Auburn is fed up, and it is clear that the Tigers aren't going to take the public beating anymore.
The program that seemed content taking the "no comment" stance over the last three years when negative reports popped up has come out swinging in response to reporter Selena Roberts' piece on Roopstigo.com, titled "Auburn's Tainted Title: Victims, Violations and Vendettas for Glory."
University official Jack Smith labeled it "hide-the-ball journalism at its worst" when it was released, but Auburn wasn't done. Athletic director Jay Jacobs issued a point-by-point statement on Monday addressing nearly all of the major NCAA-related issues indicated in the report, after the university conducted an internal investigation into the matter.
The primary focus of the statement was the allegation of academic fraud. Roberts claimed in her report that up to nine players should have been academically ineligible for the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, including the game's offensive MVP, running back Michael Dyer.
Jacobs claims that Auburn found no evidence of academic fraud:
The article alleges improper grade changes took place to make nine student-athletes eligible for the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. That is false. In fact, six players were academically ineligible for the BCS National Championship game, and none of them made the trip to Arizona with the team.
The article also states that former football student-athlete Michael Dyer was academically ineligible prior to the BCS National Championship game. That is also false. Mr. Dyer was never in danger of academic ineligibility. In fact, he passed 15 hours during the fall of 2010 (nine more than required by the NCAA) and had a 2.8 GPA at the end of the fall semester. Mr. Dyer actually passed a combined 24 hours in the summer and fall semesters.
The school refuted former safety Mike McNeil's claim that one of his grades was changed from an F to a C after completion in order to maintain eligibility. An internal audit showed that portion of the story to be true, but with the caveat that Auburn followed normal university procedures for the grade change:
The article fails to point out that the professor changed Mr. McNeil's grade after documented reasons were provided, including excused absences from classes for medical reasons. The independent review by Auburn University Internal Auditing showed that all institutional policies regarding grade changes for excused absences were followed.
Auburn's statement also denies McNeil's claim that coaches gave him $500—$450 more than the allowed limit—to host former blue-chip prospect Dre Kirkpatrick on his recruiting visit:
Mr. Kirkpatrick never took an official visit to Auburn. Mr. Kirkpatrick has since publicly stated that no one at Auburn gave him money or spent money on him during unofficial visits to our campus.
Just how detailed is Auburn's response to the Roberts' report? It's even separated into two columns, "allegations" and "facts," creating a user-friendly document for public viewing.
But Jacob's public fight wasn't done.
Later on Monday, he released a YouTube video through the Auburn athletic department's channel saying that "he's sick of it," and that he'll continue to fight for Auburn.
So, in the last two weeks, Auburn has addressed ESPN's spice story and Selena Roberts' Roopstigo.com report with a point-by-point analysis of the specific facts of each case.
Roberts responded to Auburn's statement to Brandon Marcello of AL.com.
Selena Roberts: "I've been working on another story as well. Obviously I will address the reporting issues of what Auburn has laid out."— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) April 22, 2013
But it wasn't just the current Auburn athletic department fighting back on Monday.
Former head coach Gene Chizik angrily addressed Roberts' report and the never-ending flow of negative publicity to the program, first on WJOX 94.5 in Birmingham (quotes via: AL.com) and then in 45-minute a press conference with local reporters. Needless to say, Chizik isn't happy with about being handcuffed, and is taking Auburn's cue and fighting back.
I’m a man that believes in integrity, in character, that’s important to me. Well my name’s thrown in here with this. So what I do know is fair or unfair when it comes to the media, usually the immediate media/TV blitz with unsubstantiated allegations and accusations that come out get most of the media attention. So the reason I’m out is simply because as well as Jay and the athletic department, we want to make as big a splash with the truth as what was accused and the different allegations that were out there and I think it’s only fair.
Former wide receiver Darvin Adams responded through a spokesperson to Roberts' allegation that he was offered money to stay at Auburn for his senior season. Via ESPN's Joe Schad:
"I was never offered any money by anyone to stay at Auburn for my senior year," Adams is quoted as saying.— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) April 22, 2013
In the case of Roberts' story, it's abundantly clear that the subject of the story, McNeil, was making a last-ditch effort to stay out of jail before his trial for armed robbery started.
According to Roberts, McNeil maintained his innocence for nearly two years before the trial was scheduled to commence earlier this month.
But as it was set to begin, McNeil reversed course and took a plea deal. He was sentenced to three years in prison and three years probation as part of a 15-year split sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree robbery, according to AL.com.
It's clear through Auburn's recent actions that Auburn is fed up with losing in the court of public opinion and has decided that it is not going take it anymore. If the university feels that it has been wrongly accused, it's going to tell you all about it—in tremendous detail.