Auburn, Gene Chizik respond to latest Auburn report

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Yesterday, writer Selena Roberts, formerly of the New York Times and Sports Illustrated, released a story on her website Roopstigo.com alleging, while centering on former safety Mike McNeil,multiple NCAA violations dating back to and before the Gene Chizik era, including impermissible benefits and academic fraud.

Current Florida coach Will Muschamp, named specifically in the story for allegedly giving McNeil $400 in cash after a practice, has already vehemently denied any involvement.

Now, Auburn and Chizik, fired from the school last fall, are doing the same. In two separate releases — Chizik’s being a rather lengthy one — the school and the coach break their silence on the report. You can probably take a guess as the exact nature and tone of each, which you can read below.

Auburn AD Jay Jacobs:

“Anytime accusations are made against Auburn, we take them seriously. We have no reason to believe these allegations are either accurate or credible. However, as a matter of procedure, we are reviewing them carefully.

“It is important to note that several of the sources in this story have since indicated they were either misquoted, quoted out of context or denied the allegations.

“Unfortunately, the reporter who published this story did not fully represent to us what the story was about when requesting an interview. We were only told that the reporter was working on a story about the alleged armed robbery involving four former football players, which occurred over two years ago.

“We were never told the story would include allegations about academic fraud or improper benefits. Had we known that, we would have responded immediately with the statement above.”

And from Chizik:

“During my tenure at Auburn, the NCAA conducted a multi-year investigation into the Auburn football program that they called “fair and thorough.” The NCAA focused intently on widespread accusations about Auburn players being paid and other alleged recruiting violations. The NCAA conducted 80 interviews. In October 2011, the NCAA rejected “rampant public speculation online and in the media.” Unfortunately, the recent story published by Selena Roberts is more of the same. It once again portrays Auburn University, current and former coaches, professors, fans, supporters and community officials in a false light.

Unfortunately, Ms. Roberts’ story is long on accusation and inference, but short on facts and logic. It is noteworthy that the story comes just days before a player mentioned most prominently in the article is set to go to trial for felony armed robbery. The statements are very generalized accusations devoid of substance. During my time as Auburn’s head coach, I never authorized, instructed or directed anyone to change any player’s grade or provide any type of illegal payment to any student-athlete. Likewise, I am not aware of any alleged grade change or illegal payment by any member of my coaching staff, support staff or anyone else.

As for logic, the notion that the conduct inferred by Ms. Roberts was occurring under the NCAA’s nose, at the very same time the NCAA is conducting its thorough investigation, lacks merit. Further, the notion that there was ever an attempt to sabotage any Auburn student-athlete’s attempt to play professional football is outrageous. Auburn’s success in transitioning student-athletes to the NFL benefits both the student-athlete and the Auburn program.

I remain part of the Auburn family and take these attacks on myself, the University and community seriously. During my time at Auburn, the administrators, professors and academic staff were of the highest integrity. Additionally, the inference that there was academic support staff that worked together with professors to change grades is absurd. As an Auburn resident, I take great pride in the quality and integrity of our police department. Theyenforce the law equally and fairly and my dealings with police Chief Tommy Dawson and his staff have been nothing short of excellent. He has handled many high profile cases with the upmost integrity and professionalism. To imply anything otherwise is simply wrong.

If there is a sad truth here, it is that there are no repercussions for bloggers who blast out widespread, venomous allegations and inferences in such an irresponsible manner. To make bold and outrageous conclusions on such thin support is a travesty.

During my tenure as Auburn’s head coach, we kept the well-being of our student- athletes at the forefront of every decision. We ran our program with the highest level of integrity and accountability. Period. I make absolutely no apologies for that. I stand firm in my statements, my support of Auburn University, its student- athletes (present and former), faculty, staff and community officials. As I stated during the NCAA investigation, I am comforted knowing that the truth always prevails.”

Iowa LB Aaron Mends to miss extended time with injury

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Talk about a hard-luck story.

After never starting a game at Iowa, Aaron Mends (pictured, blocking punt) had earned a starting job at outside linebacker during practice this spring.  With football being the cruel mistress that it can be at times, the Hawkeyes announced Friday night that Mends “will miss an extended period of time due to injury.” The program offered no details as to the specific nature of the injury, although it’s believed to involve the knee.

According to the school’s release, the fifth-year senior suffered the injury during the final week of Iowa’s spring drills.

Mends was a three-star member of the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class.  He was the highest-rated linebacker in Iowa’s class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Mends has played in 38 games the past three seasons.  A baker’s dozen of those appearances came during the 2017 season.

Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, James Franklin and Clay Helton among 15 CFB coaches attending NFL Draft

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We’re less than a week away from former college players officially finding out their new homes with the start of the 2018 NFL Draft and the excitement is palpable no matter if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan or somebody who dons the cardinal and gold of USC.

Naturally this is a big deal for the players’ former programs as well and their recent head coaches will be taking full advantage of the marketing opportunity to future recruits by stopping by the draft itself at AT&T Stadium for the festivities. The NFL released a list of 14 college football coaches and one recent one on Friday as being confirmed to attend the event and there are a few notable names beyond the big ones we’re used to seeing every year:

In addition, Stanford head coach David Shaw will serve as a draft analyst on NFL Network for a seventh year in a row and even ESPN’s College GameDay is getting involved with a pregame show outside the stadium they are quite familiar with from big games over the years.

Georgia DB Mark Webb tears meniscus in practice but expected back before fall camp

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Georgia’s injury luck this spring isn’t getting much better as the defending SEC champions move toward their annual G-Day spring game over the weekend.

Head coach Kirby Smart confirmed with reporters after Thursday’s practice that sophomore defensive back Mark Webb suffered a knee injury earlier in the week and tore his meniscus. He already had the knee scoped and is expected back before fall camp after the rather minor procedure.

Webb originally landed in Athens as a wideout but made the move to the secondary just as the season was getting going. He appeared in 13 games in 2017, mostly on special teams, but was expected to challenge for one of the starting spots at cornerback heading into the upcoming campaign.

The absence of Webb in the lineup for the final week of spring adds to a growing list of injuries for the team during practice as they do a little bit of roster building toward the future. Receiver Michael Chigbu’s career may be over due to lingering injuries and defensive back Divaad Wilson tore his ACL not long after enrolling this semester.

Safe to say that G-Day on Saturday might not be as physical as Smart and the coaching staff would otherwise like as a result of trying to keep the team healthy as they prepare to head into a big offseason.

Old Dominion announces remodel, expansion plans for S.B. Ballard Stadium

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Old Dominion is making sure the first word in the school’s name is not the first thing you think of when you are playing against the Monarchs, joining a long list of their FBS peers with some significant upgrades for their home venue over the coming years. In plans approved this week by the university, ODU released renderings and an updated timeline on a $65 million remodel of S.B. Ballard Stadium that is set to begin as soon as this summer.

“We are excited to begin Phase 1 reconstruction,” said Greg DuBois, the school’s vice president for administration and finance. “Fan comfort and high-quality amenities are the primary focus of this phase. The project will help us create the type of game-day experience fans want and will set us up for future expansions.”

The stadium, some 81-years-old, will undergo a nearly complete teardown over the next two years in order to transform the place most know as Foreman Field. Both the east and west stands will be demolished and rebuilt, complete with new seating and a new press box. There will naturally be more restrooms and concession stands as part of the plan that includes plenty more bells and whistles for the Conference USA program. Seating is expected to grow beyond 21,000 or so capacity the current venue seats.

While construction will get started in the coming months, the bulk of activity will take place after the 2018 campaign is wrapped up at home and before kickoff of the opener in 2019. The Virginian-Pilot reports that funding will not utilize state funds but that the school is requesting that the legislature approve an added $10 million to the cost structure as a result of rising prices beyond the original $55 million forecasted.

2018 will be just the 10th season for the Monarchs (and fifth in FBS) since the football program was reinstated and it goes without saying that the new digs will be some of the nicest in CUSA when all is said and done. Few programs have been able to successfully navigate the transition as well as ODU has and it seems an updated stadium in the near future is the reward for head coach Bobby Wilder and others in Norfolk.