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.

2017 Ole Miss signee arrested, jailed on burglary charge

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Off the field, it’s not been a good last few days for the Class of 2017.  Or for one SEC program in particular, come to think of it.

According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, a member of Ole Miss’ 2017 recruiting class, Tae-Kion Reed, was arrested Tuesday afternoon on a burglary charge.  Other than Reed attempted to burglarize a home, no details of what led to the arrest and charge have been released.

As of this posting, Reed remains jailed, a Lowndes County Jail official confirmed.

The football program is aware of the development. “We are gathering facts on the matter,” a spokesperson told the Clarion-Ledger.

Originally committed to Mississippi State, the three-star defensive tackle flipped to MSU’s Egg Bowl rivals on National Signing Day last month.  He made waves with the manner of his commitment as he tossed a Bulldogs hat across the room before donning a Rebels cap at his signing ceremony.

Chris Weinke confirms he’s joining Alabama football staff

9 Oct 1999:  Chris Weinke #16 of the Florida State Seminoles passes the ball during the game against the Miami Hurricanes at the Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. The Seminoles defeated the Hurricanes 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons  /Allsport
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It appears Nick Saban has added a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback to his SEC juggernaut.

The Tuscaloosa NewsAaron Suttles is reporting that Chris Weinke has joined the Crimson Tide off-field football staff.  Weinke subsequently confirmed the development.

The former Florida State signal-caller will serve as an offensive analyst for Saban. That was the same role expected to be manned by Clint Trickett, who instead opted for the tight ends coach job at Florida Atlantic under former UA offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

Weinke had spent the past two seasons as the quarterbacks coach of the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams.  He was let go from that position in mid-January.

Prior to that, the former Carolina Panthers quarterback was the director of football at the elite IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., from 2010-2014.  Bo Scarbrough, the Tide’s third-leading rusher in 2016 as  sophomore, spent his senior season in high school at IMG.

Western Michigan’s leading tackler granted release, will transfer

KALAMAZOO, MI - NOVEMBER 19:  Robert Spillane #10 of the Western Michigan Broncos sacks Grant Rohach #19 of the Buffalo Bulls in the third quarter at Waldo Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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The most productive player on the defensive side of the ball during Western Michigan’s breakout 2016 season is moving on.

The football program announced via its official Twitter account that Robert Spillane has asked for and been granted a release from his scholarship. A rising true senior, it’s unclear if the linebacker will be leaving WMU as a graduate transfer.

If he is, he’ll be eligible to play at another FBS program in 2017. If not, he’d have to sit out the upcoming season before using his final season of eligibility in 2018.

Last season, Spillane led the Broncos in tackles with 111 — next closest was Asantay Brown‘s 95 — while he was second in tackles for loss with 10.5 and tied for third in sacks with three. His three interceptions were tied for second as well. The last of those three picks came at the end of the MAC championship game that helped seal WMU’s win over Ohio.

The past three seasons, Spillane started 28 games for the Broncos. He started all 14 games last season.

Surgery knocks out MTSU starting QB Brent Stockstill for the spring

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 10:  Quarterback Brent Stockstill #12 of the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders throws a pass during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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In early November, a right shoulder injury knocked Brent Stockstill out for the remainder of Middle Tennessee State’s season.  Four months later, a procedure on the other side of the same area has sidelined the starting quarterback yet again.

MTSU announced Tuesday that Stockstill will miss the whole of spring practice, which is set to kick off March 15.  The rising junior recently underwent surgery on his left (throwing) shoulder.

The procedure is not expected to have any impact on his availability for the upcoming season.

“The doctors just went in and cleaned some stuff up in his shoulder but he should be ready to go this summer,” Rick Stockstill, MTSU’s head coach and the player’s father, said in a statement. “He will be held out of spring drills.”

After just two seasons as the starter, Stockstill already owns school records in touchdown passes (61), 300-yard passing games (14), 400-yard passing games (2) and passing yards per game (303.3).