Baton Rouge, La. Nine years after NCAA sanctions stemming from his recruitment brought down the LSU men's basketball program, former Tiger Lester Earl has issued a written apology to LSU fans, former LSU coach Dale Brown and his assistant, Johnny Jones.
In a three-page letter hand delivered to The Baton Rouge Advocate, Earl also describes pressure he said came from NCAA investigators to implicate LSU in recruiting violations.
"I caused great harm, heartache and difficulties for so many people," Earl wrote. "I hurt LSU, and I am sorry. I took a small amount of money from well-meaning people who tried to help me and my family. I'm sorry I hurt them, too."
Earl, who transferred to Kansas University from LSU, is now 30 and living in Overland Park, Kan. He is attending college in K.C. in hopes of landing a business-management degree. He came up with the idea to write the apology on a trip back to his home state of Louisiana, where he attended a relative's funeral.
"Time heals all wounds," Earl told the Advocate. "If I could start anywhere it would be here (Kansas) and gradually work my way back to Louisiana. I miss the crawfish etouffee every day. You can't find cooking like that anywhere else in the world."
In November 1998, at the conclusion of a 21-month investigation, the NCAA placed LSU on three years' probation. The violations, the Advocate stated, stemmed "ostensibly from an admitted cash payment of $5,000 from Dr. Redfield Bryan, an LSU booster, to Earl."
Among the most significant penalties were the loss of two scholarships per year for three years and the limitation of LSU to four initial scholarship offers over the first two years of the probationary period. John Brady, who replaced Brown as coach in 1997, has said the sanctions adversely impacted the program for longer than the period intended.
Brown and Jones, who was initially alleged to have given Earl $6,600, were cleared of all violations. Still, Earl in his letter felt they both deserved an apology.
"I feel sorriest for hurting coach Dale Brown," Earl wrote. "Coach Brown, I apologize to you for tarnishing your magnificent career at LSU. The second apology I owe most is to coach Johnny Jones. Coach Jones, I never imagined you would have suffered so much because of the few supposed 'little things' I told the NCAA that you did."
Brown, who received a copy of Earl's letter, issued a brief statement to the Advocate.
"The most interesting journey that a person can make is discovering himself," Brown told the Advocate. "I believe Lester has done that, and I forgive him."
Earl asserts in his letter that NCAA investigators pressured him into making allegations.
"The NCAA basically told me if they didn't find any 'wrongdoing' that I would only be awarded one year left of my college career," wrote Earl, who arrived at KU in January 1997.
"They said, 'If we don't find any dirt on coach Brown, you won't be allowed to play but one more year at Kansas. ... If we do find out wrongdoing by coach Brown, you will be able to play two and a half more seasons.'"
Earl wrote he told the NCAA "some little things," including that LSU gave him money.
"I was pressured into telling them SOMETHING," Earl wrote.
"I was 19 years old at that time. The NCAA intimidated me, manipulated me into making up things, and basically encouraged me to lie, in order to be able to finish my playing career at Kansas."
Stacey Osborn, a spokeswoman for the NCAA, said the organization declined comment and stands by the public report on the case issued in 1998.