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.

Versatile playmaker Janarion Grant back to 100 percent for Rutgers

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The opening of the Big Ten’s Media Days Monday brought some welcome news for Rutgers fans.

One of the most explosive and productive players in the conference, Janarion Grant went down with a serious-looking ankle injury — at the end of a 76-yard touchdown — late in the first half of a Week 4 game against Iowa that ultimately ended the wide receiver’s 2016 season.  Grant was in non-contact mode this past spring, leading some to wonder whether he’d be available for summer camp or even the start of the upcoming season.

Yesterday, Chris Ash put any such fears to rest by declaring Grant completely recovered less than two weeks ahead of the start of camp.

“He’s 100 percent… He’s had a great summer,” the head coach said according to nj.com. “He was limited through the spring semester, but this summer he’s been pretty much full go for the majority of the summer. He looks great, he’s in great shape, he’s put weight back on. We’re obviously excited to have him back.”

At the time of the injury, Grant led the Scarlet Knights with 15 receptions and was second on the team with 143 yards rushing. His 562 all-purpose yards were tops in the Big Ten entering Week 4 play last year.

He had six touchdowns in those three-plus games and did it in a quartet of ways — rushing (three), punt return (one), kick return (one) and passing (one).

Suffice to say, Grant was named as part of the Hornung Award watch list earlier this month.  He’s on the watch list for the prestigious Maxwell Award as well.

Ohio State DL Darius Slade to transfer

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In a day packed full of Big Ten moves becoming official, Ohio State has added a roster move of its own.

Urban Meyer revealed at the conference’s media gathering in Chicago on Monday that defensive lineman Darius Slade will not return to the team.

A 3-star recruit out of Montclair, N.J., Slade (42) redshirted in 2014 and missed the ’16 campaign with a lower leg injury. He racked up seven appearances in 2015.

Slade was expected to back up Sam Hubbard at defensive end.

Meyer said that he “thinks” Slade is off to Arizona State. If that’s true, Slade would have two years of eligibility to play as a Sun Devil unless the NCAA approved a waive for him.

Indiana RB Camion Patrick, LB T.J. Simmons medical hardships

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Indiana running back Camion Patrick and linebacker T.J. Simmons will not return to the team this fall after being granted medical hardships, the program announced Monday. Both players would be fifth-year seniors in 2017.

Simmons appeared in 37 games with 35 starts before suffering a season-ending injury that knocked him out of the 2016 campaign entirely. He collected 213 tackles, six sacks, 16.5 TFLs, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery as a Hoosier. Simmons will remain with the program as a student assistant.

“T.J. was a three-year starter and a tough kid that I was looking forward to coaching,” head coach Tom Allen said in a statement. “He did everything that he could to get himself back from his knee injury, but he was unable to reach a place where he could consistently play. T.J. is excited about his new role as a student assistant coach in the weight room and on the field. He will be helping his teammates get better. T.J. has such a passion for the game and this program, and I am thrilled to have him help us breakthrough.”

Patrick arrived from East Mississippi Community College — of Last Chance U. fame — and proceeded to sustain injuries to his ACL and a shoulder. He caught six passes for 154 yards with one receiving touchdown and one rushing score for Indiana.

“Unfortunately, Camion dealt with multiple injuries during his time at IU and was never able to fully recover,” Allen said. “He has worked hard in the classroom. Camion has battled to get back following each injury, but his body has let him down. He recognizes that. We recognize that, and we want to help him finish strong in the classroom and help him create a bright future for himself.”

Penn State K Joey Julius no longer with the team

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Joey Julius was everyone’s favorite kickoff specialist last season. Sadly, he won’t be your favorite kickoff specialist in 2017.

At Big Ten media days on Monday, the Nittany Lions unveiled their 2017 roster and Julius was not on it.

Listed at 5-foot-10, 258 pounds, Julius announced in May he would seek treatment for an eating disorder.

“I have been struggling over the last couple months with my eating disorder,” he announced at the time. “It got to the point where I had to return to St. Louis to seek further treatment at the McCallum place. Recovery is a wonderful and beautiful thing that I am working on returning too.”

Julius handled 93 kickoffs for the 2016 Big Ten champions, averaging 62.1 yards per kick with 45 touchbacks. His kickoff average ranked 47th nationally, and his 48.4 touchback percentage was 40th in FBS. Julius made 10-of-12 field goals and 20-of-24 extra points in 2015 before ceding the job to Tyler Davis last season.