Auburn review uncovers no wrongdoing

Auburn coach Gene Chizik encourages his players after a touchdown during the first half of their NCAA college football game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke) Show caption
Auburn coach Gene Chizik encourages his players after a touchdown during the first half of their NCAA college football game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

Auburn’s investigation finds no evidence of academic fraud

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Auburn’s internal review into allegations by former players of academic fraud before the 2010 BCS championship game found no evidence of wrongdoing, athletic director Jay Jacobs said Monday.

Jacobs posted in a letter to fans on the school’s website the results of a review by his department and the university’s internal auditing department, which he said refuted a report by former New York Times and Sports Illustrated reporter Selena Roberts.

Auburn worked with the NCAA in investigating the academic fraud, said Jack Smith, the athletic department’s director of strategic communications. Meanwhile, former coach Gene Chizik called the allegations “ludicrous” in an interview on WJOX radio in Birmingham.

“I’m here because I care about my reputation. I care about the integrity of who I am and what I do,” he said. “I’m simply giving out the facts because I’m 100 percent confident that we did it right.”

Jacobs had disputed Roberts’ report in an earlier statement but said Auburn would review them. He made a point-by-point rebuttal to a number of charges made by former players, including defensive back Mike McNeil, who pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery April 8.

Roberts cited three players who said the team was informed that as many as nine were ineligible for the BCS championship game against Oregon in January 2011, including tailback Mike Dyer.

Jacobs said six players were academically ineligible, and none made the trip to Arizona.

Former defensive back Mike McNeil, who pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery earlier this month, had alleged that he had a failing grade changed to a “C” to make him eligible for the title game. Jacobs said the internal review found that all university policies for grade changes were followed and that McNeil provided a medical excuse for absences.

He said Dyer passed nine hours during the 2010 summer semester and 15 hours during the fall — nine more than are required by the NCAA — and ended with a 2.8 GPA.

“There is no evidence academic fraud occurred,” Jacobs said.

Former receiver Darvin Adams also said in the report that he was offered money to stay for his senior season, which he skipped to enter the NFL draft.

“No booster offered him anything to play at Auburn, and no booster or coach offered him any money to stay at Auburn,” Chizik said. “That is simply a bogus allegation.”

He likewise said Auburn never paid 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, whose father attempted to solicit money during Mississippi State’s recruitment. The NCAA eventually cleared the player and Auburn, and Chizik said he is “absolutely sure that there was absolutely nothing going on.”

“It started out as a Mississippi State problem, became an Auburn problem and really and truly from there, we really can’t figure it out,” Chizik said. “Because it without question has to be the most scrutinized program in the country. I still go back to, what are the facts? The NCAA’s been in there almost two years. They found no major violations.”

Jacobs also said President Jay Gogue formed a committee to review the athletic department on everything from rules compliance to on-the-field success. Jacobs said the panel will conduct “a top-to-bottom review,” including the leadership’s effectiveness.