If what former Auburn Tigers safety Mike McNeil has told police is true about the University having a hand in academic fraud, payments to players and recruiting violations, according to Selena Roberts of Roopstigo, there is no question that former head coach Gene Chizik should be punished severely.
There will be questions about McNeil’s statements with his impending court case, but the fact that several teammates have come out verbally to corroborate the accusations in the same article is a damning fact.
After the proper investigation from the NCAA, if these major violations happened under the watch of currently unemployed Chizik (fired after 2012 season), the idea of placing a lifetime ban on him would be the proper punishment from the NCAA and the precedent the sport’s governing body is looking to set moving forward.
The lack of institutional control across college football must be stopped (h/t ESPN), and making an example of Chizik is the perfect opportunity for the NCAA governing body to put its foot down on these infractions and those schools committing them.
As for Auburn itself, if all of these accusations are true, the punishments should be similar in nature to the severe punishments levied against Penn State University (h/t USA Today) over the last year involving the Jerry Sandusky case and the lack of institutional control.
While there is no question that the situation at Auburn is much different, the depth of the reported violations would mean the entire university should be held responsible for the cheating going on through the ranks.
Obviously, head coach Chizik had his finger on the pulse of the team, and with the financial backing of the school and the SEC (the university reportedly made $79.6 million during seven home events in 2007), the coach should have known about all of these accusations happening under his watch.
These potential infractions not only fall under the umbrella of lack of institutional control, the fact that McNeil is fighting to not serve jail time for a crime he states he did not commit is a nightmare for the former player and the school.
That is a serious enough issue (and now gaining enough steam in the mainstream media) that the NCAA should be all-in investigating this case.
There were already long-standing questions about the way Auburn recruited former NFL No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton (h/t The New York Times), but the latest accusations of academic fraud and payments to players are the most damning to date.
McNeil was a star player on the team and treated like a king during his time at Auburn. If there was ever a college athlete that possibly received illegal benefits or saw the top players receiving those extra incentives, it would be the team’s former safety.
If a proper NCAA investigation—and more importantly, a police investigation—uncovers that these accusations of academic fraud, payments to players and recruiting violations are accurate, the next step is easy.
Auburn should be severely punished, and Chizik should never be allowed to coach in college football again.