New Argonaut Darvin Adams says Auburn coaches offered him money to stay in school

Andrew Bucholtz
April 3, 2013

Darvin Adams hasn't yet recorded a single statistic for the Toronto Argonauts, but he's already making headlines. The wide receiver, who was signed by the Argonauts January 28 following two years in the NFL and the UFL, was quoted in former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts' eye-catching piece alleging NCAA violations, altering grades and meddling in criminal prosecutions from the coaching staff at Auburn University. The piece was published at Roberts' Roopstigo site Wednesday. Here's what Adams had to say:

Receiver Darvin Adams, a star player with NFL dreams and a family to support, wrestled with whether to turn pro after the championship season. He discussed his plans with teammates and told them how much pressure he was under by Auburn coaches to stay. McNeil and Blanc say Auburn coaches offered Adams several thousand dollars to stay for his senior year. “It was sugar-coated in a way,” says Adams, who confirmed he was offered financial incentives, but declined to detail the exact amount. “It was like, we’ll do this and that for you. But I’d rather do things the right way. I am happy I didn’t say yes to that stuff. That’s what I’d tell kids.” Adams turned pro but went undrafted, a result, one NFL scout says, was due to negative reports on him from Auburn coaches. Adams plays for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and refuses to be bitter. “I play the cards I’m dealt.”

Much of the piece is about the program's alleged involvement in how a criminal case involving former Auburn safety Mike McNeil and other players unfolded, but it's the allegations of financial incentives Adams and others make that may prove to be the most damaging for the school; it's easier to prove impermissible benefits than the program influencing the legal system. Scandals where college players have allegedly received cash or other impermissible benefits in exchange for play have resulted in stiff institutional penalties, as we've seen with USC and Ohio State and may yet see as a result of the allegations at Miami.

Of course, not every accusation leads to an actual institutional penalty, and the unravelling of the NCAA's troubled Miami investigation suggests the organization may not be in a state to aggressively go after anyone else right now. Moreover, the allegations in Roberts' piece aren't exactly new. Four former Auburn players told HBO in 2011 that they were paid to play for the school, but nothing came of that because the players refused to talk to the NCAA. Pay-for-play allegations are one thing, but sticking with them under pressure is something else.

Yet, it's quite conceivable that Adams' accusations might result in something significant. For one thing, playing in the CFL puts him a long ways outside the NCAA orbit; not too many people in Canada will be overly upset with him for comments that hurt Auburn. For another, it sounds like he has a grudge against Auburn coaches (and perhaps a legitimate one) for their poor reports on him, so he may be motivated to stick to his story before the NCAA in a way the earlier players who came forward weren't. (The piece involves many more players than just Adams speaking out, too, so it's not like he's a lone voice crying out in the wilderness.)

There are plenty of questions still be asked around this one, though, including Roberts' own bias (she went to Auburn, but has come under fire for pieces criticizing the school before, not all of which held up), her record (her handling of the Duke lacrosse case in particular didn't particularly bolster her reputation) and why she'd run a potentially-explosive piece like this on a little-known site instead of selling it to a major publication (she's recently freelanced for Sports On Earth, amongst other sites). It's going to be interesting to see if it goes anywhere. If it does, we might just see an Argonaut at the centre of a significant NCAA story.