Losing games is not the only problem Gene Chizik has faced this fall at Auburn. The embattled coach of the Tigers also is overseeing a program being investigated by the NCAA, Yahoo! Sports has learned.
According to multiple sources, NCAA investigators have spent weeks looking into potential improprieties involving Auburn recruits, players, coaches, representatives of the school's athletic interests and third parties. Assistant coaches Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper have been scrutinized by the NCAA, sources said. Taylor is the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach, while Luper coaches running backs and is the recruiting coordinator.
Both Taylor and Luper were taken off the road recruiting several weeks ago amid the NCAA probe, sources said. Taylor was a finalist this season for national Assistant Coach of the Year honors from the American Football Coaches Association.
With Auburn 3-8 and winless in Southeastern Conference play, Chizik's job is in jeopardy. The ongoing NCAA investigation only heightens the likelihood that the Tigers' game Saturday against rival Alabama will be Chizik's last at the school.
Auburn officials declined comment Wednesday.
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday that she cannot comment on current, pending or potential investigations.
Chizik was asked in late October about a radio report that some of his coaches had been taken off the recruiting trail. He did not confirm or deny the report at the time.
"I don't have time for all of that," Chizik said, according to an Auburn transcript of his press conference Oct. 30. "I've got one direct focus: that is my team and my players. That has nothing to do with us winning. Whoever said that has nothing to do with anything, so I am not getting into any of that stuff. I've got one track, and that is our players and our coaches, and trying to get us to the next win, so, all of that stuff, I have no comment on that."
Sources told Yahoo! Sports in September that the NCAA has been investigating the recruitment of 2012 Auburn signee Jovon Robinson, whose Memphis Wooddale High School academic transcript was found to be forged and was subsequently declared ineligible in August to play this year at the school. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported in August that a guidance counselor at Wooddale admitted creating a fraudulent transcript and resigned.
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Robinson declined comment to Yahoo! Sports through a family member in September. He is not enrolled at Auburn this semester.
In addition to the academic issues involving Robinson, sources told Yahoo! Sports the NCAA has investigated whether a Wooddale P.E. teacher, Rhonda Wilkinson, provided impermissible benefits to the player during his recruitment, including transportation to the Auburn campus on at least one occasion. Wilkinson is an Auburn graduate and fan – her vehicle and home are extensively decorated with Auburn memorabilia.
When approached at her Memphis home in September, Wilkinson declined comment to Yahoo! Sports.
The NCAA probe is believed to be more widespread than just Robinson, but is not believed to revisit the 2010 allegations involving former star quarterback Cam Newton – allegations Chizik and the school vigorously combated at the time. Auburn went on to win the national title that year after Newton was cleared by the NCAA late in the season.
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