Report: Auburn Players Paid, Got Altered Grades

Report: Auburn Players Paid, Got Altered Grades

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Former Tiger Mike McNeil has alleged NCAA violations at Auburn. (USATSI) Former Tiger Mike McNeil has alleged NCAA violations at Auburn. (USATSI)

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.

Among them:

  • McNeil says he spoke to a "counselor with the athletic department" and subsequently had a grade in a computer science class changed from an F to a C. Former Auburn defensive tackle Mike Blanc also suggested grade-changing improprities, saying the school "found a way" for nine players whom the team had been told would be ineligible for the 2011 BCS Championship Game -- including eventual MVP Mike Dyer -- to play in the game.
  • Former wideout Darvin Adams told Roberts coaches had offered him "several thousand dollars" to return for his senior season rather than declaring for the draft. McNeil said that former Auburn defensive coordinator and current Florida coach Will Muschamp paid him $400 after a poor practice performance in 2007.
  • McNeil also claimed that players acting as recruiting hosts were given far more than the NCAA-dictated $50 to spend on coveted recruits, such as former Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.

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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