Gene Chizik

More accusations leveled against Auburn’s football program


Over two years after Gene Chizik, Cam Newton, et al hoisted the crystal football, allegations of misconduct continue to dog the Auburn football program.

According to a report titled “Auburn’s Tainted Title: Victims, Violations and Vendettas for Glory” from former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts on her new website, Chizik and/or his coaching staff — and/or his predecessors — were responsible for multiple violations of NCAA bylaws including impermissible benefits and academic fraud.

The story ostensibly centers on former Tigers defensive back Mike McNeil, one of four ex-AU football players charged with armed robbery in March of 2011.  McNeil was one of a handful of former players quoted on the record for Roberts’ piece, a group that included wide receiver Darvin Adams, defensive end Mike Blanc, defensive end Antoine Carter and defensive back Neiko Thorpe.  Other unnamed sources were utilized in the story, on which AU officials have thus far declined to comment.

McNeil, who’s scheduled to go on trial later this month and faces 21 years to life in prison if convicted, leveled most but not all of the accusations included in the article.  Some of those include:

— After being rebuffed by his computer science instructor and that instructor’s supervisor in an attempt to get a grade changed, McNeil claims he went to an athletic department counselor with his problem. “Within days… the grade was changed from an F to a C and he did not miss a game,” Roberts wrote.  Additionally, three of the players claimed that nine players, including star running back Michael Dyer, should not have played in the BCS championship game against Oregon in January of 2011 because they were academically ineligible. “Auburn found a way to make those dudes eligible,” Blanc was quoted as saying.

— Adams, who set an SEC championship game record with 217 receiving yards that sent the Tigers to the BCS title game, claimed that he was offered financial incentives — McNeil and Blanc claimed it was several thousands of dollars —  by the AU coaching staff to return to the Tigers for the 2011 season.  Instead, Adams turned pro early and went undrafted.

— Following “a difficult day at practice in 2007,” McNeil claims that then-defensive coordinator and current Florida head coach Will Muschamp handed him $400 in cash and asked, “is this enough?  Is this good?”  Through a UF spokesperson, Muschamp, who left AU for Texas following that season, denied such a payment was made.

— McNeil claimed that he was given $500 to host 2008 recruit and eventual 2009 Alabama signee Dre Kirkpatrick — the NCAA limit is $50. “If I’m a star player and I’m a likable person, and a recruit comes in at my position, then, of course, I’m going to take him under my wing,” McNeil said in the article. “If a star recruit was in town, you would get a lot more than the NCAA limit.”

In addition to no reaction from the university, neither Chizik nor his agent have been available for comment, although one of the most-quoted players in the piece offered up this curious reaction via Twitter once the story went viral.

“Man this article is outrageous and isn’t true. The media will do anything for a juicy story smh #sad,” Blanc tweeted this evening.

Roberts’ blockbuster is the latest in a long line of accusations leveled against the AU football program that stretch back to months before their 2010 BCS title.

The most publicized scrutiny involved the recruitment of Newton, the Heisman-winning quarterback who left The Plains after one title-winning season for the NFL.  The NCAA investigated the allegations — that Newton’s services could be obtained during the recruiting process for a substantial financial “donation” to the player’s father — and ultimately determined that no violations had occurred.

Interestingly, there was no mention of Newton in Roberts’ report that focused primarily on that championship season.

In addition to the Newton imbroglio, the AU football program has been investigated over the past two years by the NCAA regarding its recruiting practices… allegations made by four former players on an HBO showTiger ProwlJovon Robinsontwo now-former ace recruiters and their recruitment of Robinson… and that’s about all for now as you get the point.

The NCAA has yet to respond to requests for comment, although they understandably have more pressing issues on their collective plates.

UPDATED 9:21 p.m. ET: In a pair of tweets posted to his Twitter account, Neiko Thorpe claims that he was misquoted by Roberts in her story.

“While I spoke to Selena Roberts about Mike I have just read her article & not only am I misquoted but my words are very out of context. We didn’t talk about NCAA violations or recruiting. I’m proud 2 have played at Auburn & the opportunities it gave me.”

For her part, Roberts stands by her reporting, including the on-the-record quotes attributed to the former players.

Florida’s leading tackler a game-time decision vs. Georgia

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 03: Ross Comis #2 of the Massachusetts Minutemen passes Jarrad Davis #40 of the Florida Gators to score a touchdown during the first half of the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Whether Florida will have its leading tackler for its annual rivalry game with Georgia won’t be known (still) for another couple of days.

The good news is that, for the first time since severely spraining his ankle in the Week 7 win over Missouri, Jarrad Davis returned to practice Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis.  If the linebacker takes the field for the UGA game, it won’t be known until Saturday shortly before kickoff.

“Obviously, that will be one of those that it’s got to be right with him, got to be right with the doctors. We’ll see. Kind of game time,” head coach Jim McElwain said. “I thought he moved pretty well. One of the tackling circuits he got beat up by one of the sleds. The sled bit back, but it was good to see. The opportunity to play in this game is something that’s real special and that guy is a real big part of our team. He’ll do anything he can to help us.”

Davis currently leads the Gators in tackles with 48 and is tied for second on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss.

While the status of Davis remains up in the air, McElwain did confirm that two starting defensive linemen, end Jordan Sherit and tackle Joey Ivie, will play against the Bulldogs.  Sherit underwent arthroscopic surgery three weeks ago while Ivie had surgery performed on his thumb the week before.  Additionally, starting defensive end Bryan Cox has a chance to play despite his own thumb injury.

BYU, Utah announce ‘Holy War’ extension through 2022

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Travis Wilson #7 of the Utah Utes runs for a touchdown against defensive back Micah Hannemann #7 of the Brigham Young Cougars during the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 19, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Utah won 35-28.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Thankfully, one of the more underrated in-state rivalries isn’t going away anytime soon.

BYU and Utah announced Thursday that the schools have reached an agreement on a two-game extension of their series.  The Cougars will host the first game of the extension Sept. 11, 2021, in Provo while the Utes will return the favor Sept. 3 the following season in Salt Lake City.

The schools had previously agreed to games from 2017 through the 2020 season.

“BYU-Utah is one of the great college rivalries in the country. There’s a lot of history and tradition between the two schools and I’m glad we were able to extend the series through 2022,” said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe in a statement. “I’ve loved this rivalry as a player, coach and administrator, and look forward to the future games.”

The teams have played 91 times since the series kicked off in 1922.  The Utes hold a 56-31-4 advantage all-time, including a 20-19 win earlier this season.

Jimbo Fisher rules Derwin James out of Clemson game

ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 05:  Derwin James #3 of the Florida State Seminoles reacts after a play against the Mississippi Rebels during the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Derwin James went down with a torn meniscus in Week 2, Florida State had the Clemson game circled as a potential date for a return.  Unfortunately for both the player and the team, that won’t be the case.

On his weekly call-in show Wednesday night, Jimbo Fisher confirmed that James and his surgically-repaired knee will not play in the Seminoles’ game this Saturday against the Tigers.  There is still no timetable for the sophomore safety’s return.

Hopefully Derwin will be back here soon,” the head coach said.

One thing apparently off the table is a redshirt for James as Fisher said if the defensive back can return at any point this season he will.

The Clemson game will mark the sixth straight missed by James.  FSU will close out the regular season against North Carolina State (Nov. 5), Boston College (Nov. 11), Syracuse (Nov. 19) and Florida Nov. 26).

In less than two full games this season, James was credited with 11 tackles and also has an interception.

As a true freshman last season, James’ 91 tackles were second only to Reggie Northrup’s 94. He was also second on the team in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (4.5).

For that, he was named a consensus freshman All-American and third-team All-ACC.  This offseason, he was named to the Bednarik AwardNagurski Trophy and Thorpe Award watch lists, and is widely considered one of the most talented players on the defensive side of the ball in the country.

FAU loses starting right tackle to season-ending injury

BOCA RATON, FL - OCTOBER 10: Head coach Charlie Partridge of the Florida Atlantic Owls looks on during the fourth quarter of the game against the Rice Owls at FAU Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Boca Raton, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

As Florida Atlantic looks to put a halt to a six-game losing streak, tied with Bowling Green, Fresno State and Kansas for the longest such streak nationally, they’ll have to do so without a starting piece of their offensive line.

Head coach Charlie Partridge announced Wednesday that Bryan Beck will miss the remainder of the 2016 season because of injury. Specifically, the right tackle has an unspecified knee injury.

Beck was pushed into the starting lineup because of a knee injury to senior Kelly Parfitt.

“We’ll attack this challenge like we have the rest of them,” Partridge said of the latest injury setback for his offensive line.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Owls will be using their eight different line combination this weekend. Saturday’s game against Western Kentucky will be FAU’s eighth this season.

A redshirt freshman, Beck has started four games this season. Three of those starts came in the last three games in place of the injured Parfitt.