Auburn, Gene Chizik respond to latest Auburn report

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Yesterday, writer Selena Roberts, formerly of the New York Times and Sports Illustrated, released a story on her website Roopstigo.com alleging, while centering on former safety Mike McNeil,multiple NCAA violations dating back to and before the Gene Chizik era, including impermissible benefits and academic fraud.

Current Florida coach Will Muschamp, named specifically in the story for allegedly giving McNeil $400 in cash after a practice, has already vehemently denied any involvement.

Now, Auburn and Chizik, fired from the school last fall, are doing the same. In two separate releases — Chizik’s being a rather lengthy one — the school and the coach break their silence on the report. You can probably take a guess as the exact nature and tone of each, which you can read below.

Auburn AD Jay Jacobs:

“Anytime accusations are made against Auburn, we take them seriously. We have no reason to believe these allegations are either accurate or credible. However, as a matter of procedure, we are reviewing them carefully.

“It is important to note that several of the sources in this story have since indicated they were either misquoted, quoted out of context or denied the allegations.

“Unfortunately, the reporter who published this story did not fully represent to us what the story was about when requesting an interview. We were only told that the reporter was working on a story about the alleged armed robbery involving four former football players, which occurred over two years ago.

“We were never told the story would include allegations about academic fraud or improper benefits. Had we known that, we would have responded immediately with the statement above.”

And from Chizik:

“During my tenure at Auburn, the NCAA conducted a multi-year investigation into the Auburn football program that they called “fair and thorough.” The NCAA focused intently on widespread accusations about Auburn players being paid and other alleged recruiting violations. The NCAA conducted 80 interviews. In October 2011, the NCAA rejected “rampant public speculation online and in the media.” Unfortunately, the recent story published by Selena Roberts is more of the same. It once again portrays Auburn University, current and former coaches, professors, fans, supporters and community officials in a false light.

Unfortunately, Ms. Roberts’ story is long on accusation and inference, but short on facts and logic. It is noteworthy that the story comes just days before a player mentioned most prominently in the article is set to go to trial for felony armed robbery. The statements are very generalized accusations devoid of substance. During my time as Auburn’s head coach, I never authorized, instructed or directed anyone to change any player’s grade or provide any type of illegal payment to any student-athlete. Likewise, I am not aware of any alleged grade change or illegal payment by any member of my coaching staff, support staff or anyone else.

As for logic, the notion that the conduct inferred by Ms. Roberts was occurring under the NCAA’s nose, at the very same time the NCAA is conducting its thorough investigation, lacks merit. Further, the notion that there was ever an attempt to sabotage any Auburn student-athlete’s attempt to play professional football is outrageous. Auburn’s success in transitioning student-athletes to the NFL benefits both the student-athlete and the Auburn program.

I remain part of the Auburn family and take these attacks on myself, the University and community seriously. During my time at Auburn, the administrators, professors and academic staff were of the highest integrity. Additionally, the inference that there was academic support staff that worked together with professors to change grades is absurd. As an Auburn resident, I take great pride in the quality and integrity of our police department. Theyenforce the law equally and fairly and my dealings with police Chief Tommy Dawson and his staff have been nothing short of excellent. He has handled many high profile cases with the upmost integrity and professionalism. To imply anything otherwise is simply wrong.

If there is a sad truth here, it is that there are no repercussions for bloggers who blast out widespread, venomous allegations and inferences in such an irresponsible manner. To make bold and outrageous conclusions on such thin support is a travesty.

During my tenure as Auburn’s head coach, we kept the well-being of our student- athletes at the forefront of every decision. We ran our program with the highest level of integrity and accountability. Period. I make absolutely no apologies for that. I stand firm in my statements, my support of Auburn University, its student- athletes (present and former), faculty, staff and community officials. As I stated during the NCAA investigation, I am comforted knowing that the truth always prevails.”

Louisville transfer reverses course after Bobby Petrino was fired, will remain with Cardinals

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The Bobby Petrino Era, y’all!

Last week, it was reported that Russ Yeast had decided to leave the Louisville football program and transfer to an undetermined elsewhere.  Sunday, the university announced that Petrino has been fired as the Cardinals’ head football coach.

Those two stories are intertwined as, in the wake of Petrino’s dismissal, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Yeast has reversed course on his transfer and will remain with the team.

In fact, the Courier-Journal wrote, “the sophomore cornerback was back with the Cards for team meetings on Sunday night and is expected to practice this week.”

Yeast, the son of former Kentucky wide receiver Craig Yeast, started seven games in 2017 due to injuries ahead of him on the depth chart. He had played in nine games this season, with zero starts, prior to what turned out to be a brief sabbatical.

A three-star member of the Cardinals’ 2017 recruiting class, Yeast was rated as the No. 33 cornerback in the country and the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Indiana. Only two signees in the U of L’s class that year (safety CJ Avery, running back Colin Wilson) were rated higher.

Oklahoma dismisses OL Tramonda Moore

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Another day, another college football player has seen the wrong end of his head coach’s boot.

On that front, Oklahoma confirmed Tuesday that Tramonda Moore has been dismissed from Lincoln Riley‘s football program.  The only reason given was the standard unspecified violations of team rules.

Moore had originally signed with Bedlam rival Oklahoma State in 2016 but didn’t qualify academically with the school and was forced to go the junior college route.  After a couple of years at Independent Community College in Kansas, the offensive lineman transferred to OU over the summer.

Through 10 games, Moore hadn’t played a down for the Sooners.

Moore was a four-star recruit coming out of high school in Oklahoma City and was rated as the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma in 2016. He was a four-star JUCO prospect as well, rated by 247Sports.com on its composite board as the No. 4 recruit overall at that level in 2018.

All-American Ed Oliver to miss fourth straight game for Houston

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At least this week there won’t be any pre-kickoff drama.

Because of an injury suffered to his right knee in the Week 8 win over Navy, Ed Oliver has missed the past three games as he works through the issue.  With a key AAC West matchup with Tulane looming Thursday night, head coach Major Applewhite confirmed Tuesday that the standout defensive lineman will be sidelined for the Green Wave game because of the same injury issue.

Double-teamed most times — and even triple-teamed on occasion — Oliver was held sack-less through the first six games of this season.  The last two in which he played, however, he was credited with three — two against East Carolina, one against Navy.

In March of this year, Oliver announced that the 2018 season would be his last at the collegiate level as he will leave the Cougars early and make himself available for the 2019 NFL draft, where he is widely projected to be a Top Five selection at worst.

After a consensus Freshman All-American season that saw him land on numerous first-team All-American squads, Oliver was a consensus All-American in a 2017 season that saw him become the first underclassman to win the Outland Trophy in the 70-year history of the award.

In his first two seasons with the Cougars, the 6-3, 290-pound Oliver had totaled 39.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.  In addition to the three sacks, Oliver has 13.5 tackles for loss this season; his 1.9 tackles for loss were tied for third nationally prior to his injury.

At 4-2, Houston is currently tied for first place in the AAC West with SMU and Tulane.  Houston has already lost to SMU this season, while they’ll face Memphis in the regular-season finale.  Whether Oliver will (or should) play in that game, or any other for the Cougars for that matter, remains to be seen.

Michigan State staying mum on starting QB

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Brian Lewerke or Rocky Lombardi? Stay tuned to find out.

Lewerke, the starter for most of the last two seasons, has been working his way through an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder. His streak of 20 straight starts was snapped last month because of the injury as Lombardi took over in the win over Purdue, although Lewerke returned to start the last two games.

In that last game, a loss to Ohio State, Lewerke struggled mightily (again), leading to questions as to just who will get the starting nod this Saturday against Nebraska. Posed that very question, Mark Dantonio declined to give any indication as to which direction he may be leaning.

“We make decisions and as we go forward those decisions become complicated at times, but we do the very best we can and everybody’s involved,” the head coach said by way of mlive.com. “I don’t really think it’s in this team’s best interest to air those decisions prior to football games. I think that’s something that needs to be kept in-house for everybody’s best benefits.”

Prior to suffering the injury in the Oct. 13 win over Penn State, Lewerke was completing 60 percent of his passes. Since then, he’s completing just 35 percent.

In his lone start, Lombardi went 26-of-46 for 318 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.