- Jan 16, 2012
Remember this name he's going to have a gigantic impact on recruiting for UM in South Florida over the next few years.
Report alleges NCAA wrongdoing by Auburn; key figures in story deny details
AUBURN, Alabama -- Former Auburn safety Mike McNeil, who is scheduled for trial next week on charges of armed robbery, has accused the football program of multiple NCAA violations including academic fraud, recruiting violations and cash payments to players in a report.
The report details allegations of wrongdoing with interviews from McNeil, former Auburn wide receiver Darvin Adams, former defensive end Mike Blanc and former defensive end Antoine Carter and other unnamed players.
Among the allegations from Roopstigo.com:
* McNeil said he received $400 from former Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, now the head coach at Florida. Muschamp denied the allegation to AL.com through Florida officials Wednesday.
* McNeil said he had a letter grade changed from an F to a C.
* McNeil said players were provided more money than permitted under NCAA rules to spend on visiting recruits.
* Adams "confirmed he was offered financial incentives" to stay for his senior season.
* McNeil said coaches gave him $500 to entertain former Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
* McNeil said his grades were changed; and that the team was told as many as nine players would not be able to play in the 2010 national championship game due to academic ineligibility, but all played.
Auburn's athletic department declined to comment on the claims in the report, per a spokesman.
Blanc, reached by AL.com on Wednesday afternoon, said that he had no direct knowledge of cash payments to players. Carter, also reached by AL.com, refused to comment on any of his quotes in the report, although Carter tweeted out a seeming rebuttal later.
"Please don't remix my words," Carter tweeted, followed later by another tweet. "I Believe in Auburn and Love It #WDE."
Neither McNeil or Adams answered phone calls immediately from AL.com.
"Yeah. Me, personally, I don't have any direct knowledge of it," Blanc said. "You just hear stuff. I'm pretty sure other guys on the team that know more, like guys that were closer to Darvin and these other players I know. Darvin probably would have told those guys. I know Mike and Darvin were really cool. Maybe Darvin could have shared some information with Mike. But, me, personally, I don't know nothing factual that any guys got any money."
Later, Blanc tweeted more reaction to the story.
"Man this article is outrageous and isn't true. The media will do anything for a juicy story smh #sad," the tweet read. (smh is Twitter lingo for shaking my head.)
Asked about a quote in the article attributed to Blanc regarding Auburn finding a way to make players eligible before the national championship game, Blanc denied that he said anything.
"That's not me. I don't know where she's getting this stuff from," Blanc said. "That's definitely not me. Mike McNeil said a lot of things and when she asked me some things, I said, 'OK, I've heard that, but I don't know for sure.'"
The report was written by Roopstigo.com's founder and CEO Selena Roberts, a former New York Times columnist, senior writer for Sports Illustrated and Auburn graduate. Roberts defended her reporting when asked about Blanc's comments.
"I spoke to Mike Blanc at length and he was very clear about what he knew," Roberts said in an email to AL.com.
Former Auburn linebacker Daren Bates, who is quoted in the story talking about McNeil but presents no allegations, said he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing by Auburn, and that when he hosted a recruit, he was given the amount of money allowed by the NCAA.
In addition, the story, citing multiple players, also alleges Auburn University interfered with the Auburn police department to harass players and check up on them.
Auburn police chief Tommy Dawson, who is on leave due to health reasons, responded in full to the allegations in Roberts' article.
"I can assure you of this, I don't treat an athlete any different than any other student," Dawson said.
In the report, McNeil also alleges racial discrimination within the Auburn staff when it concerned haircuts and tattoos.
Blanc is quoted in the story as saying the coaching staff "implemented new rules and it was kind of no tolerance" and seemed to be directed at black players with tattoos and dreadlocks. Later, in an interview with AL.com, Blanc shared a different story.
"I really didn't understand it. When he first came in I heard there were going to be (rules), supposedly. They were expecting guys to cut their hair," Blanc said. "He never followed through, though."
When asked about the discrepancy in Blanc's responses, Roberts told AL.com in an email: "I don't know what his reasons are but it's not always easy to stand up for the truth."
"By the time she spoke to me, she had a bunch of things players said already," Blanc told AL.com. "A lot of things I went against. I was like, some of the things you tell me, I've heard that. But I don't have any facts behind any of that."
Former Auburn defensive back Neiko Thorpe tweeted Wednesday afternoon he was "misquoted" in Roberts' story.
"While I spoke to Selena Roberts about Mike I have just read her article & (sic) not only am I misquoted but my words are very out of context," Thorpe tweeted, in the first of two tweets. "We didn't talk about NCAA violations or recruiting. I'm proud 2 (sic) have played at Auburn & (sic) the opportunities it gave me."
Chizik's agent, Russ Campbell, said he was not aware of the story and declined comment initially.
The story centers around McNeil, one of four former players, who were arrested and charged for armed robbery in March of 2011 for allegedly robbing a trailer home.
It is unclear whether his trial, scheduled to begin next week, will be delayed following a request from his attorney Ben Hand Tuesday to withdraw from the case. Lee County Circuit Court Judge Chris Hughes is scheduled to consider the request tomorrow at 3:30 p.m., and McNeil has been ordered to appear at that time.
Of the four players -- McNeil, Antonio Goodwin, Shaun Kitchens and Dakota Mosley --Â only Goodwin has gone to trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years last April.
Kitchens' trial is scheduled to start on April 8, and Mosley is tentatively scheduled for the June criminal term.
-- AL.com reporters Brandon Marcello, Jon Solomon and Ed Enoch contributed to this story.