It wouldn't be an offseason in college football unless Auburn wasn't linked to yet another scandal.
US PRESSWIREGene Chizik became used to various allegations while at Auburn.
According to a report by former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts, members of the football program had players' grades changed to make them eligible, offered them cash for numerous reasons, including to prospective NFL Draft picks in order for them to return for their senior seasons, and violated NCAA recruiting rules under then-head coach Gene Chizik.
On her website, Roopstigo.com, Roberts provides a report in which former Tigers state that as many as nine players' grades were changed before the team's win over Oregon in the BCS national championship game following the 2010 season.
Former wide receiver Darvin Adams told Roberts that coaches offered him cash to remain at the school, while former defensive lineman Mike Blanc and safety Mike McNeil said the amount of cash reached “several thousand dollars.” McNeil told Roberts that he specifically had a meeting in 2007 with then-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp in which he was given cash.
“I had no clue what [the meeting] was about because I'd never directly asked him for anything,” McNeil told Roberts. “He slid about $400 over to me. He went into a drawer and gave me money and said, 'Is this enough? Is this good?' And I said, 'Yeah, I'm good.'”
McNeil is currently awaiting trial for an armed robbery that landed former teammate Antonio Goodwin a 15-year prison sentence.
Former defensive back Nieko Thorpe told Roberts that Auburn threatened players' scholarships in a team meeting if they contacted McNeil, Goodwin, Shaun Kitchens or Dakota Mosley, all of whom were involved in the incident that would eventually imprison Goodwin. McNeil told Roberts that he feels Auburn used him as a scapegoat when the program was dealing with allegations surrounding star quarterback Cam Newton.
Roberts, who is an Auburn graduate, defended her story to AL.com on Wednesday evening in light of several former players denying knowledge of any wrongdoing by the football program and saying that they were misquoted in Roberts' report. Thorpe also tweeted that he was “misquoted.”
These allegations all occured under Chizik, who was fired after a 3-9 season in 2012.
While these allegations certainly will make anyone associated with college football take notice, the one aspect that raised eyebrows for me was the idea that even “several thousand dollars” would prevent a borderline NFL prospect from leaving school early when there would be a lot more to earn in the NFL.
Will this report pique the interest of the NCAA? Keep in mind that not too long ago four former Auburn players told HBO's Real Sports that they had received improper benefits. However, the players ultimately either never spoke to NCAA investigators or they didn't provide enough evidence for the case to move forward.
We'll see how this plays out, but at this point it almost seems par for the course for the folks on The Plains to be facing allegations, albeit ones that could be damning if true.