On April 3rd, Selena Roberts posted a story titled, “Auburn’s Tainted Title” on the website Roopstigo.com. In it she alleged that sources within the Tiger football program — including ex-players — had revealed to her that academic fraud and bribery had taken place on the campus of Auburn University.
The national media flew into a frenzy and just one day later, ESPN released a story claiming that AU officials had also looked the other way regarding synthetic marijuana use on the Tigers’ BCS champion 2010 squad. The two stories back-to-back left the school and its football program with two black eyes. And as one of the most sanctioned schools in NCAA history, many media members and fans chose to believe those stories. (Ironically, the NCAA has since found “major” violations at Oregon — the team Auburn played in the BCS Championship Game in January of 2011 — but the Ducks have avoided the spotlight that’s been pointed toward the Plains.)
Auburn officials immediately shot down the ESPN story with the help of phone records and several ex-players and their parents. Now the school has released the findings of two reviews of the Roopstigo.com story conducted by Auburn Athletics and Auburn University Internal Auditing. Their findings:
“There is no evidence academic fraud occurred. The article alleges improper grade changes took place to make nine student-athletes eligible for the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. That is false. In fact, six players were academically ineligible for the BCS National Championship Game, and none of them made the trip to Arizona with the team.”
Among the other accusations rebuffed by AU:
1. Former Auburn running back Mike Dyer was never even in danger of academic ineligibility, having passed 15 hours in the fall of 2010 with a GPA of 2.8.
2. While former Auburn defensive back Mike McNeil did have a grade changed from an F to a C, the internal audit showed that all AU policies were followed and documented reasons for the change had been provided (excused absences from classes for medical reasons).
3. McNeil — who has since been sentenced to three years in prison for his involvement in a robbery — claimed that former AU assistant and current Florida head coach Will Muschamp paid him cash during the 2007 season, but “Coach Muschamp immediately and publicly denied the allegations, as was widely reported throughout the media.”
4. McNeil also claimed that he received $500 to be used to entertain then-prospect Dre Kirkpatrick — who later signed with Alabama — during his official on-campus visit to AU. However, “Mr. Kirkpatrick never took an official visit to Auburn.” Kirkpatrick has also said that no one spent money on him or game money to him during his unofficial visits to Auburn.
In summary, Auburn AD Jay Jacobs stated in today’s release that the facts demonstrate that “the article is clearly flawed.” He added: “I want you to know that I will always act on the basis of facts. I will continue to fight for Auburn University, and I will continue to defense this great institution against such attacks.”
Jacobs also took the time to back the “character and integrity” and compliance history of former coach Gene Chizik.
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