Auburn completes internal review of recent allegations

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Auburn has officially come back with a counterpunch to Selena Roberts‘ recent Roopstigo story detailing allegations of, among other things, academic fraud and impermissible benefits in the Tigers’ football program.

In an open letter released Monday morning, AU athletic director Jay Jacobs detailed the results of an internal investigation into the multiple claims made in Roberts’ story, primarily from former player Mike McNeil.

“In response to an article published by Roopstigo.com earlier this month, we have reviewed the allegations of academic fraud made in the story,” Jacobs wrote. “Even though many of the sources interviewed for the article criticized the reporter for misquoting or misrepresenting them as soon as the story appeared, the allegations were serious enough to prompt an internal review.”

You can read the entire letter HERE. Additionally, and in a separate document which you can also see HERE, Auburn goes point-for-point with the allegations made in the report. Among the retorts made by the university include:

  • A denial of academic fraud. The Roopstigo report states, citing three AU players, that as many as nine players, including running back Michael Dyer, were ineligible for the 2011 BCS championship game, yet were made eligible. AU claims  internal reviews by both the university and internal auditing “found no evidence that improper grade changes occurred. In fact, six players were deemed academically ineligible for the game and did not travel with the team to Arizona.” As for Dyer, AU says the former running back passed 15 credit hours in the fall semester with a 2.8 GPA. 
  • A denial of academic fraud concerning McNeil, who claims his Computer 1000 class grade was changed from an F to a C. Auburn’s response says McNeil’s grade was changed — after documented excused absences for medical reasons were shown to his professor.
  • The allegation that McNeil gave $500 to recruit Dre Kirkpatrick on an official visit; Auburn says Kirkpatrick never came to the school on an official visit. Kirkpatrick also denied receiving money.
  • Regarding the communication between McNeil’s family and Auburn after McNeil’s arrest in 2011, Auburn say phone records show multiple conversations between McNeil’s family and the school between March 11, 2011, and April 1, 2011.
  • Regarding the allegation that Auburn obstructed McNeil’s transfer from the school, AU claims McNeil did not properly withdraw and was therefore academically ineligible per NCAA rules.
  • AU also takes on the allegations of massive recreational drug use, later reported by ESPN. Per the investigation, three players tested positive for marijuana between Aug., 2010 and Feb. 2011, out of 231 separate tests. Following the 2011 BCS championship, seven players tested positive for synthetic marijuana. But, as previously stated by AU, synthetic marijuana was not added to the university’s list of banned substances until later that year.

Former Tigers coach Gene Chizik and assistant Will Muschamp have already issued separate denials on their alleged involvement in the allegations.

Less than a week after the Roopstigo story went live, McNeil pleaded guilty to robbery stemming from an incident in 2011 which also involved other former AU players. In Roberts’ story, McNeil’s attorney maintained that his client was innocent and was willing to go to trial to prove so.

Updated 12:21 p.m. ET: Roberts has responded to Auburn’s release of its internal investigation. In a statement to the Opelika-Auburn News, Roberts said “I found the response to be self-revealing on Auburn’s part. As I continue to report out a separate story for a later date, I will address some of the issues Auburn raised.”

So, yeah. Get ready for more rounds of this.

Michigan RB declares Wolverines actually beat Ohio State last year

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No. 9 Ohio State heads to No. 24 Michigan on Saturday (noon ET, FOX) looking to protect its 5-game winning streak against That Team Up North. According to Michigan running back Karan Higdon, though, it’s Michigan that’s looking to protect its claim over the scoreboard.

Higdon surely remembers last year’s game well. He was there, after all, carrying three times for five yards. However, it was actually Ohio State who won the game, 30-27 in double overtime. The game was incredibly close, as the score indicates. Michigan would have won if not for a pair of Wilton Speight disasters at the goal line, the first an interception that Malik Hooker returned for a touchdown to give Ohio State a 7-3 lead and the second a goal line fumble that ruined Michigan’s chance to take a 17-7 lead.

As we know, Ohio State fought back to win by this much. How much? Jim Harbaugh shows us below.

Higdon figures to have a much greater impact on this year’s game. He’s the Wolverines leading rusher 874 yards and 10 touchdowns, and ran for 200 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries in Michigan’s most recent home game, a 33-10 win over Minnesota.

Here’s hoping, for his sake, that he can have an impact on an actual Michigan victory this time around.

Finalists announced for a number of individual awards

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The final week of the regular season is upon us. Heck, some teams still have two games to play between now and bowl season. Still, it’s awards season in college football, and the petty matter of actual games won’t get in the way of the pageantry.

Let’s dive right in.

Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
Bradley Chubb, NC State
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver)
Michael Gallup, Colorado State
David Sills V, West Virginia
James Washington, Oklahoma State

Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player)
Bradley Chubb, NC State
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Josey Jewell, Iowa
Ed Oliver, Houston
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Butkus Award (best linebacker)
Devin Bush, Michigan
Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback)
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

Doak Walker Award (best running back)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
DeShon Elliott, Texas
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Josh Jackson, Iowa

John Mackey Award (best tight end)
Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
Mike Geisicki, Penn State

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)
Daniel Carlson, Auburn
Dominik Eberle, Utah State
Matt Gay, Utah

Maxwell Award (best overall player)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Outland Trophy (best interior player)
Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Ed Oliver, Houston

Ray Guy Award (best punter)
Michael Dickson, Texas
J.K. Scott, Alabama
Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah

Wuerffel Trophy (best community servant)
Blaise Taylor, Arkansas State
Courtney Love, Kentucky
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame

Winners will be announced at the Home Depot College Football Awards show in Atlanta, Thursday, Dec. 7 on ESPN.

Kentucky loses TE C.J. Conrad to foot injury

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Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad has been lost for the season to a lisfranc injury in his left foot, head coach Mark Stoops announced Monday. He will undergo surgery to correct the issue on Tuesday.

Though he caught just 16 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns on the season, Conrad was Kentucky’s leading receiver this season. The junior caught one 17-yard pass in Big Blue’s 41-38 defeat of Louisville last season.

With Conrad, a junior, out, Kentucky will turn to senior Greg Hart and/or sophomore Justin Rigg at tight end, though the Louisville Courier-Journal notes that both have battled injuries of late.

Kentucky will close the season against Louisville in Lexington on Saturday (noon ET, SEC Network) and in a to-be-determined bowl game.

Joey Jones steps down as South Alabama head coach

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There’s never a good time to lose a football game 52-0, but even by that scale it’s an especially bad thing to lose 52-0 in a game you had to win to keep your bowl hopes alive to a team so disgusted by its own season that it fired its head coach a month ago.

That’s what South Alabama did on Saturday in dropping a 52-0 decision to Georgia Southern, giving the Eagles their first win of the season.

And on Monday, South Alabama announced head coach Joey Jones will resign following the Jaguars’ Dec. 2 finale at New Mexico State.

“There comes a time in every program where there is a need for change.  For this program that I love so much, that time is now,” Jones said in a statement.  “One of the proudest days of my professional life was being the named the first head coach at South Alabama.  Today is difficult, but it is the right step for me, my family and for this football program.”

Jones is the only head coach South Alabama has ever known, hired Feb. 15, 2008. He led the Jags for three seasons as an FCS Independent before joining the Sun Belt in 2012, taking the club to bowl games in 2014 and 2016.

The loss Saturday dropped the program to 4-7 this season, ending hopes of returning to a bowl game for the first time in the program’s short history.

“Joey Jones is the father of our football program.  He, his wife Elise and his entire family put their arms around the program and committed to its establishment and growth,” said AD Dr. Joel Erdmann.  “He has placed South Alabama Football on strong footing, which is something he and his family can be very proud of and we sincerely appreciate.  His good, hard work and commitment will forever be recognized.”