Update: Former Auburn defensive back Neiko Thorpe refers to his portion of the story as both "misquoted" and "out of context," denying he discussed recruiting with Selena Roberts. And as War Eagle Extra points out, another pair of players quoted in the story cast doubt on it. Here's Mike McNeil's ex-roommate Mike Blanc, quoted in the story as saying Darvin Adams was offered thousands of dollars to stay in school, and that Mike Dyer should have been ineligible for the National Championship in 2011:
Man this article is outrageous and isn't true. The media will do anything for a juicy story smh #sad— Mike Blanc (@MikeBlanc93) April 3, 2013
And here's Daren Bates, quoted discussing McNeil's stand-up character:
@prestonapi don't even know who that is— Daren Bates (@TuFive_Back) April 3, 2013
Also, John Infante of The Bylaw Blog takes issue with the detail that Auburn coaches prevented McNeil from transferring.
Original story: Former Auburn player Mike McNeil, who faces charges of armed robbery after a 2011 incident, alleges that the university was involved in widespread NCAA violations, repeatedly providing players with money, boosting grades to keep players eligible, and overspending on recruits.
The accusations come from a report Selena Roberts wrote on McNeil's situation for Roopstigo, which was founded by Roberts. In it, Roberts details how McNeil, a key safety on the team's 2010 national title team, could face life imprisonment for a crime there's allegedly no solid evidence he committed. According to McNeil's camp, the witnesses who could put him behind bars have changed their testimony since the crime, and although McNeil might have been around an armed robbery in March 2011, he may not have committed it. If true, it's a heartbreaking story, and one that hopefully resolves itself when McNeil argues his innocence in court.
There have long been allegations that Cam Newton received money to play his lone season for Auburn (despite a NCAA investigation finding no wrongdoing on Newton's part), and assistant coach Trooper Taylor has been the target of multiple NCAA probes, one of which is presumably ongoing. The rest of the Roberts story adds to the fire:
- McNeil says Florida coach Will Muschamp, then Auburn's defensive coordinator, once gave him $400 out of the blue. Former Auburn wideout Darvin Adams says coaches offered him money to keep him from turning pro, while former Auburn defensive lineman Mike Blanc also says he got money from coaches.
- McNeil says he had an 'F' in a computer science course changed to a 'C' after going through the team, while Blanc says running back Mike Dyer was supposed to be ineligible for the national title game before something happened behind the scenes. Dyer would set up the game-winning field goal with a huge run after his knee wasn't ruled down on an Oregon tackle.
- McNeil says the team would give players far more than they were allowed to spend on visits from recruits.
- Roberts says players indicated more than 40 players on the team tested positive in non-NCAA sanctioned drug tests.
But the most disconcerting part of the story is the way Roberts portrays head coach Gene Chizik's staff. In addition to claims of racism and failing players, McNeil was allegedly ignored by Auburn after the incident he may or may not have been involved in. Chizik's only contact with McNeil or his family was a 30-second phone call hours after the fact in which he told them McNeil was no longer on the team, according to the family. And Auburn allegedly went out of its way to ensure McNeil couldn't play football at another college afterwards.
Surely, McNeil has an axe to grind against a school that kicked him off the team. But there are others backing his claims, and we must consider Auburn's history of being accused of shady dealings as well.