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.

South Carolina’s Javon Charleston suspended after arrest on assault, burglary charges

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If you had the SEC in “next conference to reset the Days Without An Arrest ticker” pool, go ahead and collect your winnings.

According to the Columbia State, South Carolina’s Javon Charleston was arrested earlier this month on one count each of assault and burglary.  The charges stem from an incident that occurred during the early-morning hours of June 17.

The alleged victim claims that Charleston, after she stopped responding to his text messages, broke into her house and, after finding her in bed with another male, engaged in a verbal altercation with the man and ultimately chased him out of the residence.  It was after that when the woman claims she was physically assaulted by Charleston, who allegedly referred to her as a “dirty slut” in the process of the alleged assault.

Charleston, the newspaper wrote, “told the police he knew the woman and the code to get into the residence and that he went to check on her when she stopped texting him, believing that she was drunk.”

As a result of the arrest, Charleston has been indefinitely suspended by the football program.

Charleston was initially a walk-on to the Gamecocks who was placed on scholarship during summer camp last year. The wide receiver/defensive back appeared in 13 games last season, with most of those appearances coming on special teams.  He has been competing for a starting safety job throughout the offseason.

Chad Morris finally finalizes $3.5 million contract with Arkansas

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Chad Morris was hired in early December and has already gone through his spring practice at Arkansas but just signed that big new contract with the school this week.

The practice of working for a new program but not formally signing a contract isn’t new (just ask Texas A&M and Jimbo Fisher) but all the parties in Fayetteville finally got pen to paper in recent days to finalize the deal, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The deal runs through the end of the 2023 season and will pay Morris roughly $3.5 million in base salary with plenty more available for the head coach to collect in bonuses:

Morris will be eligible for up to $1 million in competition-based bonuses and $200,000 in academic-based bonuses each year, and is eligible for three retention payments of $500,000 apiece, contingent that no “significant” NCAA violations have occurred and the program is not on NCAA probation at the time the payments are due in February of 2019, 2021 and 2023.

(AD Hunter) Yurachek said he signed the contract last Friday and it was executed with the signatures of University of Arkansas, Fayetteville chancellor Joseph Steinmetz and UA system president Donald Bobbitt this week.

Thankfully, there’s no complicated buyout structure like there was with former head coach Bret Bielema. If Morris wants to leave for another job, he’d owe $3 million prior to Dec. 31, 2019 and decreasing amounts each year afterward. If he’s fired by the school before the final day of 2022, he will receive 70 percent of his $3.5 million annual salary until the end of 2023. If he is fired on or after Jan. 1, 2023, he will take the full $3.5 million he’s owed.

Funny enough though, according to the Democrat Gazette, his boss still hasn’t signed his own deal with the school despite being formally hired the day before Morris was last December. One down, one to go we guess.

Clemson AD Dan Radakovich rules out alcohol sales at Memorial Stadium

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Death Valley is staying dry.

Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich spoke to the Post and Courier this week and pretty flatly rejected joining the burgeoning bandwagon in college athletics and allowing beer and/or alcohol sales at the Tigers’ football stadium.

“It hasn’t been a huge topic here because we really don’t look at that as something moving forward inside Memorial Stadium that is on our list of things to get done,” Radakovich said. “There’s a different atmosphere at our games.”

Alcohol is not sold anywhere at the stadium for Clemson home games though there are some unique cases where fan can bring some to specific areas prior to game day for consumption after kickoff.

The policy stands in stark contrast to some of their fellow ACC schools, as everybody from Pitt to Louisville to Wake Forest have begun sales. There’s been significant debate in the SEC on opening things up on the same front and major programs like Penn State to smaller ones like Fresno State are cashing in on the new revenue stream.

It doesn’t sound like the Tigers will be joining them anytime soon.

“Our people in the parking lot have a good time. There’s no question about that,” Radakovich added. “But inside the stadium, I think it’s a little different.”

Mike Gundy and AD Mike Holder will be together at Oklahoma State at least through 2021

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Mike Gundy and Mike Holder better patch up their relationship because both are set to be in Stillwater a lot longer.

Days after the Cowboys head coach and athletic director got into an interesting back-and-forth over the former’s recruiting prowess following the latter’s comments, Holder received a new contract extension that will keep him at the school through 2021.

Gundy himself is signed a year beyond that as part of the new five-year deal he inked after the 2017 season.

The new deal with Holder includes a hefty six-figure raise from the $644,371 he made from the school last year. There was a point early in his tenure where he was one of the Big 12’s lowest paid AD’s but that story has shifted significantly over the years as OSU’s budget has climbed, with the school taking in some $93 million in revenue according to the latest figures.

Given all of the new contracts, hopefully both Holder and Gundy will both have a conversation in the coming months to get back on the same page and patch up their relationship — because both are set to be attached at the hip in Stillwater for several more years.