Add the 2010 BCS national champion Auburn Tigers to your list of college football teams that may have broken the rules in order to remain successful.
According to a six-month report by ESPN The Magazine and E:60, at least 12 players failed multiple tests for synthetic marijuana during Cam Newton's Heisman Trophy season, only to have the results of those tests buried in favor of the team's undefeated mark on the field.
UPDATE: Thursday, April 4 at 9:15 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant
Auburn responded to the ESPN allegations just minutes after the initial report was released, firing back with a statement of its own. Per the school's official website, here are a few excerpts from the "open letter" AD Jay Jacobs wrote to Auburn students, parents and alumni about the allegations:
The facts clearly demonstrate that the Auburn Athletics Department and the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics acted appropriately and aggressively in response to the growing threat of synthetic marijuana during the 2010-2011 academic year.
Some of the statements made in the story are wrong and need to be corrected, while others need to be put into proper context. One player interviewed by ESPN, for example, alleges that up to half of the 2010 football team was using synthetic marijuana. It's hard to be more wrong than that. The facts and our drug testing results simply do not support such a claim.
The Director of Sports Medicine and former Coach Gene Chizik both addressed the football team about the dangers of synthetic marijuana at multiple team meetings in the Fall of 2010, before a test was available. A story about the drug was placed on the locker of every football player on the team.
Penalties for the use of synthetic marijuana were put into place for the next academic year beginning in August of 2011. Since it became a banned substance under the drug testing policy, only three student-athletes have tested positive for synthetic marijuana out of more than 2,500 tests administered.
---End of update---
Here's an excerpt from the ESPN piece:
An investigation into the spread of synthetic marijuana at Auburn reveals that a dozen students on the football team, including its star running back, Michael Dyer, failed tests for the designer drug. The school did not implement testing for the drug until after it won the national championship in January 2011, and as many as a dozen other seniors who used synthetic marijuana were never caught...The drug -- also referred to as "spice" — has been linked to paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and, in rare cases, deaths.
Dyer, who has attended both Arkansas State and Arkansas Baptist University since a release from his Auburn football scholarship after his sophomore season (2011), is the biggest name on the list that also includes multiple then-Auburn seniors.
The cover-up apparently includes university officials with the highest clearance:
The Magazine/"E:60" investigation revealed that while Chizik and Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs were aware of the football team's 12 positive tests for synthetic marijuana, they kept the results secret, even from the parents of the players.
Although Jacobs' quotes blanket his apparent desire to have had the best interest of the school, players and their families at heart, the reason for this apparent cover-up appears to be the fact that synthetic marijuana wasn't part of the testing policy at the school at that point in time:
"We did all we could do to educate our student-athletes until [we] could understand exactly what we're dealing with," Jacobs told The Magazine. "I think just like the rest of the campus, and the nation, we were trying to figure it out."
Testing for synthetic marijuana didn't begin until after Auburn's BCS Championship victory over Oregon.
Antonio Goodwin, a former Auburn player who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in June 2012 for his role in the 2011 Auburn robbery scandal (via AL.com), also spoke out about team-wide marijuana use, claiming that "half the team probably smoked spice."
It's a shocking turn of events that now puts a more scrutinizing NCAA eye on Gene Chizik's time with the Tigers. When you add this shocking revelation to the Newton recruitment scandal, we could see a full-scale NCAA probe in the coming weeks.