The story created headlines by claiming grades were changed, a player was bribed to not enter the NFL draft and recruiting violations, among other things. Former players are quoted throughout the story. In the "Yahoo! Sports Report," Pat Forde says that makes it a story worth keeping an eye on.
"I think you have to take it seriously," Forde said. "This is not just one former player, but several former players, by name, alleging NCAA violations.
"The fact that the players were willing to put their names behind some pretty serious allegations, to me, definitely lends some credence to it."
Since the story broke, the pro-Auburn crowd has mostly ripped Roberts, and players quoted in the story have said their comments were either made up or not accurately portrayed.
"Those quotes are not true," former Auburn defensive lineman Mike Blanc said to AuburnSports.com.
Former Auburn defensive back Neiko Thorpe told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer he was misquoted or his comments were taken out of context.
Gene Chizik, who was the coach during the time of most of the accusations in the story, put out a lengthy statement on Thursday. Here it is, via AuburnSports.com:
"During my tenure at Auburn, the NCAA conducted a multi-year investigation into the Auburn football program that they called "fair and thorough." The NCAA focused intently on widespread accusations about Auburn players being paid and other alleged recruiting violations. The NCAA conducted 80 interviews. In October 2011, the NCAA rejected "rampant public speculation online and in the media." Unfortunately, the recent story published by Selena Roberts is more of the same. It once again portrays Auburn University, current and former coaches, professors, fans, supporters and community officials in a false light.
Unfortunately, Ms. Roberts' story is long on accusation and inference, but short on facts and logic. It is noteworthy that the story comes just days before a player mentioned most prominently in the article is set to go to trial for felony armed robbery. The statements are very generalized accusations devoid of substance. During my time as Auburn's head coach, I never authorized, instructed or directed anyone to change any player's grade or provide any type of illegal payment to any student-athlete. Likewise, I am not aware of any alleged grade change or illegal payment by any member of my coaching staff, support staff or anyone else.
As for logic, the notion that the conduct inferred by Ms. Roberts was occurring under the NCAA's nose, at the very same time the NCAA is conducting its thorough investigation, lacks merit. Further, the notion that there was ever an attempt to sabotage any Auburn student-athlete's attempt to play professional football is outrageous. Auburn's success in transitioning student-athletes to the NFL benefits both the student-athlete and the Auburn program.
I remain part of the Auburn family and take these attacks on myself, the University and community seriously. During my time at Auburn, the administrators, professors and academic staff were of the highest integrity. Additionally, the inference that there was academic support staff that worked together with professors to change grades is absurd. As an Auburn resident, I take great pride in the quality and integrity of our police department.
They enforce the law equally and fairly and my dealings with police Chief Tommy Dawson and his staff have been nothing short of excellent. He has handled many high profile cases with the upmost integrity and professionalism. To imply anything otherwise is simply wrong.
If there is a sad truth here, it is that there are no repercussions for bloggers who blast out widespread, venomous allegations and inferences in such an irresponsible manner. To make bold and outrageous conclusions on such thin support is a travesty.
During my tenure as Auburn's head coach, we kept the well-being of our student- athletes at the forefront of every decision. We ran our program with the highest level of integrity and accountability. Period. I make absolutely no apologies for that. I stand firm in my statements, my support of Auburn University, its student- athletes (present and former), faculty, staff and community officials. As I stated during the NCAA investigation, I am comforted knowing that the truth always prevails."
Roberts has stood by her reporting and story, including a long Q&A with AL.com. She said it was unfortunate Blanc was said he was misquoted, "but given the pressure he's under I can see how it happens." She said it wasn't difficult to get the players to talk, and they were willing to put their names on the story. And she said she has more coming on Auburn:
AL.com: Is there anything to this story that you're wanting to explore further?
Roberts: There will be a part two. I'm not sure of the timing of it but there will be a part two.
AL.com: Further allegations?
Roberts: I don't know if you want to call them allegations but there will be a part two that looks into the booster culture at Auburn.
AL.com: And no timeline on that story?
Roberts: No, I'm working on it.
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