On Wednesday, former New York Times and Sports Illustrated columnest Selena Roberts published a whole new set of allegations against Auburn football at her site, Roopstigo. The new scandal centers around the 2011 arrest and dismissal of safety Mike McNeil. Roberts reports that Auburn allegedly fouled up the police investigation into McNeil and banished him from college football, in addition to paying players and changing failing grades in order to keep key players eligible.
Three players quoted in the story - Neiko Thorpe, Mike Blanc and Daren Bates - have attempted to shoot it down (as have former Auburn players who didn't participate), while Roberts has defended her story.
Roberts says this is only the first in a series of posts on Auburn football, with the next story focusing on booster activity. All of this comes months after Auburn fired Gene Chizik on the heels of a 3-9 season, during which the Tigers lost all eight SEC games.
Chizik won Auburn a National Title in 2010. Since then, one scandal has led to another. For your reference, we have attempted to compile a comprehensive timeline of Auburn scandals under Chizik, very little of which has actually stuck.
December 31, 2008: Auburn hires Gene Chizik as head coach. No scandals yet!
May 30, 2009: Auburn's Big Cat Weekend recruiting event leads to self-reported NCAA violations and assistant Trooper Taylor being taken off the recruiting trail for several months.
December 31, 2009: Cam Newton commits to Auburn. For the nine months prior to his commitment, Newton was being "represented" by former Mississippi State player Kenny Rogers and his dad, Cecil Newton. Cecil Newton had approached Mississippi State about a cash payment to secure Cam Newton's commitment in November 2009. That offer was rebuffed. Newton chose Auburn.
April 28, 2010: Impermissible contact between coaches and recruits at Auburn's Tiger Prowl event leads to self-reported violations and Taylor and Tommy Thigpen being barred by Auburn from recruiting for 45 days. Tiger Prowl is the one with the stretch Hummers and limos and so forth.
April 30, 2010: The NCAA bans events like Tiger Prowl.
October 5, 2010: The NCAA notifies Auburn that it is opening a probe into pay-for-play allegations regarding the recruitment of Cam Newton. Auburn told investigators that it had no contact with Rogers during Newton's recruitment.
November 9, 2010: Gene Chizik calls the Cam Newton allegations "garbage," inadvertently channeling Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy. Scandal-plagued Auburn assistants Taylor and Curtis Luper had previously been on Gundy's coaching staff. This is an amusing coincidence.
November 30, 2010: The NCAA declares Cam Newton ineligible for violating amateurism rules.
December 1, 2010: The NCAA reverses course, stating that there is no evidence that Newton knew of his dad's pursuit of payments, and reinstates Newton for the upcoming SEC Championship Game against South Carolina.
December 2010: According to Roberts' report, Auburn changed the grades of up to nine players to make them eligible for the national championship game against Oregon. The list included running back Michael Dyer, who reportedly had a failing grade changed just days before running for 143 yards in Auburn's national championship game victory. Dyer left the program one year later after an undisclosed violation of team rules. McNeil claimed he also received a falsified grade.
2010 offseason: Wide receiver Darvin Adams says he was offered "several thousand dollars" by Auburn coaches to forego the NFL Draft and return for his senior season. When he turned down the bribe, Adams says he was blackballed by the Auburn coaching staff. He went undrafted and landed in the Canadian Football League.
February 16, 2011: The NCAA heads to Thibodaux, Louisiana to question Auburn recruit Greg Robinson and company after a report by Fox Sports' Thayer Evans on Taylor's recruiting success in the area, a story in which Taylor denies paying players.
March 10, 2011: Four Auburn football players -- McNeil, Dakota Mosley, Shaun Kitchens and Antonio Goodwin -- are arrested for armed robbery. The Roberts report claims that the players were initially held by police while they waited for Auburn football coaches to pick them up for "a college prank gone wrong." Later that afternoon, they were arraigned and kicked off the football team.
March 30, 2011: On HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, four former Auburn football players -- Stanley McClover, Troy Reddick, Chaz Ramsey and Raven Gray -- told Gumbel that they had received cash to play for the Tigers. All four players predated Chizik's appointment as head coach, though McClover and Reddick were at Auburn while Chizik was defensive coordinator. Again, Chizik called the allegations "pure garbage." Multiple other contemporary and previous Auburn players denied the show's claims, particularly McClover's.
April 14, 2011: The NCAA is still investigating Tiger Prowl, Jon Solomon reports.
October 12, 2011: The NCAA ends the Newton investigation, finding insufficient evidence against Auburn and the quarterback.
August 13, 2012: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell reports five-star Auburn commit Reuben Foster met with the NCAA about his transfer to Auburn High School, but it later comes out that his mother meant Foster met with Alabama's high school association.
August 17, 2012: Auburn signee Jovon Robinson, a running back out of Wooddale High School in Memphis, Tenn., is ruled ineligible after an NCAA investigation found that his high school grades had been changed without proper approval. A guidance counselor at his high school admitted to falsifying the grade report and resigned.
October 2012: The NCAA launches an investigation of Taylor, the wide receivers coach and Luper, the running backs coach/recruiting coordinator. Taylor and Luper are removed from their recruiting assignments.
October 30, 2012: When asked if Taylor and Luper were no longer recruiting, Chizik tells reporters: "That has nothing to do with us winning. Whoever said that has nothing to do with anything, so I am not getting into any of that stuff. I've got one track, and that is our players and our coaches, and trying to get us to the next win, so, all of that stuff, I have no comment on that."
November 21, 2012: Yahoo!'s Pat Forde reports that the NCAA is looking into "improprieties" involving Auburn recruiters and third parties, specifically officials at Wooddale High School providing benefits to Auburn recruits. Forde reports that, in addition to the Robinson allegations, a physical education teacher who was an Auburn alumnus and fan provided rides and other impermissible benefits to Robinson.
November 25, 2012: Gene Chizik is fired by Auburn.
April 3, 2013: The Roberts report.
Scandal is not foreign to Auburn football. The program has been on probation six times in the past, including once for its involvement in a pay-for-play scheme in the 1980s and early 1990s that led to the resignation of coach Pat Dye. The Eric Ramsey scandal, named for the player whose illicit audio tapes of meetings with boosters brought it to light, was supposed to be the end of scandal at Auburn.