The Auburn football program cannot get out from under the microscope of pay-for-play accusations that permeate college football.
The latest allegations came on Wednesday, when Selena Roberts of roopstigo.com had quotes from former Auburn players accusing former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp along with the Auburn coaching staff under Gene Chizik of some severe allegations. They ranged from grade-fixing, payments to players and interference with the Auburn sheriff's department.
Roberts is the same reporter who broke news that Duke lacrosse players had allegedly raped a dancer at a party in 2006. After months of investigations, the accusations turned out to be false and charges were dropped. She didn't let that stop her, though.
The accusations thrown at the Auburn football program seem to be never ending, so let's hold off on assuming that these allegations against the Auburn football program are true.
By this point, Auburn fans are likely numb to the feeling of hefty accusations being thrown at the football program they support. After all, it seems like the Tigers have an accusation thrown at the program on a monthly basis.
Since 2010, allegations against Auburn have ranged from a man claiming to have audio tapes of Cam Newton talking about pay-for-play, to four former Auburn players appearing on HBO accusing the Tigers of paying them to grade-changing of a top RB recruit. It's been a whirlwind of accusations since Auburn won the 2010 BCS National Title.
The common denominator in all of the accusations to this point has been that they have all been unproven. Auburn was cleared of wrongdoing by the NCAA after a lengthy investigation into the football program.
Despite the fact that the Auburn football program has not been on NCAA probation since 1993, the Tigers are perceived to be one of the "dirtiest" programs in the NCAA. Since 1993, 10 other SEC programs have gone on NCAA probation for major infractions.
Something else to consider is the fact that former Auburn safety Mike McNeil, who is the main subject in the article, will be going to trial on April 8 for his participation in an armed robbery in the spring of 2011 that resulted in him being kicked off of the team.
The article indicates that Ben Hand was McNeil's former attorney and had just been dismissed. A public relations move like this signals desperation for new legal counsel.
Barrett Sallee, lead SEC writer for Bleacher Report, believes that this case is much more about the legal system than it is Auburn or the NCAA.
Bottom line, if this story changes your opinion on Auburn and the NCAA either way, you're easily convinced. More about the legal process.— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) April 3, 2013
Consider the timing of the alleged incidents.
At the time, the NCAA mine as well have had an office set up in the Auburn athletic building. These incidence allegedly occurred during the 18 month investigation into the football program. If Auburn was doing these things, it was doing it right underneath the nose of the NCAA investigators. That is hard to accomplish without getting caught.
This story is not without its share of holes.
Roberts indicated that, "In the months leading up to the robbery, Auburn had been dealing with behavioral issues involving players."
In reality, the robbery was the first sign of major discipline problems made public under the Chizik regime.
Clifton McNeil, Mike's grandfather, said that “Maybe there is a fear in Auburn’s mind that Michael knows too much (about Cam Newton). Their fear is that Michael will expose the family secret. It’s a way to silence him,” in regards to isolating McNeil from the rest of the team.
The robbery had occurred almost exactly eight months before the NCAA cleared Auburn. As already mentioned, the NCAA and national media were deeply entrenched in its investigation with the Auburn football program.
It was too late to hide anything.
Lastly, consider the source of where the story came from. Roopstigo is a fairly new site. According to Businessweek, it launched last October with Roberts as its founder.
Roberts, an Auburn graduate, is an accomplished writer that has broken big stories in her time. However, she has been known to swing-and-miss.
After Wednesday's news broke, players like former Auburn defensive back Neiko Thorpe and former defensive linemen Mike Blanc took to Twitter to defend themselves and deny the quotes in the story.
While I spoke to Selena Roberts about Mike I have just read her article & not only am I misquoted but my words are very out of (1/2)— Neiko Thorpe (@Neiko15) April 4, 2013
context. We didn't talk about NCAA violations or recruiting. I'm proud 2 have played at Auburn & the opportunities it gave me (2/2)— Neiko Thorpe (@Neiko15) April 4, 2013
Man this article is outrageous and isn't true. The media will do anything for a juicy story smh #sad— Mike Blanc (@MikeBlanc93) April 3, 2013
This isn't the first time that Auburn has been accused of wrongdoing and it won't be the last.
If Auburn did do something wrong, the program should get its rightful punishment. Up to this point, however, nothing has been proven. Just like every other accusation levied against the program over the past two years.
So, it's understandable if these accusations cause Auburn fans to yawn.