Auburn fires back at ESPN’s fake weed story

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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.

FCS team suspends head coach amid probe into ‘alleged violations of university policy’

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We don’t normally do much with the FCS level of football here at CFT; when we do, though, it normally doesn’t trend toward the positive.

Such is the case in this instance, with Stephen F. Austin announcing Monday night that head coach Clint Conque has been suspended.  In its statement, the university wrote that the suspension is “pending an investigation into alleged violations of university policy.”

The alleged violations weren’t detailed.

“The investigation is expected to take several weeks,” the school’s statement read, in part. “No comments will be made by the university until the investigation is complete.”

The Magnolia Reporter wrote that “Conque’s suspension comes two weeks after SFA appointed Ryan Ivey as the new director of Athletics – a position he is set to officially assume on July 1.”

Conque has been the head coach at SFA the past four seasons.  In that span, he went 21-25 overall and 17-18 in Southland Conference play.  Since going 8-5 and qualifying for the FCS playoffs his first season, the football program has gone 4-7, 5-5, 4-7 the last three years.

Prior to that, Conque was the head coach at Central Arkansas from 2000-13, with the last seven of those years spent in the Southland Conference.  During his time with the Bears, he went 105-59.

In a statement released by that university in July of 2010, prior to the start of his 11th season with that FCS team, Conque admitted to what he described as “an inappropriate relationship” that stemmed from “some poor personal decisions.”

During a period of time in my life I made some poor personal decisions. I had an inappropriate relationship in the past that I regret and these mistakes and missteps have hurt the ones that I love the most. While we have been dealing with these issues privately, I regret that we must now deal with this in a public manner.

“I take sole and complete responsibility for my actions as my family and I continue the process of healing and rebuilding. I want to once again sincerely apologize first to my family, also to the university community, the administration, the university’s athletic staff, and to our football staff and team. I will emerge from this a better man, husband, father and coach. I appreciate the support that I have received from the Board of Trustees, President (Allen) Meadors, (Athletic Director) Dr. (Brad) Teague, and the university during this extremely difficult time.

“I would genuinely appreciate everyone extending Angele and my three sons the privacy and compassion needed to move forward in our personal lives. I look forward to the 2010 football season and the beginning of fall practice.

Conque remained on as the head coach at Central Arkansas for four more seasons, going 32-16 in that post-admission span and qualifying for the FCS playoffs twice for good measure.

Notre Dame football to have all-new radio team in 2018

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When it comes to Notre Dame’s radio booth on football gamedays, it’ll apparently be out with the old and in with the new.

Earlier this offseason, it was announced that JMI Sports had taken over as Notre Dame’s multimedia partner.  As part of that partnership, JMI Sports would have control over, among other entities, the football program’s national radio broadcasts.

Since 2006, there’s been a two-man radio booth consisting of play-by-play voice Don Criqui and color analyst Allen Pinkett.  Come the 2018 football season, the latter confirmed, there will be a complete makeover of the Fighting Irish’s radio broadcasts.

“Their plan is they want someone more local — like ‘live in South Bend’ local — because they want to do some packages during the week, and they wanted somebody who was there,” Pinkett told the South Bend Tribune. “So it was a good run. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to do it since 2001, but this thing comes to an end, so I just wish whoever’s going to do it next the best of luck.”

The “whoever” Pinkett mentioned is still in question as the radio replacements have yet to be announced.

The 54-year-old Pinkett was a star running back at Notre Dame in the eighties, twice earning All-American honors.  He was the first Fighting Irish player to ever rush for 1,000-plus yards in three straight seasons.

The 78-year-old Criqui is a Notre Dame graduate as well.  Prior to this 2006-17 stint, he was also the play-by-play voice of the Fighting Irish from 1974-76.

Lincoln Riley will (barely) make more than his starting QB in 2018

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One running joke that’s made numerous laps around the college football world this month has officially run its course.

After being taken ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in the June Major League Baseball draft, Kyler Murray reached an agreement on a contract with the stick-and-ball club that will not only allow him to play football for Oklahoma in 2018, but will pay him a signing bonus of nearly $4.7 million for good measure.  As Lincoln Riley was paid $3.1 million in 2017, there was a very real possibility that the Sooners’ starting quarterback would earn more in 2018 than OU’s head football coach.

Tuesday, however, that particular plotline was put to bed as the university’s Board of Regents confirmed a long-expected revised contract for Riley.  The coach’s 2018 salary?  $4.8 million (plus bonuses).

Take that, Kyler Murray.

The new salary figure would’ve made Riley the third-highest paid head coach in the Big 12 last season, behind only Texas’ Tom Herman ($5.5 million) and TCU’s Gary Patterson ($5.1 million).  His actual salary last year was seventh in the conference.

In his first season at the helm for the Sooners, the 34-year-old Riley guided OU to a 12-2 record, a Big 12 championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff. In addition to a raise coming off that wildly successful year, Riley also had his contract extended through January of 2023.

New Mexico LB Rayshawn Boyce arrested, suspended after May incident with ex-girlfriend

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Not surprisingly at this point in the offseason, it’s once again time to push the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker back to double zeroes.

The latest to trigger a reset is New Mexico’s Rayshawn Boyce, with KOB-TV in Albuquerque reporting that the linebacker was arrested over the weekend on multiple charges stemming from an incident involving an ex-girlfriend last month. Specifically, Boyce has been charged with one count each of aggravated battery, battery of a household member, criminal damage to private property and negligent use of a deadly weapon.

From the television station’s report:

According to a criminal complaint, he attacked a man inside his ex-girlfriend’s home back in May and then hit his ex-girlfriend in the face. Boyce then left the house and fired shots at her vehicle.

Police interviewed Boyce, who admitted to being at the home but says he never went inside. He claims he fought the man outside of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment.

As a result of the incident, Boyce has been indefinitely suspended from the Lobos football by head coach Bob Davie, who’s had his own off-field issues this offseason.

“I want to emphasize that we have standards and expectations of conduct for all UNM student-athletes that include civility and mutual respect,” UNM athletic director Eddie Nunez said in a statement. “We cannot, and will not, accept anything less.”

After transferring in from a California junior college, Boyce played in eight games for the Lobos this past season. He was credited with 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack.