Former Texas A&M running back George Smith on Saturday recanted his statements in taped interviews with a reporter in which he said A&M coach Jackie Sherrill paid him to keep quiet about NCAA rules violations.
"I called A&M as soon as I knew the story was going to come out. The information in the story is not true, and I told A&M I'd come to College Station to straighten everything out," Smith said at a news conference Saturday.The Dallas Morning News reported in a copyright story Friday by reporter Doug Bedell that in 14 hours of taped interviews, Smith said Sherrill paid him $4,400 in cash and money orders since November 1986.
Smith read for about four minutes from a prepared text and then answered reporters' questions for about five minutes.
"It certainly was not hush money. I put great emphasis on that. It was not hush money," Smith said.
Smith said much of what he told Bedell was not true. It was to be used as a script for a movie, he said. "Bedell was to compare a proposal for the book and send it to agents and give me a copy of the manuscript."
Smith said he received $1,000 to $1,400 from Sherrill that he considered a loan, since at the time he received the money he was not a student-athlete at A&M. He said he planned to return the money as soon as he was able to do so.
Ralph Langer, vice president and executive editor of The Dallas Morning News, said in a statement released after the news conference that the newspaper reported accurately what Smith said took place.
"We have approximately eight hours of taped interviews with George Smith. We have a signed statement from him that the information he gave us was true," Langer said.
"Reporter Doug Bedell and Smith had a separate personal contract to develop a book proposal and submit it to a publisher and-or agent. Such a proposal was submitted to an agent and to Smith in October.
"That contract specifies that nothing was ever to be paid to Smith for information to be used in any book or for stories in The Dallas Morning News even though he had requested such payment," the newspaper executive said.
Concerning Smith's denial that some of the funds paid him constituted hush money, Langer said, Smith said in a taped interview on the morning of Oct. 21, "... all that was to keep me quiet for another couple months."
The last payment from Sherrill, according to Smith, came on Sept. 27, 1988, four days after an announcement that the NCAA was placing Texas A&M on probation for numerous rules violations, the most serious involving former quarterback Kevin Murray.
Smith said he got other packages of money, all by Federal Express, in June and on Sept. 13.
"It was not uncommon for me to seek help from Coach Sherrill and Coach (George) Pugh. I called them often and sought advice and help with jobs and my getting started in a career," Smith said.
"It was nor a surprise to receive some help I had asked for. It certainly was not hush money," Smith said.
The news conference came shortly after Texas A&M defeated Texas Christian 18-0 in a Southwest Conference game. Because of the controversy surrounding Smith's revelations, Sherrill announced Friday he wouldn't coach the Aggies in the game. Instead, he watched on television, turning the team over to defensive coordinator R.C. Slocum.
However, Sherrill said he will be back on the sidelines for Thursday night's game with Texas.
Smith said Texas A&M paid for his flight to College Station for Saturday's press conference.
Smith said his fiance and his family encouraged him to "tell the truth regardless of the consequences."
Smith said he wanted to apologize to A&M president William H. Mobley, to the A&M student body, to the football team, and to "Aggies all over the country."
Asked why anyone should believe Smith's version Saturday of the situation, Smith said, "If you don't believe me, that's fine."
Mobley said Sherrill had not resigned, had not offered to resign, and had not been asked to resign.