The play was controversial even then.
Auburn Tigers running back Michael Dyer was wrapped up by Oregon defensive back Eddie Pleasant with less than three minutes left in the 2011 BCS National Championship game. With the score tied and a title on the line, Ducks defensive tackle Zac Clark held back from piling onto Dyer.
But, as replays would clearly show, Dyer’s knee never hit the turf and the running back righted his body and raced into field-goal range and BCS history.
Final score: Auburn 22, Oregon 19.
To reward his heroic efforts, Dyer was named the game’s offensive MVP. As upset as Oregon fans were, the replay proved conclusive — Dyer was never technically tackled. Like it or not, the play was fair.
But, according to a comprehensive piece written by Selena Roberts and posted Wednesday by Roopstigo, Dyer shouldn’t have even been on the field for the title game. He and at least eight of his teammates had been previously deemed academically ineligible, yet the school found a way to get him on the field.
The revelation is just the tip of the iceberg in Roberts’ bombshell story alleging Auburn personnel knowingly broke a slew of NCAA rules during the team’s title-winning season, including, but not limited to, the open payment of players, academic fraud and recruiting violations.
More importantly, if even a fraction of the report’s claims are true, the NCAA and BCS will have grounds to tear down Auburn’s football program and retroactively vacate the wins and accomplishments of one of its most popular champions.
In fact, while they’re at it, why don’t they just give Oregon the title it deserves?
USC has felt the NCAA’s sting before.
It took the improprieties of just one player, 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, to bring the Trojans’ program to its knees. After the NCAA discovered Bush and his family had received more than $300,000 in housing, airline tickets and other benefits from aspiring sports agents, the Committee of Infractions — the organization’s judge, jury and executioner — found USC’s football program responsible for not doing everything in its power to monitor Bush. The resulting punishments consisted of a two-year bowl ban, the suspension of 30 scholarships and 13 vacated wins, including a national championship.
It was the first vacated NCAA football championship since 1989, when Mississippi College was found to have given out twice the number of academic scholarships it was allowed.
“This case is a window onto the landscape of elite college athletics,” the committee wrote in its report. “And certain individuals who, in the course of their relationships, disregard NCAA rules and regulations.”
Such stern words sound awfully applicable when reading Roberts’ piece, titled “Auburn’s Tainted Title: Victims, Violations and Vendettas for Glory.” In it, Roberts details the tribulations of Mike McNeil, a former stud defensive back for the Tigers. Two months after posting a team-high 14 tackles in Auburn’s title win over Oregon, McNeil found himself in a holding cell with three teammates, arrested and later tried for armed robbery.
Now, two years later, the story suggests, it’s the program that has let its players down nearly every step of the way.
McNeil recalls his then-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp giving him $400 cash after a tough practice in 2007. Muschamp now coaches the Florida Gators.
There are also alleged recruiting violations, including allegations the team spent more than 10 times the legal amount of money on high-profile student-athlete recruiters.
Then, of course, comes the academic fraud: at least nine players were deemed ineligible to compete against Oregon in the national championship.
“We thought we would be without Mike Dyer because he said he was one of them, but Auburn found a way to make those dudes eligible,” said Mike Blanc, who played defensive tackle for Auburn in 2010.
McNeil also gives one specific example of how his F in a computer science class was changed to a C after talking to athletic department counselors.
It’s not the first time the 2010 Tigers have danced around scandal. Starting quarterback Cam Newton’s father Cecil worked with a Mississippi State booster to try and secure a pay-for-play deal between his son and the Bulldogs. The NCAA’s Academic and Membership Affairs staff even declared Newton ineligible on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010.
Auburn argued Newton had no knowledge of the situation and the Heisman winner was reinstated the next day, just three days before the SEC championship game.
Following the Newton case, the NCAA released a statement both condescending and vague:
“The NCAA enforcement staff is committed to a fair and thorough investigative process. As such, any allegations of major rules violations must meet a burden of proof, which is a higher standard than rampant public speculation online and in the media. The allegations must be based on credible and persuasive information and includes a good-faith belief that the Committee on Infractions could make a finding. As with any case, should the enforcement staff become aware of additional credible information, it will review the information to determine whether further investigation is warranted.”
Not long after, four former Tigers went public with allegations that Auburn paid them cash while being recruited or playing for the team. Head coach Gene Chizik called the claims “pure garbage.”
“As I’ve said many times, I feel very confident about the way we run this program,” Chizik said the following October. “I’ve said many times that we haven’t done anything wrong, so quite frankly I moved on a long time ago.”
The NCAA dropped the investigations, noting some of the claims were unsubstantiated and “in some cases were disputed by others.”
It’s time for the charade to end.
The public’s faith in the NCAA and the BCS is eroding under an avalanche of money, greed and lies.
“The BCS arrangement crowns a national champion, and the BCS games are showcase events for postseason football,” BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said in a statement following USC’s conviction. “One of the best ways of ensuring that they remain so is for us to foster full compliance with NCAA rules. Accordingly, in keeping with the NCAA’s recent action, USC’s appearances are being vacated.
“This action reflects the scope of the BCS arrangement and is consistent with the NCAA’s approach when it subsequently discovers infractions by institutions whose teams have played in NCAA championship events.”
All of that for a player who said “yes” when two strangers sent gifts and travel arrangements his way.
Can that even be compared to a championship team that knowingly cheated its players onto the field? How lop-sided would the game have been if Oregon competed against players who were actually eligible for the game? And could potential future sanctions against Oregon for dealings with a shady recruiter even be realistically compared to what Auburn’s allegedly done?
If there’s a shred of justice in BCS fantasyland — and truth to Roberts’ piece — Auburn should and will be stripped of its title. But what would happen then?
When USC was stripped of its title in 2011, one head coach was adamant it should go to the country’s second-best team that year — Tommy Tuberville, whose Auburn Tigers also went undefeated and finished second in the polls the year USC won it all.
“Yes,” Tuberville said. “Someone should be awarded the title. If not, the team that had to forfeit is not really punished.”
I couldn’t agree more.