The old saying, when something seems too good to be true, it probably is....
Tommy Tuberville, Auburn's former coach (how quickly we forget), went 85-40 in his ten seasons on the Plains in Alabama before he was fired after the 2008 season, when War Eagle went 5-7 and got hammered 36-0 in the annual Iron Bowl against rival Alabama.
So who does Auburn University bring in to replace this more than capable head coach? They hire someone named Gene Chizik, who went 5-19 in the Big 12 for lowly Iowa State. Immediately, as you can imagine, the move caused rival fans and observers alike to raise some eyebrows.
"Couldn't they have done better?" and "What a stupid hire!" were essentially the conclusions drawn.
The team which finished the 2008 campaign ranked No. 20 in recruiting (according to Rivals.com) actually improved a bit in 2009, when they earned a No. 19 ranking. Wonder who all those kids were that wanted to play for a no-talent hack like Chizik?
Somehow, at 19, they were able to out-recruit Notre Dame (21), Virginia Tech (23), Penn State (24), Nebraska (28), Wisconsin (43) and TCU (46), among some of the more notable programs. And no one wondered why. This ranking also ranked them ninth in the Southeastern Conference among their rivals, just above doormats Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
2010 Class Should Have Been a Sign
The problem arises when we look at their 2010 class, where they finished fourth in the nation and second in the conference in recruiting, ahead of emerging powerhouse and eventual champion Alabama (5), LSU (6) and Georgia (15), and behind only Florida, which is of course, understandable seeing how they were the defending conference and National Champions.
Why would a team that went from 5-7 in 2008 to a respectable, but hardly inspiring, 8-5 the next year be able to recruit this well? Did that 38-35 comeback in the Outback Bowl over Northwestern really do that many wonders?
Surely not, and again I ask, "Who the hell would want to play for Gene Chizik?"
Gene ****** Chizik for crying out loud!
Mr. 5-19 himself.
Suddenly, a school that had no five-star recruits the season before was able to land not one, not two, but three such players?
With an 8-5 record?
Yes, Mr. Everything, Cheatin', I mean, Cameron Newton, was one of them.
Now we know how.
Suddenly a school that, while they have a nice history of getting players to the NFL, hadn't had so much as one five-star prospect since 2008, was able to get three.
The breakdown goes like this:
You're telling me that a school was able to match a five-year total with just one class in 2010?
Again I ask, why would you want to play for the 8-5 Tigers all of a sudden?
Luckily, their 2011 class has no such five-star commits (so far). Maybe integrity is slowly coming back to the game? Once again, Auburn is back to their more comfortable No. 25 ranking overall and ninth in the SEC next to old bedfellows Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Perhaps all is once again right with the world?
Is it 2008 again? Maybe record-wise we can hope so.
Southern-Cal-Like Sanctions Are Coming
Auburn fans aren't dumb. They know they must ride out this dream season, because in a matter of years, give or take five based on the Reggie Bush precedent, this season will be soon wiped away from the record books.
"Crooked Cam" Newton will be an afterthought, and it's debatable whether or not his name will appear synonymous with the school, a la the "Reggie Bush? Who's he?" treatment the folks in Hollywood are trying to sell to us.
You can't blame the Auburn fans, whose pockets aren't deep enough to do anything crooked that may or may not have happened. They are simply supporting their leader and operating by a sweet but overplayed "innocent until proven guilty" mantra. We'd all do it if our leader was going through the mud in the midst of what could be and should be your greatest athletic season ever.
You can blame the administration and the athletic department for not coming to light sooner than later, and for allowing these allegations to slip out, which doesn't do anyone any good.
Who knew what and when?
If we are so wrong, then why are seemingly anonymous people with nothing to gain being made famous by sharing their stories on a weekly basis as the plot continues to thicken? Sounds like too much of a coincidence for something not-to-allegedy-have happened. Where there's smoke, there's often fire. The longer this goes on, the worse it looks.
Its easy to predict now that in five years, Southern Cal-like sanctions will be coming for Auburn when the investigations end. In all likelihood, it will involve the stripping of scholarships, hopefully the more the better, the replacing of a coach (or two) and probation, which should see the Tigers miss at least a couple seasons of bowl eligibility.
I think in this event, the real brains of the operation, Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn, should be named successor before he gets away.
As for Chizik, in this event, it would really be interesting who hires him knowing he can't do it without talent (Iowa State) and when he has it, he has to allegedly cheat.
Was it worth it (allegedly)? Didn't you learn from instances like Florida State, North Carolina, Southern Cal, Georgia and just about every other scandal-ridden big-time program who came before you?
2004, the Irony of It All
2004 was supposed to be the Tigers' dream season. 13-0, won the SEC, the undeniable toughest conference in America, yet the team got shut out of the national title game in favor of Southern Cal and Oklahoma, who had higher BCS rankings than the Tigers' final number three.
Many people, including rival fans, called for a co-national champion at the very least. This is where the "BS" in B-C-S came from and continues today from football purists. Auburn got shafted because at No. 17 they opened the season ranked too low to make the final difference when their time came in January. Instead, the team had to settle for (and win) the 2005 Sugar Bowl vs. Virginia Tech in an equally thrilling game.
2004 was also the year that the Southern Cal sanctions would soon come into play when it was declared that Reggie Bush had played in some ineligible games, including the Championship game. Bush would go on to win the Heisman, too, college football's most prestigious award.
Now we see Cheatin' Newton affixed with similar accolades, even though eight weeks ago no one had ever heard of him. Will he be stripped of such an award should he be allowed to win it?
I hope so, at least until this dark cloud is lifted.
It would be a shame to knowingly have another Reggie Bush on one's hands when it could have been avoided simply by voting for someone else, like Stanford's Andrew Luck, for example.
Many will take my play on words "Cheatin' Newton" as some kind of grudge, when in fact it's not. As his near-expulsion in Florida proved, something fishy did go on there, academics-wise, for him to end up at Auburn (after a junior college) in the first place.
Others will take my swipes as opportunistic now that Auburn is winning, as sour grapes trying to ruin their dream season. To this I say, the allegations provided the real opportunity. Without them, there's no article and no debate, since no one's the wiser.
Auburn did this to themselves.
Auburn's own alumni should be demanding "What happened?" not us onlookers. After all, it's like the childhood punishment of holding the entire class from recess because of a few bad apples. We all suffer because of the actions of few. What about the few recruits that played it the right way? What are they supposed to take away from 2010?
Auburn, save yourself the embarrassment and impose self-sanctions. Who knows, the NCAA might accept them, thus you won't get as hammered as Southern Cal did. You're going to lose this season, but perhaps you can mimimalize the damage. It's only going to get worse the longer you wait.
Still, their argument is, "We rode this horse this far, might as well ride it out".
The sad thing is 2004 should have showed them first-hand that you don't have to cheat in order to have success. 2004 was their model. Always a competitive school, they could have done it the right way.
Just ask Tommy Tuberville.
Now we'll never know, and that's the greatest shame of all.
Information and statistics from Wikipedia and Rivals.com directly contributed to the content of this article.