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.

Bovada taps Houston’s Tom Herman as favorite to replace Les Miles at LSU

SAN MARCOS, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Tom Herman of the Houston Cougars leads his team onto the field before the game with Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium on September 24, 2016 in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, wagering establishments are beginning to roll out the odds on the next head coach down on the bayou.  Somewhat surprisingly, however, this particular house doesn’t include the current sideline bosses at Alabama and Ohio State.

According to odds released by Bovada.lv earlier this afternoon, Houston’s Tom Herman, at 5/4, is the overwhelming favorite to replace Les Miles as LSU’s head coach.  Behind Herman is former LSU assistant and current Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher at 3/1.

Not unexpectedly, both Herman and Fisher denied yesterday that they have been contacted by LSU about the opening.  Left unsaid, however, is whether their respective agents have been in contact with the school or those connected to the programs.

It was reported earlier this month that language will be inserted into Herman’s contract that will stipulate the coach is to receive a $5 million bonus if the Cougars move from the AAC to one of the Power Five conferences.  That could be a moot point, however, if a new report that Oklahoma, and thus the Big 12 are cooling on expanding beyond its current 10-team configuration.

Herman is set to make $3 million annually on a new contract agreed to last November.  LSU, though, could nearly double that salary if Herman is their target, and UH likely couldn’t — or wouldn’t — match it.

Interim Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron is given a fighting chance to landing the job permanently as the wagering website has given the line coach 9/1 odds at keeping the position beyond this year.  Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is behind Orgeron at 12/1.

In addition to Herman, Fisher, Orgeron and Kiffin, Bovada also included North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (4/1), USF’s Willie Taggart (6/1), TCU’s Gary Patterson (15/1), former Oregon and current San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly (15/1), Louisville’s Bobby Petrino (18/1) and former Baylor head coach Art Briles (28/1) in their initial set of odds.

Nebraska Cornhusker LB, on backlash after national anthem kneel: ‘we deserved to be lynched or shot just like other black people’

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Wide receiver Tanner Gentry #4 of the Wyoming Cowboys reaches for a pass as linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey #15 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers defends at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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Protests were front and center at college football games across the national landscape this past weekend, and so was the backlash.

Nebraska linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, along with freshmen teammates Mohamed Barry and DaiShon Neal, knelt in protest during the playing of the national anthem Saturday night prior to the game against Northwestern. According to Rose-Ivey in a statement he read during player media availability Monday and posted on his Twitter account, he and his teammates were dealt racially-charged criticism from “fans” on social media after the display.

“Some believe DaiShon, Mohamed and myself should be kicked off the team or suspended, while some said we deserved to be lynched or shot just like the other black people who have died recently,” Rose-Ivey stated during the oral portion of his impassioned message. “Others believe we should be hung before the anthem before the next game. These are actual statements we receive from fans. …

“We did it understanding the implications of these actions, but what we didn’t expect was the enormous amount of hateful, racially motivated comments we received from friends, peers, fans and members of the media about the method of protest.”

According to Barry, however, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, especially as it pertains to ‘Husker fans.

Like 15 positives to the negative,” Barry said. “Our fans, they agree with it, they see the injustice, and for the most part they support us.

“The biggest thing isn’t that they agree or disagree with why we did, it’s ‘oh, why you did during the national anthem?’ It’s the perfect time to let it be known. What’s another time when people would actually talk about it? If we did it during practice, no one would talk about it. If it was any other particular moment — but the national anthem, that glorifies America and all that, it’s the perfect time.”

Nebraska’s governor, Pete Ricketts, had a different opinion of the protest. A decidedly different opinion.

“Generations of men and women have died to give them that right to protest,” Ricketts said. “I think the way they chose to protest was disgraceful and disrespectful.”

Iowa’s leading receiver out indefinitely after practice injury

IOWA CITY, IOWA- SEPTEMBER 10:  Wide receiver Matt VandeBerg #89 of the Iowa Hawkeyes  catches a pass during the third quarter in front of defensive back D'Andre Payne #1 of the Iowa State Cyclones on September 10, 2016 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.  (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
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As Iowa gets set to continue Big Ten play this weekend, the Hawkeyes now have an injury to one of its top offensive playmakers with which to deal.

In a press release Tuesday, Iowa announced that Matt VandeBerg will be sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury.  The wide receiver sustained the non-specified injury during a Monday practice.

“It is unfortunate that Matt will miss some time due to his injury,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said in a statement. “We know that Matt will work extremely hard to get back on the field as soon as possible. We feel confident that some of our younger receivers will step up in Matt’s absence.”

VandeBerg currently leads the Hawkeyes in receptions (19), receiving yards (284) and receiving touchdowns (284).  The senior led the team in receiving a year ago as well.

With 10 catches for 192 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the season, George Kittle is expected to shoulder more of the passing-game load with VandeBerg sidelined.  The senior’s 19.2 yards per catch leads the team.

Florida confirms hiring of Miss. St.’s Scot Stricklin as new AD

FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2016, file photo, Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin congratulates Dominique Dillingham following the team's NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee in Starkville, Miss. A person familiar with the search says Florida has hired Stricklin as its new athletic director. Stricklin replaces Jeremy Foley, one of the most tenured sports executives in the country. Foley is retiring Saturday after 40 years with the Gators, including the last 25 in charge of Florida's athletic program. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because Florida has an announcement and introductory news conference planned for Tuesday, Sept. 27. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle, File)
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Mississippi State’s loss is officially Florida’s gain.

Monday, reports surfaced that, after a longer-than-expected search, Florida had zeroed in on Scott Stricklin to be its new athletic director. Tuesday morning, UF confirmed in a press release that the MSU AD has left Starkville to take the same job in Gainesville.

Stricklin will replace Jeremy Foley, the long-time AD who announced in June that he would be leaving his post in October.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity at Florida,” Stricklin said in a statement. “I’m an SEC guy. I understand the position Florida holds in college athletics. I’m excited to come and be part of the department. It’s a great staff here to work with. I love college towns. The opportunity to come and get invested in another community, with my family, you start balancing all that and you understand at this point in my career, this is an opportunity you just can’t not do. …

“I couldn’t have left for any other place but Florida. It’s just a special place not only in the world of the SEC, but in college athletics because of the success they’ve had and the way they’ve had it with the integrity. Florida holds a leadership position in college athletics. And you look at the academic reputation, it’s one of the best universities in the country. That’s a pretty hard combination to not take the opportunity if it’s offered to you.”

Stricklin, who graduated from MSU in the early nineties, had been the Bulldogs’ AD since 2010.  That was the 46-year-old Stricklin’s first job as the head of any athletic department.

For the 2015-16 season, he claimed the Athletic Director of the Year Award from the National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA).

“I’ve known Scott on a personal and professional level for a long, long time,” a statement from Foley, who is staying at the school as a “fundraiser,” began. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Scott and what he has accomplished at Mississippi State and the other institutions where he has worked. Scott is a wonderful leader, and a great person. He has passion for student-athletes and loves working with and supporting coaches. Those two qualities alone make him a great fit for Florida.

“Scott is about the right things and running the business the right way. I have the utmost confidence that Scott will help the Gators carry out our mission to provide a championship experience with integrity. We’ve sat in the room together at AD meetings for several years now, and I’ve seen firsthand that Scott brings a deep understanding and appreciation for what it takes to run a successful athletic program, particularly in the Southeastern Conference. I couldn’t be more excited to have Scott serve as the next athletic director at the University of Florida.”

Stricklin will be officially introduced as Florida’s new athletic director at a 1 p.m. ET press conference this afternoon.