More accusations leveled against Auburn’s football program

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Over two years after Gene Chizik, Cam Newton, et al hoisted the crystal football, allegations of misconduct continue to dog the Auburn football program.

According to a report titled “Auburn’s Tainted Title: Victims, Violations and Vendettas for Glory” from former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts on her new website Roopstigo.com, Chizik and/or his coaching staff — and/or his predecessors — were responsible for multiple violations of NCAA bylaws including impermissible benefits and academic fraud.

The story ostensibly centers on former Tigers defensive back Mike McNeil, one of four ex-AU football players charged with armed robbery in March of 2011.  McNeil was one of a handful of former players quoted on the record for Roberts’ piece, a group that included wide receiver Darvin Adams, defensive end Mike Blanc, defensive end Antoine Carter and defensive back Neiko Thorpe.  Other unnamed sources were utilized in the story, on which AU officials have thus far declined to comment.

McNeil, who’s scheduled to go on trial later this month and faces 21 years to life in prison if convicted, leveled most but not all of the accusations included in the article.  Some of those include:

— After being rebuffed by his computer science instructor and that instructor’s supervisor in an attempt to get a grade changed, McNeil claims he went to an athletic department counselor with his problem. “Within days… the grade was changed from an F to a C and he did not miss a game,” Roberts wrote.  Additionally, three of the players claimed that nine players, including star running back Michael Dyer, should not have played in the BCS championship game against Oregon in January of 2011 because they were academically ineligible. “Auburn found a way to make those dudes eligible,” Blanc was quoted as saying.

— Adams, who set an SEC championship game record with 217 receiving yards that sent the Tigers to the BCS title game, claimed that he was offered financial incentives — McNeil and Blanc claimed it was several thousands of dollars —  by the AU coaching staff to return to the Tigers for the 2011 season.  Instead, Adams turned pro early and went undrafted.

— Following “a difficult day at practice in 2007,” McNeil claims that then-defensive coordinator and current Florida head coach Will Muschamp handed him $400 in cash and asked, “is this enough?  Is this good?”  Through a UF spokesperson, Muschamp, who left AU for Texas following that season, denied such a payment was made.

— McNeil claimed that he was given $500 to host 2008 recruit and eventual 2009 Alabama signee Dre Kirkpatrick — the NCAA limit is $50. “If I’m a star player and I’m a likable person, and a recruit comes in at my position, then, of course, I’m going to take him under my wing,” McNeil said in the article. “If a star recruit was in town, you would get a lot more than the NCAA limit.”

In addition to no reaction from the university, neither Chizik nor his agent have been available for comment, although one of the most-quoted players in the piece offered up this curious reaction via Twitter once the story went viral.

“Man this article is outrageous and isn’t true. The media will do anything for a juicy story smh #sad,” Blanc tweeted this evening.

Roberts’ blockbuster is the latest in a long line of accusations leveled against the AU football program that stretch back to months before their 2010 BCS title.

The most publicized scrutiny involved the recruitment of Newton, the Heisman-winning quarterback who left The Plains after one title-winning season for the NFL.  The NCAA investigated the allegations — that Newton’s services could be obtained during the recruiting process for a substantial financial “donation” to the player’s father — and ultimately determined that no violations had occurred.

Interestingly, there was no mention of Newton in Roberts’ report that focused primarily on that championship season.

In addition to the Newton imbroglio, the AU football program has been investigated over the past two years by the NCAA regarding its recruiting practices… allegations made by four former players on an HBO showTiger ProwlJovon Robinsontwo now-former ace recruiters and their recruitment of Robinson… and that’s about all for now as you get the point.

The NCAA has yet to respond to requests for comment, although they understandably have more pressing issues on their collective plates.

UPDATED 9:21 p.m. ET: In a pair of tweets posted to his Twitter account, Neiko Thorpe claims that he was misquoted by Roberts in her story.

“While I spoke to Selena Roberts about Mike I have just read her article & not only am I misquoted but my words are very out of context. We didn’t talk about NCAA violations or recruiting. I’m proud 2 have played at Auburn & the opportunities it gave me.”

For her part, Roberts stands by her reporting, including the on-the-record quotes attributed to the former players.

Maryland TE Tyler Devera says he has entered transfer portal

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It seems the transfer portal season never really ends. On Wednesday, one of the newest addition to the transfer portal was Maryland tight end Tyler Devera. Devera announced his entry to the portal on his Twitter account.

Devera was a three-star recruit in Maryland’s Class of 2019 and has yet to appear in a game for the Terrapins.

Entering the transfer portal allows Devera to have contact with any other college football program looking to recruit him. It is worth noting Devera had committed to Rutgers before ending up heading to Maryland. Devera decommitted from the Scarlet Knights after his older brother, Brendan Devera, was dismissed by (now former ) Rutgers head coach Chris Ash. Whether or not Rutgers is back in play given the program will (eventually) have a new head coach remains to be seen.

Even though Devera has not played a game this season, he would have to sit out the 2020 season if he transfers to another FBS program, per NCAA transfer rules and barring any potential waiver that receives approval for immediate eligibility. When Devera is eligible again in 2021, he will still have three years of eligibility after using 2019 or 2020 as a redshirt season.

Uniform updates: Rutgers wearing long sleeved jerseys, Texas Tech throwing it back to 1976

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The Texas Longhorns won’t be the only school wearing a throwback style this weekend. Add Texas Tech and Rutgers to the mix of teams adopting a look that pays tribute to a certain era in program history.

Rutgers, the birthplace of college football, will be doing neer before seen in the modern era of college football. The Scarlet Knights will wear long-sleeve jerseys. The long sleeves mimic the style of uniform worn by the earliest college football players, although these uniforms will be made of a much more athletic material compared to the gear worn by those in 1869. The red long sleeve jerseys will be topped by a white helmet with a classic “R” logo. From head to toe, it is quite a unique look for the Scarlet Knights.

Texas Tech won’t be wearing long sleeves, but they will be wearing a look similar to the one worn during the bicentennial. The retro uniforms to be worn by Texas Tech this weekend take a page from the 1976 Red Raiders with a white helmet and red double-T logo, complete with red stars. Texas Tech claimed a Southwest Conference title in 1976, so the design choice is appropriate for the Red Raiders.

Not to be forgotten, Boston College has been teasing its own throwback look for this weekend too. I’m just guessing it will be one Doug Flutie would appreciate.

Teams suiting up in uniforms designed to pay tribute to a previous generation of program history has been a thing for a while now, but it is great to see so many schools getting in on the fun in the 150th anniversary season of college football. Every team should make it happen.

But wait, there’s more! Boise State is going to wear a uniform similar to the one they wore during their Fiesta Bowl victory over Arizona in 2014.

C’mon Boise State. If you’re going to do a Fiesta Bowl throwback look, it is required by law that it must be the uniform worn in the win against Oklahoma.

Alabama removes Class of 2019 five-star defensive lineman Alfano from roster

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The writing may have been on the wall for much of the season, but Alabama freshman defensive lineman Antonio Alfano appears to no longer be a part of the Alabama football program. Alfano’s name went missing from the team’s online roster, as noted by BamaOnLine.com on Wednesday.

Alfano was among the prized recruits in Alabama’s Class of 2019, but a suspension led to head coach Nick Saban eventually saying Alfano “basically quit” the team. Rumors of his pending entrance to the NCAA transfer portal were ignited following quotes from his family, but BamaOnline reports Alfano has yet to formally have his name added to the portal.

So, uh, what gives?

It’s hard to say for now. Alfano was suspended for unknown reasons early in the season and had yet to play a game for Alabama. His removal from the team’s online roster suggests he will not be making a return to the Crimson Tide. That would suggest an entry to the transfer portal is imminent, especially since his parents previously stated Alfano was doing just that (and publicly saying he should stay at Alabama).

Whatever the future holds for Alfano, there will likely be a number of programs willing to take a look and see if he’s ready to get back on the field in a new environment. If he does transfer, he would have to sit out the 2020 season before being ruled eligible to play again in 2021 with three years of eligibility remaining.

Wayne Gretzky voices support for Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard Heisman Trophy campaign

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The Heisman Trophy campaign for Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard is officially on, and it already has the support of The Great One. Hall of Fame hockey icon Wayne Gretzky was featured in a video shared by the Edmonton Oilers lending his support for Canada’s own Hubbard.

“I just want to pass on our congratulations from everyone in Edmonton,” Gretzky said in a short video clip shared by the Edmonton Oilers. “We’re all really proud of you. Keep going.”

Hubbard, a native of Edmonton, was appreciative of the message and words of encouragement from an Edmonton sports hero.

Hubbard is a native of Edmonton. Hubbard rushed for 6,880 yards and 82 touchdowns in high school. Hubbard currently leads the nation in rushing with 182.33 yards per game. As of today, Hubbard is the only running back with 1,000 rushing yards midway through the season. The next closest to Hubbard in rushing yards is Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins (826 yards) and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (825 yards).

Hubbard is hoping to become the second Heisman Trophy winner in Oklahoma State program history. Barry Sanders won the Heisman Trophy in 1988.