Auburn fires back at ESPN’s fake weed story

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And the gloves have come off.

As we wade our way through the morass created by Selena Roberts‘ salacious story alleging misconduct in the Auburn football program, ESPN the Magazine/E:60 released a report Thursday evening alleging a synthetic marijuana — spice — epidemic on the Tigers’ 2010 BCS championship team.  Specifically, the WWL and its sources alleged that a dozen football players from that team failed tests for “the designer drug” and that another dozen players used it but were never caught.

Now, this is where things get interesting.

According to a statement released Thursday night by Auburn attributed to athletic director Jay Jacobs, a test for the fake weed was not made available by the university’s testing company until January 24, 2011; “Auburn added the test to its panel on Jan. 27, 2011,” Jacobs said in his statement.  That addition would’ve come nearly three weeks after AU won its first national championship in over five decades after beating Oregon in the BCS title game.

In August of 2011, seven months after the screening began at Auburn, the NCAA added “spice” to its list of banned substances according to Rivals.com.

Another allegation in the ESPN story was that while Jacobs and then-head coach Gene Chizik were “aware of the football team’s 12 positive tests for synthetic marijuana, they kept the results secret, even from the parents of the players.”  From Jacobs’ statement:

A parent interviewed told ESPN they would have done more to help her son had we done more to let her know he was in trouble. That is incorrect. The facts demonstrate that our coaches and Sports Medicine professionals had regular communication with the parents and that every effort was made to warn our student-athletes about the dangers of synthetic marijuana.

What those facts are that could demonstrate communication are not clear.

Additionally, the parent of a former Auburn football (anonymously) took head-on the accusations by ESPN that positive spice tests were kept secret.  From Rivals.com:


One parent of an Auburn player that tested positive for “spice” during that time period disagrees.

“It’s just false and inaccurate. As a parent, I was notified, so that bumps the fact that no parents were notified,” said one parent that wishes to remain anonymous. “I haven’t seen the ESPN story, but if they said the parents weren’t notified, that’s not true. I was called and I know two other parents that were notified, too.

“I know for sure two, from me seeing them down there. If they notified me and two other parents, if there was anyone else, I’m sure they were told. I don’t understand this.”

So, yes, this is officially a mess.  A mess of media reports counterpunched by an institution that’s had its fair share of scrapes with the investigative arm — such as it is anymore — of the NCAA over the past couple of years.  An NCAA that in no way, shape or form has even a semblance of credibility left to even think about launching yet another investigation while it’s mired in internal ineptness of epic proportions.

And, for those who are interested in full disclosure, below the jump are the two statements released by Auburn Thursday night.  The first is what AU describes as a statement provided to ESPN the Magazine on March 29, the second an open letter to the Auburn family by Jacobs.  Make of them what you will…

After a thorough internal review, the Auburn Athletics Department believes many of the allegations made by the individuals interviewed for this story are baseless and inaccurate.

As the District Attorney told a jury in open court a year ago, Auburn football and Auburn’s policies had nothing to do with what happened the night that four former football players were arrested for armed robbery. Unfortunately, the defendants in this case are simply facing the consequences of their actions.

The facts clearly demonstrate that the Auburn Athletics Department and the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics acted appropriately and aggressively in response to the growing threat of synthetic marijuana during the 2010-2011 academic year.

Auburn Athletics began testing its student-athletes for synthetic marijuana three days after a test became available. Since our drug testing policy was amended to include synthetic marijuana as a banned substance, there have been three positive tests for the drug out of more than 2,500 drug tests administered.

All of our student-athletes are regularly educated on the harms of all types of substance use and abuse, including synthetic marijuana. In addition to education, any student-athletes who test positive for drugs are required to seek professional counseling.

Auburn Athletics has always and will continue to put the well being of our student-athletes at the forefront of our mission.

____________________

Dear Auburn Family,

You may have seen a story on ESPN.com this evening about the former Auburn football players who were dismissed two years ago for their involvement in an armed robbery.

The story chronicles the former players’ use of synthetic marijuana, which the defendants in the robbery case have used as their primary defense in court. We expect another, more in-depth story to appear in an upcoming print edition of ESPN The Magazine.

We cooperated with ESPN in the story because of how appropriately and aggressively the Auburn Athletics Department and the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics acted in response to the growing threat of synthetic marijuana during the 2010-2011 academic year.

As a father of three, I sympathize with the parents of the young men who face prison sentences for their alleged involvement in the armed robbery. While they have a right to speak out, I have an obligation to share the facts, which clearly show Auburn Athletics tried to help these former student-athletes.

Some of the statements made in the story are wrong and need to be corrected, while others need to be put into proper context. One player interviewed by ESPN, for example, alleges that up to half of the 2010 football team was using synthetic marijuana. It’s hard to be more wrong than that. The facts and our drug testing results simply do not support such a claim.

A parent interviewed told ESPN they would have done more to help her son had we done more to let her know he was in trouble. That is incorrect. The facts demonstrate that our coaches and Sports Medicine professionals had regular communication with the parents and that every effort was made to warn our student-athletes about the dangers of synthetic marijuana.

Allow me to share with you the facts that we provided to the reporter. Some of them were included in the initial story. Some were not.

• Auburn Athletics began testing for synthetic marijuana three days after our testing company made a test available. A test became available on Jan. 24, 2011, and Auburn added the test to its panel on Jan. 27, 2011.
• Since our drug testing policy was amended to include synthetic marijuana as a banned substance, there have been three positive tests for the drug out of more than 2,500 drug tests administered. Those three individuals are no longer on Auburn Athletics rosters.
• As soon as our Director of Sports Medicine was aware that synthetic marijuana was a drug readily available in convenience stores in the fall of 2010, Auburn Athletics contacted our drug testing company to inquire about whether they had a test for synthetic marijuana and when one would be made available. They did not have a test at the time.
At the same time, our Director of Sports Medicine began education efforts aimed at our coaches and student-athletes.
• Auburn Athletics provided urine samples to the drug testing company to assist them in their efforts to develop a test.
• The Director of Sports Medicine and former Coach Gene Chizik both addressed the football team about the dangers of synthetic marijuana at multiple team meetings in the Fall of 2010, before a test was available. A story about the drug was placed on the locker of every football player on the team.
• Within the first few months of testing, 3 percent of our student-athletes tested positive for synthetic marijuana.
• Phone records show that more than 50 phone calls were made to the parents of two former student-athletes who were interviewed by ESPN.
• The father of one of the student-athletes who was apparently interviewed by ESPN was sent a letter informing him that his son had failed a drug test for regular marijuana two months before the robbery.
• The Auburn Drug Testing/Drug Education Advisory Committee recommended to the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics that synthetic marijuana be added to the Auburn Athletics drug testing policy on March 14, 2011. The policy change was adopted that day.
• Penalties for the use of synthetic marijuana were put into place for the next academic year beginning in August of 2011. Since it became a banned substance under the drug testing policy, only three student-athletes have tested positive for synthetic marijuana out of more than 2,500 tests administered.

I hope the facts clear up any misconceptions about drug use among our student-athletes. It is important for you to know that Auburn Athletics conducts approximately 1,500 drug tests each academic year. Less than one percent of our student-athletes test positive for illegal substances.

Alabama reportedly raids Penn State staff for new WRs coach

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Nick Saban‘s latest reshaping of his coaching will reportedly come at the expense of a Big Ten school.

Earlier Thursday, a report surfaced that Mike Locksley was being promoted by Saban to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.  As Locksley served as Alabama’s wide receivers coach this past season, it left Saban in search of a new coach for that positional group.

According to FootballScoop.com, that search has ended as Penn State’s Josh Gattis is expected to take the job.  Gattis will also serve as the Tide’s co-offensive coordinator.

A couple of other outlets confirmed the initial report.

Gattis had spent the past six seasons on James Franklin-led coaching staff, the first two at Vanderbilt and the last four at Penn State.  In addition to receivers coach, Gattis held the title of passing-game coordinator and assistant special teams coordinator with the Nittany Lions.

UTSA names Auburn staffer Al Borges as offensive coordinator

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Frank Wilson is adding a very experienced voice to his offensive staff at UT-San Antonio.

UT confirmed in a press release Friday morning that Al Borges has been hired as the Roadrunners’ new offensive coordinator.  The 36-year coaching veteran will also serve as the team’s quarterback coach.

Borges had spent the 2017 season as an offensive analyst at Auburn.

“I am thrilled to be able to announce the hiring of Al Borges as our new offensive coordinator,” Wilson said in a statement. “Al Borges has a masterful offensive mind and a coaching style that takes advantage of the talent and skillset of the players on the roster. His unique ability to develop quarterbacks is second to none. Our coaching staff got better today.”

Prior to the one-year stint at Auburn, Borges had been an offensive coordinator at the FBS level for most of the previous 24 years.  Those stints included time at San Jose State (2015-16), Michigan (2011-13), San Diego State (2009-10), Auburn (2004-07), Indiana (2002-03), Cal (2001), UCLA (1996-2000), Oregon (1995) and Boise State (1993-94).

Twice, Borges has been named as a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.

Purdue announces co-OC Tony Levine has left to pursue opportunities outside of coaching

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This is certainly an abrupt and unexpected development.

In a rather brief and terse press release, Purdue announced that Tony Levine is no longer a member of Jeff Brohm‘s (pictured) Boilermakers coaching staff.  Per the school, Levine will be pursuing unspecified opportunities outside of the coaching profession.

Below is the text of the release, in its entirety:

Purdue head football coach Jeff Brohm announced today that assistant coach Tony Levine has resigned to pursue opportunities outside of coaching.

That’s it.

The loss of Levine leaves a rather sizable hole for Brohm to fill.  Not only was the 45-year-old assistant the team’s co-offensive coordinator, but he served as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach as well.  Levine had just completed his first season with the Boilermakers.

Levine was the head coach at Houston from 2011-14 and the special teams coordinator/tight ends coach at Western Kentucky prior to coming to West Lafayette.

Report: Nick Saban promoting Mike Locksley to OC

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Nick Saban has found his fourth offensive coordinator in 14 months, and he didn’t have to go very far do so.

With rumors swirling around a certain disgraced former SEC head coach, signs had seemingly been pointing to Saban possibly, or even likely staying in-house for his next Alabama coordinator on the offensive side of the ball.  According to Chris Low of ESPN.com, the head coach plans to do just that as Mike Locksley is expected to be promoted to offensive coordinator.  It’s expected Locksley will assume responsibilities as the Tide’s quarterbacks coach as well.

Locksley would replace Brian Daboll, who left after one season in Tuscaloosa for the same job with the Buffalo Bills earlier this month.

Locksley has spent the past two seasons with the Crimson Tide, the first as an offensive analyst and last year as co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.

The former New Mexico head coach last served as a coordinator at Maryland from 2012-15.  He also spent three seasons (2006-08) in the same job at Illinois.