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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)


An estranged friend of former Memphis coach Josh Pastner said he sent former Tiger Markel Crawford a pair of Nikes last season worth $117.99, and also gave Crawford "about $300" in gift cards for groceries.

The Memphis revelations are just a small part of a much larger story told by Ron Bell to Gary Parrish of CBS Sports. Bell is a longtime friend of Pastner, who evidently had a falling out with the coach.

Bell later appeared on Parrish's radio show on ESPN 92.9 FM Tuesday afternoon and said he had been talking with Crawford throughout last season. Bell noted he purchased shoes for Crawford last February because Pastner hoped to lure Crawford to Georgia Tech as a graduate transfer.

"Josh wanted Markel at Georgia Tech," Bell said on the radio. "He felt that they would be a top 25 team with him."

Bell went on to say he bought a plane ticket for Crawford and Crawford's brother to travel to his home in Arizona following the 2016-17 season in hopes of convincing Crawford to commit to Georgia Tech.

Crawford eventually decided to transfer to Ole Miss, seven days before he was scheduled to visit Bell in Arizona. Bell said Crawford did not reimburse him for the plane tickets.

"We were informed Tuesday that former men's basketball head coach Josh Pastner is allegedly implicated in an extra benefits violation," Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen said in a statement. "The University of Memphis will cooperate with any possible investigation."

Bell said he also provided current Georgia Tech player Josh Okogie more than $750 in extra benefits, and current Georgia Tech player Tadric Jackson more than $525 in extra benefits, according to the story.

Last week, Georgia Tech said it self-reported violations to the NCAA and suspended both players indefinitely.

Georgia Tech released this statement to CBS Sports as part of Parrish's article:

"Georgia Tech highly prioritizes NCAA compliance and will investigate any allegations regarding NCAA rules violations thoroughly."

Bell is a recovering addict who spent more than four years in prison from 2009-13. He told The Commercial Appeal he credits Pastner for helping him get clean.

Bell was around the Memphis program extensively in Pastner's final years and gave the impression of having an almost obsessive devotion to the coach.

Asked by Parrish to explain the falling out with Pastner, Bell said Pastner did not compensate him properly for his work and did not call him on his birthday this year.

Ole Miss released a statement concerning Crawford's involvement in the situation Tuesday afternoon, saying it was aware of the article and "gathering facts on the matter."

"I found out about it probably the same time you guys did today," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said Tuesday, according to the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Miss. "So we immediately go through protocol, which is to turn it over to our compliance and let them do what they do. I've been told it's business as usual. He'll be at practice today and (will) practice. I'm not going to change anything unless I'm told otherwise.

"I think right now it's kind of a fact finding, truth from fiction phase. We'll deal with it accordingly."

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November 9, 2017


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