The Auburn Tigers football program is under fire yet again for misconduct and potential NCAA infractions. While this is certainly not the only school that's experiencing some sort of shady interior dealings, the constant probing is going to be mighty distracting for the Tigers during the 2013 season.
Between reports of changing grades for marquee players, bribing others, smoking spice and the previous Cam Newton fiasco where his father was allegedly paid for Newton to attend Auburn, the Tigers are in hot water, to say the least.
Spice—which is considered a synthetic version of marijuana—wasn't illegal at the time some players used it, including star RB Michael Dyer. Shaun Assael of ESPN documents comments by AD John Jacobs, who indicated the drug wasn't part of the tests Auburn ran at the time.
Still, there is a lot of upheaval for first-year head coach Gus Malzahn to deal with.
Those types of violations could result in postseason suspension, which would essentially render the regular season not as significant.
To make matters more complicated, Malzahn was the offensive coordinator during Auburn's run to the 2010 BCS National Championship, which was keyed by Newton, a future NFL No. 1 overall pick.
That means Malzahn was likely present when these under-the-table maneuvers were taking place on the Tigers' championship-winning team.
It was supposed to be a welcome homecoming for the man who schemed Auburn to college football's pinnacle, but now the focus will more than likely be on what he knew or didn't know when all this alleged misconduct was occurring.
Since that sensational run, too, the Tigers have steadily declined, going 8-5 in 2011 and collapsing to a terrible 3-9 campaign last season. That led to the dismissal of Gene Chizik.
This isn't the end of Auburn football as we know it, but the program's aspirations for competing for another championship could be set back for the foreseeable future. Malzahn has a lot of explaining to do and is in a lose-lose situation.
If he elaborates on anything, it reflects poorly on the accountability at the top of the Auburn program. If he remains silent, the court of public opinion will likely find him to be compliant, at the very least, with the transgressions that were supposedly occurring behind closed doors.
The damning account was provided by Selena Roberts, formerly of the New York Times and Sports Illustrated.
Other than former safety Mike McNeil, who is awaiting trial for an armed robbery case, all the other players denied everything that Roberts reported. That is not to attack her credibility in any way, but it speaks more to a reluctance of people around the program to get specific on what happened.
The sooner the Tigers reveal the truth—whatever it is—the quicker Malzahn and the rest of the Tigers can put it behind them and focus on the gridiron. However, if it continues to drag on and develops into a full-blown scandal, it will continue to cast a cloud over the entire team.
Auburn should come clean and cut its losses now. If there is nothing to be ashamed of, why not make it public? If there were indeed infractions that warrant disciplinary action, air them out.
Otherwise, this will continue to harm Auburn's reputation and possibly affect what the Tigers can accomplish on the field due to their misguided choices outside the white lines.
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