USC’s Baxter admits he “misspoke” about contact

In early June, administrators for the USC Trojans accused five schools – the Florida Gators, Alabama, Oregon, Washington and Fresno State – of illegally contacting running back Dillon Baxter about a transfer to their respective universities.

Less than a month later, USC athletic director Mike Garrett was forced to send letters to each school apologizing for the previous accusations and attempting to make amends for “any inconvenience or embarrassment” that was caused.

ESPN’s Shaun Assael has since uncovered a letter of admission from Baxter, who fessed up to misleading his university about what exactly happened in June.

“I misspoke when I said coaches had contacted me from other schools,” Baxter wrote in a letter to the school. “I am truly sorry for all of the chaos I have caused and it was not my intention to implicate other schools and their coaching staffs.”

Baxter began his letter by explaining that he spoke with friends at the implicated institutions, not coaches or administration officials. While he claims he did not understand the rules, many – including USC – appear to believe the whole situation was a hoax and that Baxter purposely misled them.

That is part of the reason that he has been suspended for the team’s opener against Hawaii on Sept. 2. “I’ve done a couple things, and things happen, and I made a mistake,” Baxter told reporters last week. “But I’m going to move on from here on out.”

USC head coach Lane Kiffin called Baxter’s one-game opening-season punishment “an extremely strong message and a very severe punishment for a player that may potentially be the most skilled player on our whole roster.”

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USC to Florida: Hope we didn’t embarass you…

On June 11, USC Trojans and director of compliance Matt Billings contacted Pac-10 associate commissioner for governance and enforcement Ron Barker and accused five programs – including the Florida Gators – of illegally contacting sophomore running back Dillon Baxter about transferring from Southern California after the school was hit with a variety of program-wide penalties by the NCAA.

Less than a month later, the New York Times’ Pete Thamel reports that Trojans athletic director Mike Garrett sent a letter to the Gators apologizing for the previous accusations. Specifically, Garrett tried to make amends for “any inconvenience or embarrassment” the allegations caused Florida, admitting that Baxter told him he did not speak to UF.

USC had also previously slandered Alabama, Oregon, Washington and Fresno State.

The Mobile Press-Register is also reporting that the Crimson Tide received a the same apology letter from Garrett, dated July 1. ESPN has learned that the Huskies and Ducks have also been sent letters. The generic message sent to each respective athletic director read as follows:

This comes after the school sent an e-mail to the Pac-10 last month.

“I just met with (Baxter) and he told me that he received phone calls from five institutions (June 10th),” Billings originally wrote to Barker. “All of the institutions asked if he was interested in transferring [from] USC due to the NCAA decision. Would you please speak with these schools to remind them they cannot speak to this student athlete?”

When asked for proof the communications took place, Baxter told Billings he had lost his cell phone and was unable to provide further specifics or documentation.

Florida associate athletics director for communications Steve McClain immediately denied the accusation in early June, as did representatives from Alabama and Oregon.

UPDATE: The Orlando Sentinel spoke with the Gators’ own senior associate athletic director of compliance – Jamie McCloskey, who told the paper that coaches “knew the rules,” insinuating that “normally the process would not be through the media.”

“Our coaches understood the process and who to contact,” he added. “They were upset that someone would make that allegation and feel that they have to respond to it.”

Image of the letter courtesy of ESPN affiliate Gator Country.

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UF accused of illegal contact with USC RB Baxter

ESPN‘s Joe Schad reports that the Florida Gators are one of five programs being accused of illegally contacting USC Trojans running back Dillon Baxter about a transfer.

Florida – along with Alabama, Oregon, Washington and Fresno State – allegedly reached out to Baxter (a true freshman) on June 10, according to USC. This potentially occurred one day before the NCAA announced that schools could recruit the Trojans’ juniors and seniors. Players wishing to leave will not have to sit out a year.

Baxter does not fall under these guidelines and told USC director of compliance Matt Billings about the illegal contact immediately; the Trojans have officially requested that the Pac-10 reach out to and speak with the accused parties.

“I just met with (Baxter) and he told me that he received phone calls from five institutions (June 10th),” Billings wrote to Pac-10 associate commissioner for governance and enforcement Ron Barker, according to ESPN. “All of the institutions asked if he was interested in transferring [from] USC due to the NCAA decision. Would you please speak with these schools to remind them they cannot speak to this student athlete?”

Gators associate athletics director for communications Steve McClain, Crimson Tide associate athletics director for football communications Jeff Purinton and Ducks head coach Chip Kelly have all denied the respective accusations.

The allegations, if determined to be true, would amount to secondary violations.

OGGOA will have more on this breaking story as it is made available.

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