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.

Baker Mayfield, what derailed Sooners’ 2014 season? ‘I blame Katy Perry’

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Well, that explains it.

Oklahoma began the 2014 season a perfect 4-0 and was ranked fourth in the country before heading into Fort Worth for a showdown with No. 25 TCU. ESPN‘s College GameDay was in Oxford for the huge Alabama-Ole Miss matchup, with Katy Perry serving as that weekend’s epic guest picker.

At one point during the show, the pop singer famously — or infamously if you’re an OU fan — very seductively hit on Trevor Knight, telling the Sooners’ starting quarterback to “call her.”

Knight waited four months before publicly acknowledging the offer. Coincidentally or not, OU, including the 37-33 loss to TCU, went on to finish out the 2014 season on a 4-5 skid, including a 40-6 pasting at the hands of Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Knight missed three of those nine games because of injury, throwing nine interceptions in the six games he did play in after throwing three in his first four pre-Perry flirtation.

Monday, Baker Mayfield, the Sooners’ current starting quarterback who was a transfer from Texas Tech during that 2014 season, was asked what OU’s downfall that year was.

I blame Katy Perry,” the 2017 Heisman front-runner said.

Way to go Katy. Or Trevor, for not immediately following up with a call and triggering the jinx that killed OU’s season.

That said, I’m fairly certain neither the call for action or the inaction to the call for a call had anything to do with the Sooners’ collapse that season.  A defense that gave up more than 30 points in each of the losses, as well as once in one of the wins, though, is certainly a prime and more realistic suspect when it comes to laying blame for the collapse.

One final note: Katy Perry is easily Top 3 when it comes to all-time GameDay guest pickers.  And that’s not up for debate.

Nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2015 granted release from Auburn

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One of the top players in the Class of 2015 will reportedly ply his football wares elsewhere.

As reported by 247Sports.com‘s Brandon Marcello and subsequently confirmed by al.com, Byron Cowart requested a release from his Auburn scholarship at some point Monday.  Tuesday morning, the former reported, that release was granted.

There’s no word yet on what stipulations were attached to the release, or the reasons behind the original request.

Regardless of the why, there’s little doubt the defensive lineman’s on-field play failed to live up to his recruiting pedigree.

A consensus five-star signee, Cowart was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014 while 247Sports.com had Florida product as the No. 3 player overall on its composite board.  In 26 career games, Cowart was credited with 15 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.  He was one of four Tigers arrested for marijuana possession in May of last year.

This past spring, Cowart was moved from end to tackle in an attempt to jumpstart his career.  In three games at his new position this season, he had three tackles and half a tackle for loss in three games.

‘Highly questionable’ Florida CB Duke Dawson plays vs. Kentucky

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Duke Dawson suffered a head injury in Florida’s wild win over Tennessee in Week 3.  On his personal Twitter account, the Gators’ most veteran cornerback indicated that he will play in Week 4 against Kentucky despite the injury.

Dawson’s head coach, though, tapped the brakes on that notion.

Jim McElwain has, at least for now, labeled the fifth-year senior as “highly questionable” for the matchup against the unbeaten Wildcats in Lexington. The door, though, is not completely closed.

We’ll see where that is as we go throughout the week,” the head coach said.

Dawson started seven of the 12 games in which he played last season. He returned an interception for a touchdown in the season-opening loss to Michigan, then had a key interception in the win over rival Florida.

Lamar Jackson leapfrogged by Baker Mayfield as Bovada’s Heisman favorite

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So much for that wagering momentum, I guess.

Entering the 2017 season as not only the reigning winner but also as seemingly an afterthought, a pair of scintillating performances to open the year pushed Lamar Jackson to the head of Bovada.lv‘s Heisman Trophy pack.  Coming off a 26-point Week 3 loss to now-No. 2 Clemson in which he totaled nearly 400 yards of offense and three touchdowns, the Louisville quarterback has seen his odds lengthen a bit from 7/4 a week ago to 11/2 in Bovada‘s latest Heisman release.

Bovada’s new betting front-runner?  Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, who went from 4/1 to 7/4.  Sam Darnold, 6/1, also saw his odds shorten slightly to a Jackson-match 11/2.

Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, 10/1 in the previous odds release, is now at 9/1, same as the holding-steady-from-a-week-ago Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.

There’s also, interestingly, one true freshman on the board: J.K. Dobbins.  The Ohio State running back went from off the board to 40/1 odds.  His starting quarterback, J.T. Barrett, saw his odds go from 25/1 to 33/1.

Below is the latest set of 2017 Heisman Trophy odds, again courtesy of Bovada.lv.