Gene Chizik

More accusations leveled against Auburn’s football program

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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 Roopstigo.com, 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.

Baylor AD Ian McCaw resigns

WACO, TX - AUGUST 31:  A general view of play between the Southern Methodist Mustangs and the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on August 31, 2014 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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On the same day Baylor made the coaching hire of Jim Grobe official, athletics director Ian McCaw has announced his resignation.

“After much reflection and prayer, I have decided that a change in athletics department leadership is in Baylor University’s best interest in order to promote the unity, healing and restoration that must occur in order to move forward,” McCaw said in a released statement Monday evening.

The resignation of McCaw is not to be unexpected given the serious nature of the revelations surrounding the Baylor program in the last week. Art Briles already lost his job and president Ken Starr was reappointed to a different position within the university as it looks to regroup from some egregious violations of Title IX and a complete system meltdown in responding to sexual violence involving Baylor student-athletes. That he lasted this long is puzzling to some, and his resignation is very likely a forced one. McCaw was placed on probation by the university last week.

“We understand and accept this difficult decision by Ian McCaw to resign as Athletic Director and we are grateful for his service to Baylor University,” a statement from Baylor’s Board of Regents read. “We also appreciate Ian’s commitment and involvement in bringing a person of integrity such as Jim Grobe to the University before making this decision.”

It should be expected McCaw let Grobe know of the situation when making the quick coaching hire, although Grobe likely knows this is a short-term deal anyway.

McCaw joined the Baylor program in 2003.

NCAA has no comment on Baylor Title IX violations at this time

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 06:  NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks to the media during a press conference at AT&T Stadium on April 6, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Last week when the Baylor board of regents released a handful of documents outlining Title IX violations, the university also acknowledged it had been in contact with the NCAA regarding various violations. It remains to be seen what, if anything, the NCAA will do in response to the Baylor situation that led to the dismissal of head coach Art Briles. For now, the NCAA has no comment, which is a pretty regular way of staying out of trouble on a sensitive subject.

It would be unwise for the NCAA to open its mouth and say anything regarding the Baylor situation at this point in time. Baylor is still sifting through the mess it has uncovered in Waco and looking to establish a sense of order moving forward. As far as football is concerned, that continued on Monday with the reported hire of former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe as an interim head coach for the upcoming season.

There are a handful of areas the NCAA could weigh on in the future (including lack of institutional control), but there is never a concrete timetable with anything the NCAA does, and the governing body has yet to open any formal investigation of its own. With a “no comment,” the NCAA is reserving judgement until a later time, which makes perfect sense. The NCAA is already keeping its distance as it wants to avoid overstepping its boundaries as it did in responding to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.

This does not mean Baylor will be left off the hook when it comes to the NCAA, because this is something that could drag on for a while.

College football history between Pittsburgh and San Jose

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 21: Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks skates on the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on November 19, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images
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The NHL Stanley Cup Final gets underway later tonight (on NBC) with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins facing off against Joe Pavelski and the San Jose Sharks. The Penguins are no stranger to the championship round in the National Hockey League, having appeared in the Stanley Cup Final four times since 1991, hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup three times. The Sharks are making their first appearance in the Final, finally overcoming a history of failed postseason runs ending before fans had expected.

If you want more on this series, you should skate on over to our friends at Pro Hockey Talk as they break down this series. This, of course, is a college football blog. Looking for any sort of connection I could to the college football world, I wanted to see if the Steel City and the Bay area have collided in the past on the college gridiron. They have, but you will be forgiven if you do not remember such an occasion.

Pitt and San Jose State have never met on the football field, but the Panthers have collided with another program from near San Jose. Pitt and Stanford, from nearby Palo Alto, have met three times before. The first meeting between the two was in 1922, with Glenn “Pop” Warner coaching his Panthers to a 16-7 victory on the west coast. The two schools met for a second time six years later in the 1928 Rose Bowl. Stanford evened the series with a 7-6 win in the Grandaddy of Them All. The third and most recent game in the series was played in 1932, this time in western Pennsylvania. The Panthers blanked the Cardinal, 7-0, en route to an 8-1-2 season under Jock Sutherland.

Reaching farther beyond the San Jose region, Pittsburgh also has a five-game series history with the Cal Bears. The Panthers own a 3-2 lead against the Bears, with the most recent meeting coming in 1966.

This has absolutely nothing to do with hockey or the series between the Penguins and Sharks, but now you know the college football history between the two regions.

Baylor hires Jim Grobe as acting head coach

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 29:  Head coach Jim Grobe of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons watches on during their game against the Connecticut Huskies at Bank of America Stadium on December 29, 2007 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Early indications were Baylor would ride the ship in 2016 with defensive coordinator Phil Bennett as their interim coach following the dismissal of Art Briles last week. Now, it appears there is a new option on the table; former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe.

According to multiple reports, Baylor is preparing to announce Jim Grobe will be hired as the interim head coach for the upcoming season. In addition, Baylor’s remaining coaching staff would stay in place for the upcoming football season. It is expected Baylor will hire a new permanent coach and add a new coaching staff in the next round on the coaching carousel. Grobe is simply a plug for the hole in the program on short notice.

Grobe spent 13 years at the helm of the Wake Forest program after six years as a head coach at Ohio. As a head coach, Grobe has gone 110-115-1, but it is unquestionably the first time he will have above average talent to work with on his roster. Grobe did win an ACC title with Wake Forest in 2006 and he went 3-2 in postseason bowl games. At Baylor, Grobe will be tasked with simply keeping the Bears focused and dialed in for a potential run at the Big 12 championship, and perhaps even a spot in the College Football Playoff. Although the program has been seeing a handful of incoming recruits and future recruits bolt elsewhere, Grobe will still take over a program situated well to win some football games in 2016.

The Huntington, West Virginia native resigned as Wake Forest’s head coach at the end of the 2013 season following a fifth consecutive losing season. He had three years remaining on his contract at the time, with the final year set to be the 2016 season.

UPDATE: Baylor has made the coaching hire official.

“Jim Grobe is the right leader at this time to move Baylor University and the football program forward,” said Baylor Vice President and Director of Athletics Ian McCaw. “He has successfully led two FBS programs during his career,” McCaw added. “Coach Grobe enjoys an impeccable reputation within the intercollegiate athletics community and is a man of great integrity and faith.”

“It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to join the Baylor football program during this important time,” Grobe said in the released statement. “I am looking forward to getting to know and working with the coaches and players in the coming days, and I have great respect for Baylor as an institution and its long-standing heritage.

“As a coach, winning is important. At the same time, I want to assure the Baylor family that every decision we will make in this football program will be made with Baylor University, her students and our student-athletes in mind.”