AUBURN, Ala. (WRCB) -- Several former Auburn football players are claiming the program committed serious NCAA violations while winning a national championship under Gene Chizik.
According to a report by investigative reporter Selena Roberts on Roopstigo.com, Tiger coaches committed academic fraud, offered money to players and recruits, and promoted a racist atmosphere within the program and the surrounding community over the past several years.
ESPN is also reporting the school covered up a rash of failed drug tests in 2010 as the program faced a growing problem with synthetic marijuana. An investigation by ESPN The Magazine and E:60 reavealed at least a dozen players failed drug tests during the season, including one player who failed a test in seven consecutive weeks.
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs says the school takes any accusations seriously and is reviewing them, but has "no reason to believe these allegations are either accurate or credible."
Mike McNeil, who was one of four Auburn players dismissed from the team prior to the 2011 season, says he had a grade changed from an 'F' to a 'C' to become eligible for the 2011 BCS National Championship game against Oregon.
Former teammate Mike Blanc told Roberts that coaches told the team as many as nine players would be declared academically ineligible for the title game, but all nine ended up playing.
Chizik vehemently denied the accusations in a written statement through his agent.
"Unfortunately, Ms. Roberts' story is long on accusation and inference, but short on facts and logic," Chizik said. "During my time as Auburn's head coach, I never authorized, instructed or directed anyone to change any player's grade or provide any type of illegal payment to any student-athlete," Chizik said. "Likewise, I am not aware of any alleged grade change or illegal payment by any member of my coaching staff, support staff or anyone else."
Both players are quoted as saying Auburn coaches offered "thousands of dollars" to former Auburn receiver Darvin Adams to stay in school after his junior season, then sabotaged his NFL hopes after he decided to turn pro.
McNeil also claimed to receive $400 in 2007 from then-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who is now the head coach at Florida, adding that coaches regularly gave players money.
The former players also said black players were routinely harassed by local police as a type of extended surveillance for the program. McNeil said Chizik was always at odds with black players who had dreadlocks and tattoos, and those players were submitted to more random drug tests than their other teammates.
Several players interviewed in the story now claim the were misquoted or their words were taken out of context.
Below is the full statement form Gene Chizik:
"During my tenure at Auburn, the NCAA conducted a multi-year investigation into the Auburn football program that they called "fair and thorough." The NCAA focused intently on widespread accusations about Auburn players being paid and other alleged recruiting violations. The NCAA conducted 80 interviews. In October 2011, the NCAA rejected "rampant public speculation online and in the media." Unfortunately, the recent story published by Selena Roberts is more of the same. It once again portrays Auburn University, current and former coaches, professors, fans, supporters and community officials in a false light.
Unfortunately, Ms. Roberts' story is long on accusation and inference, but short on facts and logic. It is noteworthy that the story comes just days before a player mentioned most prominently in the article is set to go to trial for felony armed robbery. The statements are very generalized accusations devoid of substance. During my time as Auburn's head coach, I never authorized, instructed or directed anyone to change any player's grade or provide any type of illegal payment to any student-athlete. Likewise, I am not aware of any alleged grade change or illegal payment by any member of my coaching staff, support staff or anyone else.
As for logic, the notion that the conduct inferred by Ms. Roberts was occurring under the NCAA's nose, at the very same time the NCAA is conducting its thorough investigation, lacks merit. Further, the notion that there was ever an attempt to sabotage any Auburn student-athlete's attempt to play professional football is outrageous. Auburn's success in transitioning student-athletes to the NFL benefits both the student-athlete and the Auburn program.
I remain part of the Auburn family and take these attacks on myself, the University and community seriously. During my time at Auburn, the administrators, professors and academic staff were of the highest integrity. Additionally, the inference that there was academic support staff that worked together with professors to change grades is absurd. As an Auburn resident, I take great pride in the quality and integrity of our police department. They enforce the law equally and fairly and my dealings with police Chief Tommy Dawson and his staff have been nothing short of excellent. He has handled many high profile cases with the upmost integrity and professionalism. To imply anything otherwise is simply wrong.
If there is a sad truth here, it is that there are no repercussions for bloggers who blast out widespread, venomous allegations and inferences in such an irresponsible manner. To make bold and outrageous conclusions on such thin support is a travesty.
During my tenure as Auburn's head coach, we kept the well-being of our student- athletes at the forefront of every decision. We ran our program with the highest level of integrity and accountability. Period. I make absolutely no apologies for that. I stand firm in my statements, my support of Auburn University, its student- athletes (present and former), faculty, staff and community officials. As I stated during the NCAA investigation, I am comforted knowing that the truth always prevails."
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