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.

After stops at TCU, Arkansas State, Cameron Echols-Luper to give WKU a try

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Maybe the third time will be a charm for Cameron Echols-Luper?

On his personal Instagram account Wednesday, Echols-Luper revealed that he has decided to continue his collegiate playing career at Western Kentucky.  According to the Bowling Green Daily News, the decision was made following a visit to the school earlier this week.

As a graduate transfer, the wide receiver will be eligible to play immediately in 2017 for the Hilltoppers. However, he has to finish up some schoolwork at his former school, Arkansas State, before officially moving on to WKU.

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Echols-Luper began his collegiate career at TCU in 2013, transferring to ASU in 2015. After sitting out that season, he was third on the Red Wolves in receptions (26) and receiving yards (407). His 15.7 yards per reception was second on the team.

Ex-USC DL Noah Jefferson won’t be transferring to Arizona after all

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In early March, Noah Jefferson announced on Twitter that he would be transferring from USC to Arizona.  Nearly five months later?

Never mind.

Wednesday, UA head coach Rich Rodriguez announced that Jefferson will not, as previously expected, be playing for the Wildcats this season.  No reason for the abrupt and unexpected about-face was given.

The coach did, though, intimate that a future pairing between the player and the program isn’t out of the question.

Jefferson wouldn’t have been eligible to play in 2017 for the Wildcats even if his move to the desert had come to fruition. He would’ve, though, had two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018 at his disposal.

A four-star member of USC’s 2015 recruiting class, Jefferson played in 14 games, starting one of those, as a true freshman. After starting the season-opening loss to Alabama last season, Jefferson never played another down for USC.

Hugh Freeze makes first public comments since exiting Ole Miss in disgrace

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For the first time since his unceremonious exit from Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze has spoken publicly.  Somewhat.

In what was described as a brief interview with USA Today Sports Wednesday, the former Ole Miss head coach said his family and church have helped him get through the storm of the last few days. When asked if his family was standing by him, Freeze responded, “Oh, gosh, yeah.”

“God is good, even in difficult times,’’ Freeze told the website. “Wonderful wife and family, and that’s my priority.”

“I got some good friends,” the former head coach added.

The stunning news dropped last Thursday night that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  While Freeze blamed the call on a misdial, the administration found a “pattern of misconduct” during a deep dive into his phone records, leading the school to confront the coach about the situation.

After meetings with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, it became apparent that, if he didn’t resign, the school was going to fire him.

Because of a moral turpitude clause in his contract, there was neither a buyout nor a settlement.

Five-star 2017 Auburn signee undergoes ‘minor procedure,’ should be a go for start of summer camp

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It appears Auburn has dodged what could’ve been a significant injury bullet.

Citing a person familiar with the situation, Brandon Marcello of the Auburn arm of 247Sports.com is reporting that Calvin Ashley underwent a procedure on one of his eyes recently.  SECCountry.com described it as “a minor procedure”; both websites stated that the touted offensive tackle will be ready for the start of summer camp on July 31, this coming Monday.

The reports come a few days after Ashley posted a picture on social media of what appeared to be him in a hospital room.

The football program has not yet, at least publicly, addressed what if any type of health issue with which Ashley is dealing.

A five-star member of the Tigers’ 2017 recruiting class, Ashley was rated as the No. 6 tackle in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in Washington D.C.; and the No. 27 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Ashley was the highest-rated player in AU’s class this year, the only five-star recruit pulled in by Gus Malzahn and company this cycle.

The 6-6, 310-pound Ashley is expected to compete immediately for the starting job at left tackle.