SDSU Claims Nebraska Tampered With Transfer : Wagner Improperly Influenced, Says Miller

Times Staff Writer

San Diego State intends to pursue its claim that the University of Nebraska has tampered in the transfer of former Aztec tailback Darrin Wagner, SDSU Athletic Director Fred Miller said Monday.

Miller said he is concerned that “a representative of Nebraska’s athletic interests” had contact with Wagner while he was on the SDSU team and improperly influenced Wagner’s decision to transfer to Nebraska.

Miller, in a telephone interview from San Francisco where he is attending the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. convention, declined to identify who he suspects might have tampered with Wagner.

Nebraska Athletic Director Bob Devaney, also reached at the convention, said he is not familiar with Wagner’s situation but defended Nebraska’s policies.


“We don’t tamper,” Devaney said. “We’ve never tampered in our football program.”

Wagner, the 1987 Times’ All-San Diego County back from Lincoln High School, said Saturday he was transferring to Nebraska after a freshman season in which he did not play in a game for SDSU.

Wagner said Miller’s action will not change his plans to leave Thursday for Lincoln, Neb., and enroll for the spring semester beginning Jan. 16.

“I don’t care what they say or do, I’m going to Nebraska,” Wagner said. “They’re mad because they’re losing me, and they will do anything to keep me from going. If they can’t have me, they don’t want anyone else to have me.”

Miller said he wrote to Devaney last week to protest the alleged tampering and to say that he would pursue the matter if Wagner enrolled at Nebraska.

Miller said his next step will be to write to the commissioners of the Western Athletic Conference, of which SDSU is a member, and the Big Eight Conference, of which Nebraska is a member, charging Nebraska with tampering.

Miller said he was concerned that Nebraska violated provisions of the national letter of intent program. Under the program, schools are not allowed to initiate contact with an athlete concerning a transfer once the athlete has agreed to or enrolled at a school. The initial contact must come from the athlete.

Wagner and his father, Norman, said they initiated the contact with Nebraska.

“There was no tampering,” Wagner said. “My parents didn’t even know I wanted to go to Nebraska until I told them.”

The Wagners said the only outside advice they sought was from Ray Hooper, former Lincoln coach whom Norman Wagner said was a family friend. Hooper coached Wagner when he was a sophomore at Lincoln. Hooper accompanied the Wagners to a meeting with Miller and other SDSU officials in November.

Hooper also coached Nebraska quarterback Steve Taylor at Lincoln and served as Taylor’s legal guardian when Taylor was in high school.

Hooper could not be reached for comment.

Wagner, a 6-foot, 190-pounder, has been the center of controversy since he left the team Nov. 4.