Former Auburn coach Gene Chizik has been under siege in the past couple weeks following a story released by Selena Roberts of Roopstigo.com, which alleges various wrongdoings, including pay-for-play and grade changing.
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs released a rebuttal Monday morning that attacked each of the allegations in Roberts’ story, but Chizik, who hasn’t really been heard from in the six months since his firing, decided to weight in, too.
Chizik spoke to WJOX in Birmingham for 25 minutes on Monday to provide his own defense to the allegations.
Similar to Jacobs, Chizik used data from Auburn records, timelines and other facts to support his innocence. Most notably, Chizik attacked the allegation that he and members of his staff paid players — an allegation the NCAA investigated regarding former quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.
“Well, the NCAA comes in, they do their due diligence, which they do well,” Chizik said. “Case in point, when they come in and they’re going to do their investigations, when there’s something wrong they’re going to find it. So, let’s look at the facts. Let’s look at Miami. Let’s look at Ohio State. Let’s look at North Carolina. Let’s look at, most recently, Oregon. They spent the better part of two years at Auburn, so would it not be common sense that when they came in there to look at Auburn about payment of players they found nothing?”
In the Roopstigo.com story, a couple different players thought grades had been changed to make several players eligible for the 2010 national championship game. One of those players was star running back Michael Dyer. Chizik said Dyer had taken 15 credit hours with a 2.85 GPA .
“If we're educated men and we're sitting around a table, how many grades do you have to change to get that to a 2.85 GPA?” Chizik asked. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Chizik also was asked point blank if he or his staff have ever fixed the grades of any other players?
“Absolutely not,” Chizik said. “We don't deal with professors. We have an outstanding academic support staff. Everything that they do is the utmost class, it's the utmost integrity. They're the ones that deal on a daily basis with anything academically related. Simply, coaches dealing with professors, putting pressure on people, it's simply not true.”
Chizik also broached the subject of his teams' drug use. ESPN.com came out with a report that there was an “epidemic” of spice use during some of Chizik’s tenure. Spice is a synthetic marijuana substitute. The story had several holes considering some of the times ESPN.com cited use, spice was not a banned substance. Still, Chizik said he and his staff did its due diligence to eradicate it from the program.
“You say, ‘epidemic.’ When we started testing our players three days after our lab came up with a test, less than 10 percent of our players tested positive,” Chizik said. “Is that OK? Do we want that number to be zero? Absolutely. But the bottom line is, that’s a far cry from the 50 percent allegation that’s out there.
“When we finally had a year to wrap our hands around this drug, implement policy in the university to make it a substance-abuse drug and find a refined test for it, 2,500 samples were taken – 2,500 hundred. Three players tested positive. Is that an epidemic?”
Chizik said he doesn’t know why Mike McNeil, who was the main source in Roberts’ story, would tell his story the way he did, but he did understand that McNeil, who was sentenced to three years in prison for armed robbery, was in a bad situation.
“You know, I don't know, and I'm going to be honest with you: it's a very unfortunate case for Michael McNeil. He's in a tough place," Chizik said. "I can't even imagine what him and his family are going through in terms of what they're feeling and motives, but I will say this: everything that Mike McNeil and three other individuals right now that are up for charges for what the crime they allegedly committed, it's all personal responsibility.”
Chizik didn’t express any ill-feelings toward McNeil or any of the other players in the story and was sad that there might be an asterisk beside the 2010 national championship team because of all of the allegations that have surfaced.
Despite the allegations and the tough seasons, Chizik doesn't feel like his caching career is over.
“I still feel like I have a lot to offer to young men,” Chizik said. “I still feel like I have a lot to offer to the coaching profession.”
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