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Holieway Says He Got Booster Favors : College football: Former Oklahoma quarterback also talks about gifts from Barry Switzer but denies receiving any cash payments.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Jamelle Holieway, University of Oklahoma quarterback between 1985 and ’88, said he received favors from boosters and former Coach Barry Switzer while attending the school, but denied published allegations that he had received cash payments funneled through a convicted burglar.

Holieway, the 1984 L.A. City player of the year from Wilmington Banning High School, said in an interview that he does not know why Otha Armstrong III would implicate him and Charles Thompson, another one-time Oklahoma quarterback.

Armstrong, serving time in a state correctional center in Lexington, Okla., was quoted in the Dallas Morning News Tuesday as having said he worked as a middleman through which an unnamed Oklahoma booster in Tulsa wired cash to roommates Holieway and Thompson last season.

Armstrong reportedly said he gave the cash to Thompson, a longtime friend, who gave a portion to Holieway. Thompson, who pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, is serving a two-year prison sentence.

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"(Armstrong is) down there and wants to bring everyone down with him,” Holieway said. “Everybody who knows Otha knows he is lying. I never received (anything) from Otha.

“Otha was always in jail, he was a thief. He used to get out of jail by telling on people. He was a snitch.”

Armstrong, 24, formerly played tight end at East Central University in Ada, Okla. He attended high school in Lawton, Okla., with Thompson.

Armstrong was sentenced to five years in prison last month after pleading guilty to a charge of stealing 25 championship rings owned by Switzer.

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According to the Dallas Morning News, Armstrong said he picked up the last money transfer in early 1989, after the Oklahoma football program had been put on probation by the NCAA.

If proven, such an allegation would put Oklahoma in jeopardy of receiving the NCAA’s “death penalty.” However, Armstrong subsequently told the Daily Oklahoman that he had not picked up any money for the two players in 1989. Both newspapers reported that the NCAA is investigating the matter, but Holieway said he had not spoken with NCAA investigators concerning Armstrong’s allegations.

Holieway said that he and Thompson knew many boosters in Tulsa.

“I had people doing me favors all over, not just in Oklahoma and not just in California,” Holieway said. "(Some) had nothing to do with the university.”

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Holieway, who failed to make the Raiders last summer as a wide receiver but remains hopeful of starting a professional football career next year, said he was able to use gas stations, laundries and restaurants owned by Oklahoma boosters without having to pay.

When pressed for details, he said: “If I tell you the specifics, that could put the school in (position to receive) the death penalty. I won’t do that to Oklahoma. I don’t want to hurt the guys that are there now and had nothing to do with all the stuff.”

Still, Holieway, who as a freshman led the Sooners to a national championship in 1985, said he is frustrated because he believes he is no longer welcome at the university and that he was told to leave the sidelines of Sooner games against Texas and Colorado this season.

“Did I bring shame to the university?” he asked. “No. Me, along with everybody else, we brought millions of dollars in my four years. So now they treat me like I’m a stepchild? I mean I never bad-mouthed the school. I never did anything wrong to that school. So why do you want to kick me off (the field)?”

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Holieway said that school officials, among them Athletic Director Donnie Duncan, did not want him on the sidelines because of his relationship with Switzer.

Switzer resigned as Oklahoma’s coach last summer in the midst of heavy criticism after Thompson’s arrest, and a shooting and an alleged rape in a Sooner football dormitory.

Ron Watson, Oklahoma’s assistant athletic director for compliance with National Collegiate Athletic Assn. rules, confirmed that school officials asked Holieway to leave the sidelines, but said that had nothing to do with Holieway’s relationship with Switzer. Watson said Holieway was asked to leave because he had failed to give advance notice that he wanted to be on the sidelines.

Starting last season, sideline passes had to be approved in advance by Coach Gary Gibbs, Watson said.

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But even if Holieway had asked for sideline approval, he would have been denied a pass because he is working for an agent, Watson said.

Holieway recruits clients for Steve Feldman, a Costa Mesa attorney and sports agent who represents some prominent former Oklahoma players.

Holieway said his closeness to Switzer did not look good to some. He said Switzer has been unjustly smeared and does not deserve the blame for Oklahoma’s tarnished image.

Holieway described Switzer as a friend and father-figure, saying the former coach bought him drinks at a restaurant and gave him athletic bags and other promotional items from sporting goods companies.

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“The man was a partier,” Holieway said. “He was a single man. We would have drinks together. I would see him out at the same restaurant. He would buy me a drink . . . he would send a drink over.”

Holieway said that Switzer once had told him if he earned his degree, Switzer would give him a briefcase.

“I have a briefcase made of pigskin that I take to work,” Holieway said. “He gave it to me.”

Under NCAA rules, coaches and boosters are prohibited from giving athletes anything of value.

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Switzer, in North Hollywood Thursday filming a segment for the television serial, “Coach,” could not be reached for comment.

Watson, the assistant athletic director, said he was unaware of Oklahoma players receiving favors of any kind from boosters.

“If I would have heard of a restaurant offering our players free meals or a cleaning establishment doing their laundry for free, I would go and knock it out,” he said. “If we knew, we would stop it. We don’t need any more surprises. I would love to hear some names from Jamelle.”

Watson also said he was unaware that Switzer had given Holieway any special privileges.

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“To be honest with you, I never saw any of that,” he said. “I never saw Barry provide any of that.”

Holieway also said that Switzer had been unable to help Thompson, who entered a drug-treatment center after testing positive for cocaine last summer.

“Sure, we all talked to Charles,” Holieway said. “But there was nothing anyone could have done. If somebody wants to do something they’re going to do it.”


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