Fennis Dembo was observed receiving cash payments during his basketball career at the University of Wyoming, a Denver area high school coach and another source who requested confidentiality told the Rocky Mountain News.
Rick Wolfe, the boys' basketball coach at Broomfield High School, told the News that while on a recruiting visit in Laramie last year, one of his former players observed Dembo accept a $100 bill that allegedly had been slipped beneath Dembo's dormitory room door.Describing a second alleged incident that occurred in the same manner, another source said that he witnessed Dembo receive an undetermined amount of money in an unmarked envelope.
Dembo, said the source, remarked, "spending money," then pocketed it.
Dembo, drafted by the Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association after a flamboyant career in the Western Athletic Conference, denied the allegations.
"Nothing like that happened," Dembo said. "No way. I didn't get no money under the door. I wish I would have."
But according to Wolfe, former Broomfield star Tony Stubblefield visited Dembo's room during a recruiting trip the weekend of Sept. 19, 1987, and witnessed Dembo receive cash under his door.
Wolfe said Stubblefield questioned Dembo about the money, and Dembo replied, "Aw, this happens all the time when the boosters are here. This just gives me some spending money for the weekend."
Added Wolfe: "Tony said Fennis wasn't even that excited about it. All the (Wyoming) players told Tony, `It's great when the boosters come in town."'
In his first interview with the News, Wolfe said he tried to inform Cowboys basketball coach Benny Dees of what Stubblefield said he witnessed.
But he was rebuffed.
Said Wolfe: "Benny says, `I don't want to know about it.' (It was) like, `I know about it, but I don't. I stay out of it."'
In an interview, however, Dees, a veteran college coach who is beginning his second season at Wyoming, vehemently denied having spoken with Wolfe about the matter. He said Wolfe was "muddled."
Had he been informed, Dees claimed: "To be brutally honest, I would have covered my butt. I would have gone straight to Paul (athletic director Paul Roach).
"Maybe he talked to an assistant," Dees said, "but I don't think so, because I've thrashed those guys around.
"No, Lord, no," Dees said. "He didn't talk to me."
The same day Dees made that statement, he telephoned Wolfe. Subsequently, Wolfe told the News he "couldn't swear" whether he'd apprised Dees or one of his assistants of the incident.
But Wolfe's recollection of the reaction - whether it came from Dees or one of Dees' assistants - didn't waver.
"It was like, `Don't tell me it's going on,' " Wolfe reiterated.
Stubblefield, a 6-foot-2 point guard who played his senior season at Broomfield after transferring from Clinton (Iowa) High School, also was recruited by Kansas, San Diego State, Colorado State and Northern Illinois.
Ultimately he signed with Wyoming but did not pass entrance requirements there and is now on a basketball scholarship at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne. Although he is not bound to the Cowboys by his initial signing, Stubblefield said he still wants to enroll at Wyoming. And Dees says he remains interested in him.
Stubblefield denied he saw a $100 bill snatched by Dembo from the floor of a dorm room. He also denied receiving a Wyoming travel bag with "Fennis Dembo, 34" emblazoned on it, even though Wolfe and at least one of Broomfield's current players say the bag was a showpiece for Stubblefield last year at Broomfield.
Dees noted that "Fennis Dembo is Tony Stubblefield's idol," and said that Stubblefield "was not a tough recruiting job. He recruited us. He liked Wyoming. He was up here all the time."
Because Dembo was neither highly recruited nor became an immediate star at Wyoming, Roach theorized that if Dembo did receive any illegal payments, they might have come late in his career.