By Dan Phillips
Probably one of the closest calls of all time for me as far as being at the wrong place at the wrong time, was this case I worked with Jay Bonner and John Bullock back in 1983 in Dallas. We were hired by a very wealthy SMU backer to find out who was feeding the Dallas Morning News sport writer information regarding payments made to players of the SMU Mustang football team. This case required us to “persuade” the representative owner of the house where the writer lived to let us in the house to search for the “evidence”.
While most of the time we were allowed to perform the investigations by ourselves, this time the client wanted to be there with us. We posed as potential buyers of the house and were looking at it while the client remained a few blocks away. The sports writer was supposed to be out of town. In an instant, John Bullock suggested that Jay and I stay behind while he and the real estate agent went to another property to see if it might be a better deal. She was all for it.
Once they were gone, we contacted the client who zipped into the house and we began our search through the old expansive home. About 30 minutes later we had not found our information which we assumed would be in a notebook or folder of some sort. Finally I opened the door of a hall closet and found an accordion file with the information we were looking for including the source of the writer’s information. Jay took pictures of the letters and papers that had an abundance of information and reminded me of a scene from a James Bond movie. The source, you might have guessed was from a rival coach who worked for a football team that used Longhorn letterhead. Is that a hint? We carefully replaced everything as it was and Jay and started out the front door to see if John and the real estate agent had returned. The client was nearly to the front door and about to exit when car screeched to a sudden stop in the street right in front of Jay and I. It was the Dallas Morning News writer and he was not happy someone was walking out of his house!
Rather than remaining in the street he slammed the gas pedal and pulled into the driveway that was on the right hand side of the house. This gave our client, who would have been instantly recognized by the writer, time to run in the opposite direction. Jay and I remained standing in the front of the house while the writer approached us in an aggressive manner. Of course we explained we were interested in buying the house and about that time John and the agent returned, quickly diffusing the situation. A few years later the Mustangs were given the “death penalty” which made national news and sent shock waves throughout the country. But the real story was missed by the Dallas Morning News writer who just narrowly missed getting the scoop on the very person responsible for paying many of the players at SMU!