College football: Auburn finds no evidence of fraud
Montgomery, Ala. • Auburn's internal review into allegations by former players of academic fraud before the 2010 BCS championship game found no evidence of wrongdoing, athletic director Jay Jacobs said on Monday.
Jacobs posted in a letter to fans on the school's website the results of a review by his department and the university's Internal Auditing department, which he said refuted a report by former New York Times and Sports Illustrated reporter Selena Roberts.
Auburn worked with the NCAA in investigating the academic fraud, said Jack Smith, the athletic department's director of strategic communications. Meanwhile, former Tigers coach Gene Chizik called the allegations "ludicrous" in an interview on WJOX radio in Birmingham.
"I'm here because I care about my reputation, I care about the integrity of who I am and what I do," Chizik said. "I'm simply giving out the facts, because I'm 100 percent confident that we did it right."
Jacobs had disputed Roberts' report in an earlier statement but said Auburn would review them.
He made a point-by-point rebuttal to a number of charges made by former players, including defensive back Mike McNeil, who pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery on April 8.
Roberts cited three players who said the team was informed that as many as nine were ineligible for the BCS championship game against Oregon in January 2011, including tailback Mike Dyer.
Jacobs said that six players were academically ineligible and none made the trip to Arizona.
Former defensive back Mike McNeil, who pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery on April 8, had alleged that he had a failing grade changed to a 'C' to make him eligible for the title game. Jacobs said the internal review found that all university policies for grade changes were followed and that McNeil provided a medical excuse for absences.
He said Dyer passed nine hours during the 2010 summer semester and 15 hours during the fall nine more than are required by the NCAA and ended with a 2.8 grade-point average.
"There is no evidence academic fraud occurred," Jacobs said.
Former Auburn receiver Darvin Adams also said in the report that he was offered money to stay for his senior season, which he skipped to enter the NFL draft..
"No booster offered him anything to play at Auburn, and no booster or coach offered him any money to stay at Auburn," Chizik said. "That is simply a bogus allegation."
He likewise said Auburn never paid 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, whose father attempted to solicit money during Mississippi State's recruitment. The NCAA eventually cleared the player and Auburn, and Chizik said he is "absolutely sure that there was absolutely nothing going on."
"It started out as a Mississippi State problem, became an Auburn problem, and really and truly, from there, we really can't figure it out," Chizik said. "Because it without question has to be the most scrutinized program in the country. I still go back to what are the facts? The NCAA's been in there almost two years. They found no major violations. So I still stick to the facts."
Jacobs also said on the site that President Jay Gogue has formed a committee to review the athletic department on everything from rules compliance to on-the-field success for a program that had abysmal seasons in both football and men's basketball and then was the subject.
Jacobs said the panel will conduct "a top-to-bottom review," including the leadership's effectiveness.
"There is no question that this has been a tough year for Auburn Athletics," Jacobs said. "We all expect better, and we know we have to win. As disappointing as this year has been, rest assured we will bounce back. We always have."
The Tigers finished last in the SEC in both football and men's basketball.
Auburn fired Chizik after the team went 3-9 and didn't win a Southeastern Conference game in an unprecedented fall two years after winning a national title. It was the Tigers' worst season in 60 years.
Men's basketball coach Tony Barbee is returning after the Tigers went 9-23 and 3-15 in SEC play. They lost 16 of their last 17 games and set a program-high for losses.
Gogue's committee includes former Mississippi athletic director Pete Boone, former California-Berkeley AD Dave Maggard, ex-LSU administrator Judy Southard and businessmen Mac Crawford and John Irwin, along with former Auburn player Quentin Riggins.
University spokesman Brian Keeter said outside experts sometimes help with reviews of academic departments and called this move "the responsible thing to do."