Gus Malzahn's already difficult job at Auburn is getting more difficult by the minute.
Before even taking the field for his first game as head coach of the Tigers, Auburn has suddenly been caught in a firestorm of allegations.
Allegations of NCAA violations are nothing new at Auburn, but this current batch takes it to another level.
Former Sports Illustrated and New York Times investigative reporter Selena Roberts released a report on her website, Roopstigo.com, that details a laundry list of serious offenses.
The report alleges that Auburn, among other things, practiced in grade tampering and paying players to forgo the NFL draft.
Now, as ESPN notes, Gene Chizik (who was the coach at the time these charges were alleged to have taken place) as well as many of the players quoted in the story, maintain that the story is a fabrication.
Meanwhile, Roberts appears undeterred, and apparently she is just getting started.
Birmingham News' Brandon Marcello got that out with this tweet:
Chatted w/ Selena Roberts, author of Auburn allegations story. She says she's working on a "part 2" focusing on AU boosters.— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) April 4, 2013
Maybe all of these allegations are bogus, or maybe they're legitimate. Your guess is as good as mine. However, that doesn't change the fact that the damage is already being done.
Obviously, if any kind of investigation is launched, and validity in this report is confirmed, Auburn will face serious repercussions from the NCAA. This would definitely have a very immediate and tangible effect on the program, as it would likely involve a postseason ban and a reduction in scholarships.
However, even if this doesn't result in any kind of sanctions, it is making Malzahn's attempt to turn around a program that went just 3-9 last season nearly impossible.
No matter how good a coach is at the X's and O's, or at motivating his team, recruiting is still the backbone to success.
Auburn is now going to have to worry about functioning under the watchful eye of the NCAA, and this story has also launched a ton of the wrong kind of press for the program.
Operating in the ultra-competitive landscape of the SEC, there is little margin for error. These programs are fighting for even the slightest edge over other programs to land prized recruits.
Every other coaching staff in the SEC, and everywhere for that matter, is going to be quick to point out that Auburn is embroiled in a mess of controversy—while not so subtly pointing out that if a player wants to be a part of a winner, it would be best not to choose Auburn.
This is all going to make Auburn's attempt to climb back to the top of the SEC unmanageable.