Serious allegations have been levied against Auburn in an article on ex-Tiger safety Mike McNeil.
The piece, which appears on former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts’ site, Roopstigo.com, details claims of academic fraud, payments to players, recruiting violations and failed drug tests under former coach Gene Chizik.
But one of the biggest bombshells is that then-Auburn defensive coordinator and current Florida coach Will Muschamp tried to give McNeil $400.
It’s not the only instance of payments that McNeil alleges. He also recalled coaches giving him $500 to entertain Dre Kirkpatrick, who would enroll at Alabama, in 2008.
Former Auburn wide receiver Darvin Adams also told Roberts that coaches offered him cash to stay in school and not enter the NFL Draft. Mike Blanc, a former Auburn defensive lineman, and McNeil also told Roberts the money amounts reached “several thousand dollars.”
“Coaches would say, ‘Don’t tell anyone where you got it from,'” Blanc told Roberts.
Furthermore, McNeil detailed how he, running back Mike Dyer and other players were academically ineligible for the 2011 BCS Championship Game against Oregon.
“We thought we would be without (running back) Mike Dyer because he said he was one of them, but Auburn found a way to make those dudes eligible,” Blanc told Roberts.
However, in an interview with AL.com on Wednesday, Blanc denied saying that quote. Later, Blanc tweeted: “Man this article is outrageous and isn’t true.” He also said his knowledge of the alleged payments was second-hand.
“Yeah. Me, personally, I don’t have any direct knowledge of it,” Blanc told AL.com. “You just hear stuff. I’m pretty sure other guys on the team that know more, like guys that were closer to Darvin and these other players I know. Darvin probably would have told those guys. I know Mike and Darvin were really cool. Maybe Darvin could have shared some information with Mike. But, me, personally, I don’t know nothing factual that any guys got any money.”
Chizik released a statement through his agent, Russ Campbell, saying in part “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.”
Meanwhile, Dyer’s uncle, Andre, reportedly said he was “never even close” to being academically ineligible before the BCS title game.
If Dyer or other Auburn players were found to have been ineligible, the school’s national championship could be jeopardized.
“I never authorized, instructed or directed anyone to change any player’s grade or provide any type of illegal payment to any student-athlete,” Chizik said in his statement. “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.”
McNeil reportedly told Roberts he felt Auburn used him as a scapegoat when the Tigers were facing negative publicity from allegations that Cam Newton’s father asked for money during his son’s recruitment. NCAA investigation’s, though, “determined there was not sufficient evidence Auburn committed major rules violations in the Newton case.”
“Maybe there is a fear in Auburn’s mind that Michael knows too much,” McNeil’s father, Clifton, told Roberts. “Their fear is that Michael will expose the family secret. It’s a way to silence him.”
McNeil, 24, faces an April 8 court date on multiple counts of first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery and third-degree theft of property charges stemming from the March 2011 armed robbery in an Auburn trailer park. His former teammates Shaun Kitchens and Dakota Mosley were also charged.
In June, McNeil’s former teammate Antonio Goodwin was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his part in the incident. McNeil’s former attorney reportedly maintained his innocence to Roberts.
Former Auburn defensive back Nieko Thorpe told Roberts that Auburn threatened to take away players’ scholarships if they contacted McNeil, Goodwin or the two other players arrested in the case.
If convicted, McNeil could face 21 years to life in prison.