Auburn fires back at ESPN’s fake weed story

90 Comments

And the gloves have come off.

As we wade our way through the morass created by Selena Roberts‘ salacious story alleging misconduct in the Auburn football program, ESPN the Magazine/E:60 released a report Thursday evening alleging a synthetic marijuana — spice — epidemic on the Tigers’ 2010 BCS championship team.  Specifically, the WWL and its sources alleged that a dozen football players from that team failed tests for “the designer drug” and that another dozen players used it but were never caught.

Now, this is where things get interesting.

According to a statement released Thursday night by Auburn attributed to athletic director Jay Jacobs, a test for the fake weed was not made available by the university’s testing company until January 24, 2011; “Auburn added the test to its panel on Jan. 27, 2011,” Jacobs said in his statement.  That addition would’ve come nearly three weeks after AU won its first national championship in over five decades after beating Oregon in the BCS title game.

In August of 2011, seven months after the screening began at Auburn, the NCAA added “spice” to its list of banned substances according to Rivals.com.

Another allegation in the ESPN story was that while Jacobs and then-head coach Gene Chizik were “aware of the football team’s 12 positive tests for synthetic marijuana, they kept the results secret, even from the parents of the players.”  From Jacobs’ statement:

A parent interviewed told ESPN they would have done more to help her son had we done more to let her know he was in trouble. That is incorrect. The facts demonstrate that our coaches and Sports Medicine professionals had regular communication with the parents and that every effort was made to warn our student-athletes about the dangers of synthetic marijuana.

What those facts are that could demonstrate communication are not clear.

Additionally, the parent of a former Auburn football (anonymously) took head-on the accusations by ESPN that positive spice tests were kept secret.  From Rivals.com:


One parent of an Auburn player that tested positive for “spice” during that time period disagrees.

“It’s just false and inaccurate. As a parent, I was notified, so that bumps the fact that no parents were notified,” said one parent that wishes to remain anonymous. “I haven’t seen the ESPN story, but if they said the parents weren’t notified, that’s not true. I was called and I know two other parents that were notified, too.

“I know for sure two, from me seeing them down there. If they notified me and two other parents, if there was anyone else, I’m sure they were told. I don’t understand this.”

So, yes, this is officially a mess.  A mess of media reports counterpunched by an institution that’s had its fair share of scrapes with the investigative arm — such as it is anymore — of the NCAA over the past couple of years.  An NCAA that in no way, shape or form has even a semblance of credibility left to even think about launching yet another investigation while it’s mired in internal ineptness of epic proportions.

And, for those who are interested in full disclosure, below the jump are the two statements released by Auburn Thursday night.  The first is what AU describes as a statement provided to ESPN the Magazine on March 29, the second an open letter to the Auburn family by Jacobs.  Make of them what you will…

After a thorough internal review, the Auburn Athletics Department believes many of the allegations made by the individuals interviewed for this story are baseless and inaccurate.

As the District Attorney told a jury in open court a year ago, Auburn football and Auburn’s policies had nothing to do with what happened the night that four former football players were arrested for armed robbery. Unfortunately, the defendants in this case are simply facing the consequences of their actions.

The facts clearly demonstrate that the Auburn Athletics Department and the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics acted appropriately and aggressively in response to the growing threat of synthetic marijuana during the 2010-2011 academic year.

Auburn Athletics began testing its student-athletes for synthetic marijuana three days after a test became available. Since our drug testing policy was amended to include synthetic marijuana as a banned substance, there have been three positive tests for the drug out of more than 2,500 drug tests administered.

All of our student-athletes are regularly educated on the harms of all types of substance use and abuse, including synthetic marijuana. In addition to education, any student-athletes who test positive for drugs are required to seek professional counseling.

Auburn Athletics has always and will continue to put the well being of our student-athletes at the forefront of our mission.

____________________

Dear Auburn Family,

You may have seen a story on ESPN.com this evening about the former Auburn football players who were dismissed two years ago for their involvement in an armed robbery.

The story chronicles the former players’ use of synthetic marijuana, which the defendants in the robbery case have used as their primary defense in court. We expect another, more in-depth story to appear in an upcoming print edition of ESPN The Magazine.

We cooperated with ESPN in the story because of how appropriately and aggressively the Auburn Athletics Department and the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics acted in response to the growing threat of synthetic marijuana during the 2010-2011 academic year.

As a father of three, I sympathize with the parents of the young men who face prison sentences for their alleged involvement in the armed robbery. While they have a right to speak out, I have an obligation to share the facts, which clearly show Auburn Athletics tried to help these former student-athletes.

Some of the statements made in the story are wrong and need to be corrected, while others need to be put into proper context. One player interviewed by ESPN, for example, alleges that up to half of the 2010 football team was using synthetic marijuana. It’s hard to be more wrong than that. The facts and our drug testing results simply do not support such a claim.

A parent interviewed told ESPN they would have done more to help her son had we done more to let her know he was in trouble. That is incorrect. The facts demonstrate that our coaches and Sports Medicine professionals had regular communication with the parents and that every effort was made to warn our student-athletes about the dangers of synthetic marijuana.

Allow me to share with you the facts that we provided to the reporter. Some of them were included in the initial story. Some were not.

• Auburn Athletics began testing for synthetic marijuana three days after our testing company made a test available. A test became available on Jan. 24, 2011, and Auburn added the test to its panel on Jan. 27, 2011.
• Since our drug testing policy was amended to include synthetic marijuana as a banned substance, there have been three positive tests for the drug out of more than 2,500 drug tests administered. Those three individuals are no longer on Auburn Athletics rosters.
• As soon as our Director of Sports Medicine was aware that synthetic marijuana was a drug readily available in convenience stores in the fall of 2010, Auburn Athletics contacted our drug testing company to inquire about whether they had a test for synthetic marijuana and when one would be made available. They did not have a test at the time.
At the same time, our Director of Sports Medicine began education efforts aimed at our coaches and student-athletes.
• Auburn Athletics provided urine samples to the drug testing company to assist them in their efforts to develop a test.
• The Director of Sports Medicine and former Coach Gene Chizik both addressed the football team about the dangers of synthetic marijuana at multiple team meetings in the Fall of 2010, before a test was available. A story about the drug was placed on the locker of every football player on the team.
• Within the first few months of testing, 3 percent of our student-athletes tested positive for synthetic marijuana.
• Phone records show that more than 50 phone calls were made to the parents of two former student-athletes who were interviewed by ESPN.
• The father of one of the student-athletes who was apparently interviewed by ESPN was sent a letter informing him that his son had failed a drug test for regular marijuana two months before the robbery.
• The Auburn Drug Testing/Drug Education Advisory Committee recommended to the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics that synthetic marijuana be added to the Auburn Athletics drug testing policy on March 14, 2011. The policy change was adopted that day.
• Penalties for the use of synthetic marijuana were put into place for the next academic year beginning in August of 2011. Since it became a banned substance under the drug testing policy, only three student-athletes have tested positive for synthetic marijuana out of more than 2,500 tests administered.

I hope the facts clear up any misconceptions about drug use among our student-athletes. It is important for you to know that Auburn Athletics conducts approximately 1,500 drug tests each academic year. Less than one percent of our student-athletes test positive for illegal substances.

LSU AD Joe Alleva wants SEC to overturn targeting suspension to Devin White

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
Leave a comment

During LSU’s win over Mississippi State on Saturday, Devin White was ejected for targeting on Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Because the ejection came in the second half of the game, White will be required to miss the first half of LSU’s next game. That next game comes up after LSU’s bye week, against Alabama. Now, LSU Athletics Director Joe Alleva is looking to get the SEC to overturn the targeting suspension to White, allowing him to play from the start of LSU’s home game against Alabama in two weeks.

According to The Advocate, Alleva contacted the SEC headquarters to discuss the suspension with league officials as early as Saturday night. Targeting penalties and ejections cannot be appealed by the league office, but that is not stopping Alleva from giving it his best shot.

Video of the play that led to the targeting penalty can be seen below. It definitely falls under the category of some of the weaker targeting calls seen in college football.

The official statement from the SEC regarding the targeting call, which of course was reviewed during the game and then upheld following the review, was “the QB on the play was defenseless at the time of the contact. By rule, all targeting calls are reviewed. The call was reviewed and confirmed.”

There is almost no shot Alleva will get his way with this call, but it will raise some worthwhile discussions about the targeting penalty as if there isn’t enough of that to go around. But don’t expect the SEC to overturn this call. Doing so would set a precedent the SEC and every other conference should look to avoid doing. At some point, college football has to live or die with its targeting rules and enforcement. But there should be an analysis done on these types of calls at the end of the year in an effort to enhance the way it is officiated throughout the country.

Appalachian State cracks AP Top 25 for first time in FBS history

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
1 Comment

The Appalachian State Mountaineers have accomplished a new milestone in their brief history in the FBS. the former FCS juggernauts made their debut in the AP top 25 today, checking in at No. 25 in the latest poll. Now, how far can they climb?

They will have quite a way to go to reach the top of the polls the way they were accustomed to doing in the FCS. Alabama once again dominates the top spot in the latest AP poll by claiming all 61 first-place votes available. The Crimson Tide are followed by Clemson, Notre Dame, LSU, Michigan, Texas, Georgia and Oklahoma. All of those teams moved up one spot in the poll this week. At No. 9, Florida moved into the top 10 and passed No. 10 UCF in the process. The Knights remained in the same spot as a week ago, however they did come in one spot ahead of No. 11 Ohio State, who tumbled nine spots. Ohio State stayed one spot ahead of UCF in the coaches poll.

No. 14 Washington State is now the highest-ranked team from the Pac-12 in the AP poll after moving up 11 spots this week. They are just ahead of rival Washington (No. 15) and No. 19 Oregon fell seven spots after their loss to the Cougars.

No. 22 NC State also took a fall in the AP poll by dropping six spots after losing to Clemson.

Here is this week’s full AP Top 25:

  1. Alabama (61)
  2. Clemson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. LSU
  5. Michigan
  6. Texas
  7. Georgia
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Florida
  10. UCF
  11. Ohio State
  12. Kentucky
  13. West Virginia
  14. Washington State
  15. Washington
  16. Texas A&M
  17. Penn State
  18. Iowa
  19. Oregon
  20. Wisconsin
  21. South Florida
  22. NC State
  23. Utah
  24. Stanford
  25. Appalachian State

Larry Scott said the Pac-12 didn’t have instant replay manual, but it does

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
1 Comment

You would think the commissioner of the Pac-12 would know there is a printed copy of the conference’s instant replay procedure after being asked about it two weeks ago. It turns out, Larry Scott may have had no idea such a document existed.

On Saturday, Scott said he looked into the status of an official instant replay manual, only to say there was none in existence.

“I had a chance to look into it … there’s an NCAA rule in writing, but there is no manual,” Scott said. “I’m not aware of any manual that exists in our conference or nationally.”

Unfortunately for him, The Oregonian has obtained a copy of the document titled “The Pac-12 Conference Instant Replay Manual” and shared it for all the world to see.

Oops.

As the Pac-12 continues to battle an image problem regarding the integrity of its officiating and replay system, Scott has tried to calm the nerves around the conference and suggest there is no issue with the integrity of how it manages football games form an officiating standpoint. However, a review of the conference’s unearthed instant replay manual may suggest otherwise.

Per The Oregonian;

A close examination of the 11-page publication could help explain why the conference finds itself embroiled in this instant-replay public-relations nightmare in the first place. The conference replay manual doesn’t include vital components of the instant-replay procedure, is ambiguous and leaves a wide berth for interpretation and instruction that comes from the Pac-12’s centralized command center.

This all comes after Scott and the Pac-12 attempted to explain why a targeting call in a USC-Washington State game was overturned, in which a replay official allegedly claimed to be overruled by a third party. An unwillingness for how the official ruling was made by members of the media has done nothing to suggest the Pac-12’s replay system or officiating is credible.

Now that we know there is an instant replay manual even if the commissioner didn’t, and how lacking the manual is in its details, it may be time for the Pac-12 to take a good hard look in the mirror and start clarifying some details a bit more moving forward.

Clemson moves back to No. 2 in coaches poll as Buckeyes tumble

Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images
1 Comment

The Clemson Tigers are back to where they started the season in the Amway Coaches Poll. The defending ACC champions moved back into the second spot in the poll behind No. 1 Alabama this week following a big win and a big loss suffered by previous No. 2 Ohio State. Notre Dame, LSU and Michigan all moved up at the expense of the Buckeyes as well.

Alabama remains in firm control of the first-place votes, receiving 60 of a possible 62 votes from the coaches poll. Clemson is the only other team to receive first-place votes, picking up the remaining two. No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 LSU each moved up one spot this week, with the Tigers being the highest-ranked one-loss team according to the voters in the coaches poll. No. 5 Michigan continues to climb the rankings after a second-straight win against a ranked opponent. The Wolverines are also the last team in the Big Ten without a loss in conference play as they ride a seven-game winning streak into their bye week.

No. 6 Georgia stayed where they were this week, but No. 7 Texas and No. 8 Oklahoma each came in front of Ohio State, who fell seven spots to No. 9 this week after their blowout loss at Purdue. Ohio State actually caused No. 10 UCF to be bumped down a spot this week despite the Knights remaining undefeated.

Big movers up in the poll this week included No. 15 Washington State. The Cougars moved up eight spots in the coaches poll this week after a big win over No. 21 Oregon (the Ducks fell 10 spots). No. 18 Iowa also moved up four spots and Utah entered the poll this week at No. 24, moving up nine spots in the total voting from last week. At No. 25, the Miami Hurricanes were welcomed back to the coaches top 25 after previously falling out and having a bye week this weekend.

Here is this week’s full coaches poll, with first-place votes noted accordingly:

  1. Alabama (60)
  2. Clemson (2)
  3. Notre Dame
  4. LSU
  5. Michigan
  6. Georgia
  7. Texas
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Ohio State
  10. UCF
  11. Florida
  12. West Virginia
  13. Washington
  14. Kentucky
  15. Washington State
  16. Penn State
  17. Texas A&M
  18. Iowa
  19. Wisconsin
  20. South Florida
  21. Oregon
  22. NC State
  23. Stanford
  24. Utah
  25. Miami