We’ve long known about the issue of NCAA football schools being “too big,” undermining the whole “amateur” facade, often getting so serious that teams are actually acting above the law. The Penn State/Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky scandal brought the issue to the national spotlight, and it hasn’t gone away. Auburn football, under Gene Chizik, is the latest scandal to come to light, and while mention of their “tainted” 2011 national title shouldn’t come as a surprise, the specifics are notable. Roopstigo.com has the scoop, and you should read the entire report. We’ll give you some highlights.
Mike McNeil was a “star safety” for Auburn. In March of 2011, he was involved in a felony case.
Campbell would discover what happened to her son (McNeil) over a timeline that may prove to be a tripwire to imploding a powerful and storied athletic institution. In Auburn, Ala., the influence of its behemoth college football program can be traced by the river of money that flows through the local businesses at Toomer’s Corner and spills into the coffers of millionaire coaches who occupy the 88,0000 square-foot athletics complex. That Campbell was the last to know of her son’s fate over a five-hour search for answers raises serious questions about Auburn University’s role in a felony case and illuminates a culture seemingly unhinged from institutional control:
When McNeil’s mother heard about her son’s involvement, this is how she was treated.
And he said, ‘Oh, no, Mrs. Campbell, you don’t need to be up here. We’re just waiting for Coach to come. This has been a big misunderstanding, a college prank gone wrong.’ He kept saying, ‘We’re going to handle this internally. We’re not allowing the media to know; and we’re keeping it all under wraps here. Just stay there and wait to get a call from the coach.’ I said, ‘Wait, I have the right to know what my son has been charged with.’ And he said, ‘No, it’s not like that.’”
Later, then-Tigers-coach Gene Chizik called McNeil’s father and told him he was kicked off the team “because the charges are serious.” He found out the armed robbery charge on the radio, later. He faces a trial on April 8. The family hasn’t heard from the University since, and McNeil hasn’t been allowed on campus, either.
Mike felt isolated and in the crosshairs of a program’s politics. “It made me feel like they were saying, ‘He’s expendable; we can use him as a scapegoat,’” Mike says. Until the robbery allegations, he had never been in legal trouble or termed a problem player. “He was the best teammate you could imagine,” says former Tigers linebacker Daren Bates.
The report also mentioned that McNeil comes from a well-respected family and didn’t need the money, suggesting that there was “no motive.” He has maintained his innocence.
What motive would Auburn have to interfere? In the months leading up to the robbery, Auburn had been dealing with behavioral issues involving players. Allegations that then-quarterback Cam Newton was part of a pay-to-play scheme further fueled the image of a rogue school lacking discipline. “Maybe there is a fear in Auburn’s mind that Michael knows too much,” says Clifton. “Their fear is that Michael will expose the family secret. It’s a way to silence him.”
This is the most worrying part of the report, but there isn’t proof. This is just one side of the story, though Chizik and co. aren’t speaking up. But there are other violations, with proof. McNeil’s father, Michael, is quoted as saying:
“But the reality is your class schedule is planned around football, not the other way around. It’s a business and there are players on the payroll.”
The report details multiple violations. One, there was academic fraud, most notably star running back Michael Dyer being allowed to play in the 2011 BCS Championship Game, despite being academically ineligible. Two, ex-receiver Darvin Adams was reportedly offered “several thousand dollars to stay for his senior year,” then went undrafted after Auburn gave negative reports on him to scouts. McNeil also recalled Will Muschamp handing him $400 during the 2007 season, and another illegal payment of $500 to entertain a recruit in 2008. There was also talk of Chizik not liking black players and explicitly not liking dreadlocks or tattoos. The report also says that 40 players tested positive for recreational drug use after the Championship Game, and that the black players were tested more often than others.
There’s other stuff in there, and you should read the whole report. Again, it’s not especially surprising, it’s just another one of the constant reminders that college sports are a sham, and something needs to be done so the higher-ups can stop pretending that this isn’t a dirty, lucrative business, and profiting from it at the expense of kids.