Auburn once again finds itself the subject of alleged NCAA violations after former Sports Illustrated reporter Selena Roberts quoted multiple former players accusing the school and Tigers coaches of an assortment of transgressions.
Writing at her current multimedia venture Roopstigo, Roberts details the current situation of former Tiger Mike McNeil, one of four players arrested and charged with armed robbery in March 2011. Roberts' story paints Auburn's treatment of McNeil as part of a larger pattern of institutional misconduct, which includes several allegations that would constitute NCAA violations.
A Florida spokesperson denied the payment allegation to Roberts on Muschamp's behalf. Neither Auburn nor Gene Chizik, the Tigers' coach from 2009-12, has responded to the report.
A spokesman for the Auburn athletics department said that the school "will not have a comment regarding the claims in the story" on Wednesday night.
For McNeil, whose case is set to go to trial April 8 and who could face up to 21 years in prison, the story is much bigger than any potential NCAA fallout. (Teammate Antonio Goodwin was convicted on his first-degree robbery charge in April 2012.) But whether the report has any impact on Auburn going forward could come down to whether the players named in it report that story to the NCAA; four former Auburn players told HBO's Real Sports in March 2011 they had received improper benefits while playing for the school, but they ultimately either did not speak to NCAA investigators or did not provide enough evidence for the case to move beyond the preliminary stages.
Whether the Roberts story ends with the same lack of NCAA interest or a substantial investigation remains to be seen. But what's certain is that between the recent hire of Gus Malzahn and the optimism of the Tigers' spring camp, Auburn appeared to be moving past both the miserable on-field and controversial off-field distractions of the Chizik era. No one on the Plains will be happy to have that era -- and the repeated allegations of impropriety that haunted it -- revisited again so soon.
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