Auburn Finally Speaks About Scandal Report...but Is Anybody Listening?
It's been a whirlwind few days on the Plains of Auburn.
After 83,401 fans packed Jordan-Hare Stadium for Auburn's annual A-Day game, the streets in downtown Auburn were flooded with revelers celebrating the final rolling of Toomer's Corner.
Auburn stayed in the headlines on Monday, when it released an extremely detailed rebuttal to Selena Roberts' piece on Roopstigo.com after independent investigations by Auburn Athletics and Auburn University Internal Auditing. In addition to the open letter from athletic director Jay Jacobs, the university released a document detailing specific allegations and the facts side by side.
But there was more.
Former head coach Gene Chizik—who was mentioned prominently in Roberts' report—angrily made the rounds first on WJOX 94.5 in Birmingham (via: AL.com) and then with reporters.
When asked why he was so outspoken on Monday, Chizik said that he and his former employers wanted "to make as big a splash with the truth as what was accused."
If you prefer a different method, listen to Twisted Sister's "We're Not Going to Take It" on repeat to properly put yourself in the state of mind that was prevalent within Auburn's athletic department on Monday.
But the question remains...is anyone listening?
Jacobs' statement made the front page of virtually every major online news outlet and was featured prominently on ESPN on Monday night, so it certainly appears to have accomplished its goal in that regard.
How much stock to put in Auburn's push back rests in the eyes of the consumer. But you should—at the very least—be listening.
There are three sides to every story; and in college football, often you only get one—the allegations.
To Auburn's credit, it has publicly played the "no comment" card more times than not since the Cam Newton story hit the Internet in November 2010.
The NCAA cleared Auburn in the Cam Newton and "HBO 4" cases in October 2011, and even praised the university for its cooperation in the matter.
After conducting more than 80 interviews, the NCAA has concluded its investigation into Auburn University. The NCAA enforcement staff is committed to a fair and thorough investigative process. As such, any allegations of major rules violations must meet a burden of proof, which is a higher standard than rampant public speculation online and in the media.
But while Auburn won in the eyes of the NCAA, it lost in the court of public opinion. Auburn's response first to ESPN's spice story and the massive push back to Roberts' story indicate that the program isn't content being a punching bag anymore.
You now have two sides to each of the two most recent stories, and Auburn's side was presented in tremendous factual detail in both instances.
From specifics on former running back Michael Dyer's 2.8 grade-point average at the end of the fall 2010 semester, to one of former safety Mike McNeil's grades being changed from an F to a C, to the specific steps Auburn took to halt the spread of synthetic marijuana use—which included a role in developing a test for the substance—Auburn has punched back.
Sure, the investigation into academic fraud and recruiting violations that were mentioned in Roberts' piece was done internally. But that shouldn't be a crutch for those who remain steadfast in their criticism.
That's called protocol.
The NCAA can take up the investigation from here if it so chooses. But does Auburn really want to lie to the NCAA when the NCAA is in desperate need to show its teeth after the Miami (Fla.) investigation fell apart?
Do Auburn's statements on the Selena Roberts and ESPN spice stories have an impact on your view of the program?
What about Jacobs himself?
In the open letter responding to Roberts' allegations, it is noted that university president Jay Gogue has commissioned a top-to-bottom review of the athletic department, which includes an evaluation of the effectiveness of its leadership.
If it turns out that Jacobs is flat-out lying, he'd be fired. Without question.
Form your own judgments on Jacobs, but don't focus on the method of the investigation. That argument should be a non-starter.
The truth lies somewhere in between what was reported and the results of Auburn's internal investigations. Is Auburn squeaky clean? Of course not. No program is. But is Auburn the second coming of SMU? Hardly.
Whatever your opinion of the Auburn program was prior, you absolutely shouldn't dismiss what that program has released over the last three weeks. Otherwise, you're just falling into the confirmation bias trap.
But hey, "where there's smoke, there's fire" is a catchy saying.
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