Atlanta, spoke on the phone with police officers. When they tried to set up an appointment to speak in person, he hung up the phone.
During the investigation of the Parks and Rec Department, police subpoenaed Verizon for information about a cell phone bill paid for by the unauthorized Blazers bank account. It belonged to Rhonda Caldwell, Kentavious’ mother. One of the four numbers on the account was the same number given to police as Kentavious’ cell phone number.
The Verizon subpoena revealed a payment for $280.90 on July 27, 2009, made for Rhonda Caldwell’s phone bill using Porter’s credit card and money from the Blazers’ bank account.
Caldwell-Pope, Adams and Porter could not be reached for comment. A message left for Adams’ attorney, Shevon Sutcliffe Thomas, was not returned.
Porter’s attorney, Manny Arora, said, “I think the government investigated into every aspect and if there were other issues, I’m sure they would have come up, as contentious as the case was. But we really just want to put everything behind us. We’re on misdemeanor probation for a little while and we just want to get it over with and move on.”