Gene Chizik has apparently had it up to the neck of his favorite leather jacket with allegations of wrongdoing in the Auburn football program during his tenure. Specifically, it’s clear that now midway through 2013, he’s tired of having to answer questions about what went on way back in 2010:
“It’s really just hard to operate day by day with what I consider to be the most scrutinized, and sometimes villainized, program in the country…
What is somewhat of an enigma to me is how back in 2010 what started out as a Mississippi State program, all of a sudden became an Auburn problem. It never ended. It went on for 13 or 14 months and then there seemed to be a trail that kept following a lot of accusations, a lot of allegations but I’m looking for facts. It’s very difficult for the Auburn people, and it’s not fair.”
Chizik — who spoke with reporters following a radio interview on WJOX-AM/FM in Birmingham yesterday — is of course referring to the recruitment of Heisman Trophy-winner Cam Newton. In late-2010 it was determined that his father had asked MSU boosters for cash, only to be rebuffed. The NCAA and SEC tried to avoid a real pickle — with Auburn sitting on top of the national polls late in the season — by ignoring Newton’s father’s actions. The NCAA has since closed “the Newton loophole” and ruled that in future years if a parent or guardian acts as an agent, the player will be ruled ineligible whether he knows of the pay-for-play scheme or not.
The problem for Auburn at the time was the assumption by many that if Cecil Newton had asked Mississippi State for cash, he most likely had put his hand out when it came to the folks at Auburn, too. Just ask Danny Sheridan and his bagman. Or any number of other people who claimed to have tape recordings of the Newtons talking about cash with other schools. (Of course, we never did learn the bagman’s name and we never heard any of the alleged tapes.)
Fed up with this continuing saga, Chizik also took a few shots yesterday at the journalists who’ve launched investigations into Auburn:
“I’m going to go one step further for all the people that are educated and have common sense. If you don’t know how the NCAA works, they’re very thorough in their investigations. Let me make that clear — they’re very thorough in their investigations. You want me to back that up with fact? I’ll name ‘em: Miami, Ohio State, North Carolina. Most recently, Oregon. USC. So how could they come into Auburn and leave and find nothing, and that becomes a one-sentence statement after getting drug through the mud for 13 months? How is that right? It’s not right…
If everybody in journalism was measured 12 times on a Saturday by what they wrote, what they put out, what was on TV, it would be really interesting to see what their record would be, like coaches. I’m not going to point the finger at anybody, I’m only going to address what I think were false, unsubstantiated allegations.”
First, Chizik is playing a pretty strong hand right there. The NCAA will sometimes go beyond its own rules — in the case of Miami, for one — to uncover evidence of wrongdoing at a school. Yet in three years of digging into accusation after accusation at Auburn, the governing body’s investigators have dug up nothing to date that will stick.
That hasn’t kept fans and some in the media from simply assigning Auburn a bit of guilt anyway.
At MrSEC.com, we call this the John Calipari Syndrome. There might have been some major issues around that coach’s past programs — at UMass his star player had an agent while in school and at Memphis a player was initially cleared to play by the NCAA only to be ruled ineligible after the fact — but Calipari has never been specifically charged with any wrongdoing. The NCAA has trailed him for years, but they’ve found nothing. You can be sure other coaches are watching him and the Kentucky program closely — like Auburn, UK has an NCAA rap sheet that is hard for people to ignore — to make sure there’s no hanky-panky underway in the Commonwealth. Yet there’s never been so much as a peep about even little things… like too many phone calls to a recruit or a dreaded “butt dial.”
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