AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Everywhere Chris Porter went this season, sports agents seemed to be waiting for him with fistfuls of cash. In a moment of weakness and need, Auburn's star forward accepted $2,500 from one of them and jeopardized his college career.
Porter, a preseason All-America selection, admitted to school officials to accepting the money when confronted about it Saturday. He apparently needed the money to prevent his mother from being evicted from her rural south Alabama home.
''I know that Chris had been distraught over what seemingly had been a family matter,'' Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said Monday. ''And last Thursday, he was allowed to go home to Abbeville to attend to a family concern.''
Porter's mother, Emily, refused to comment on the situation when reached at her home in Abbeville, a town of about 3,000 located approximately 100 miles south of Auburn.
Porter was suspended Sunday before the 19th-ranked Tigers played No. 8 Florida after school officials learned of the infraction. Porter returned to Auburn and admitted to school and Southeastern Conference officials that he had, indeed, accepted money.
The infraction was reportedly uncovered in a league-wide investigation by the SEC, The Birmingham News said today. The News said the SEC informed Auburn of the infraction last Friday and that it was still looking at other league schools as part of a crackdown on sports agents.
Porter was not allowed to practice with the Tigers on Monday, but Ellis said the player attended classes. Porter did not respond to a request for comment made through Auburn sports officials, and his telephone number is unpublished.
Porter is averaging 14.6 points and 7.3 rebounds for the 19th-ranked Tigers (21-6).
He came to Auburn from Chipola (Fla.) Junior College last season and helped the Tigers to a 29-4 record, their first Southeastern Conference regular-season title since 1960 and their first NCAA tournament in 11 seasons.
But since deciding to return to school, Ellis said it has been difficult to keep agents and their representatives away from him.
Team officials had to chase ''suspicious people'' out of the hotel lobby earlier this month in Baton Rouge, La., and have resorted to using fake names for Porter, center Mamadou N'diaye and guard Doc Robinson when checking into hotels, Ellis said.
Auburn forward Daymeon Fishback said Porter could never escape it.
''It varies how much you really see them, but with Chris I am sure it was every day all day that people were coming at him,'' Fishback said. ''Just being Chris Porter meant it was coming from every direction.''
Porter has two 2-year-old sons who live in Abbeville, and in an interview with the AP in October said his mother often cares for them. But in the same interview, Porter said he passed up entering the NBA draft last year partly because he wanted to help Auburn reach the Final Four and partly to set an example for his sons by graduating from college.
Porter is on track to graduate this summer with a degree in criminal justice.
He said in October that he has few friends in Auburn and was careful who he associated with. Faced with a financial crisis, Ellis said it would be hard for Porter to figure out who to turn to. He reportedly told Auburn officials he didn't know the man he accepted money from was a sports agent.
''If you are put in a situation, you can't turn to a coach, you can't turn to a booster, so sometimes in a weak moment you fall prey,'' Ellis said.
Auburn officials are working with SEC commissioner Roy Kramer to complete the investigation and present a report to the NCAA as soon as possible.
Auburn will likely ask the NCAA for a quick reinstatement, which Ellis said was unlikely to happen before Wednesday night's game against No. 12 LSU. Auburn needs to beat LSU to move into a tie with the Tigers for the SEC West lead.
''Chris has admitted to a mistake. He has been honest and forthcoming,'' Ellis said. ''I'm now hoping honesty prevails and Chris will be allowed back on the court.''
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