Let's just start with the obvious right up front: the NCAA isn't going to do anything to Auburn because they aren't in a position to do anything to anybody right now. Even if every last detail of Selena Roberts' investigation of Auburn football under Gene Chizik is true right down to the very last word, the NCAA right now lacks the ability to hand out a parking ticket.
So points for impeccable timing.
Of course, just about everybody quoted in the article is running to twitter or to whatever reporter they can find to say they didn't say what they said. Or if they did, they certainly didn't mean it. Selena Roberts promises there is even more to come because that's going to help her credibility.
This story is pretty much nothing but a personal Rorschach Test. If you think auburn is a dirty football program, you read Roberts' story, nodded your head, and had your suspicions confirmed. If you think the media is nothing but a bunch of lying jackals who will do anything for page hits, well, that's what you saw - just another reporter stretching facts to make a story more scandalous.
To me, this is just the same song, different verse. The general charge that Gene Chizik's program was wildly out of control is not a new one. Auburn has already faced accusations that they paid players, committed academic fraud, and broke the football rulebook. The details are different here, but the gist is the same: Auburn is dirty.
This story is just another reminder of why I hate Auburn so much, but I also don't think much is going to come of it. The NCAA is too busy screwing up the Miami investigation to get involved with Auburn.
Do I think Auburn is guilty? Oh, hell yes. Maybe not in every detail, as I have a real hard time believing that Will Muschamp kept a roll of money in his office to bribe players, but I do think Auburn only had a passing familiarity with the rulebook under Chizik. Too many players have stepped forward to make allegations for there to be no basis to any of it. Where there is smoke, there is usually fire, and there's been a hell of a lot of smoke coming from the Plains the past few years. So, I think they did it, but I also think they will get away with it. Doesn't that make it even easier to hate Auburn? Indeed it does.
However, I would at least like to take a moment to look at one of the more disturbing accusations that no one has bothered to deny, because it's not a violation or terribly salacious. Buried in the charges of academic fraud, illegal payments, and institutional racism, Roberts also paints a picture of a program that bullied its players into not turning pro.
There's been a little bit of hand wringing over the number of LSU underclassmen declaring for the draft. Especially given how it seems nobody leaves certain other SEC programs early, it raises the question of why LSU can't hang on to players.
Les Miles and his staff encourage players to go pro to fulfill their dream of playing in the NFL. I'm not aware of them bad mouthing players to NFL scouts, and they in fact seem to do everything they can to boost their players' stock. Sure, it would be nice if a few more people stuck around for their senior year (I'm looking right at you, Chris Faulk), but the program doesn't try to torpedo a guy once he decides to move on to the Mercenary League.
I'm proud of that philosophy. While it won't make the headlines, I found the allegation that Auburn coaches conducted a whispering campaign against juniors declaring for the draft to be one of the worst things in the article. It's not against the rules, it just seems so sleazy.
So, yeah. I think Auburn broke the rules, both ethically and practically. I also think it won't make a damn bit of difference. I read the article and saw a program that was out of control, confirming what I already thought. But what do I know? Maybe it was just an ink blot.