Walks: If new allegations are true, stripping Auburn’s national title should be a given

Oregon running back LaMichael James gets tackled in the endzone by Auburn safety Mike McNeil. McNeil admitted to writer Selena Robert's that he had grades changed during his time at Auburn, one of many revelations of Auburn infractions that Roberts' details in a story published April 3. (Jack Hunter/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Oregon running back LaMichael James gets tackled in the endzone by Auburn safety Mike McNeil. McNeil admitted to writer Selena Robert's that he had grades changed during his time at Auburn, one of many revelations of Auburn infractions that Roberts' details in a story published April 3. (Jack Hunter/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Posted by Matt Walks on Wednesday, Apr. 3 at 7:07 pm.

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.

Auburn Tigers running back Michael Dyer is famously not tackled by Oregon defensive back Eddie Pleasant during the 2010 BCS Championship Game. According to a report by Roopstigo, Dyer, the game’s offensive MVP, was not academically eligible for the game.

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.



  • DC

    Tommy Tuberville’s Auburn team finished undefeated. USC beat Oklahoma in the BCS final for their only loss on the season. Do you suggest Oklahoma deserves the vacated title? Tubberville is staking claim because his team was not afforded the opportunity to play for a national title. Oregon had an opportunity. They lost. Would Oregon have won that game had those players been ruled inneligible? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps a backup plays out of his mind, perhaps Oregon wins by 40. To award their first national title based on the assumption that they have won is silly. If allegations prove true Auburn doesn’t deserve their title, but neither does Oregon.

  • http://twitter.com/mark_lavis Mark Lavis

    Vacate the title, nothing more you can do. Let me remind you know one picked upstart Boise State to beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and they did. Even though I’m an Oregon fan to the start, there is no proof that says TCU would 100% have lost in the title game against Oregon. The best we can hope for is AP and USA Today to declare us #1 overall at the end of the season and no sort of national champion recognition. I’d rather have no champ than a cheating champ.

  • cb

    Willie Lyles thinks your story is hilarous! $$$$$

    • J. Futuristic

      Oregon didn’t use ineligible players ever. Or even the player Lyles was alleged to have illegally steered to Oregon.

      • blogfather

        LaMichael James, Tra Carson, Dontae Williams and Marcus Davis were all associated to Lyles. LaMichael was much more a key player for the Ducks than Dyer for Auburn.

  • D.

    I would hate to see the SEC streak broken, but Oregon deserves it.

  • The-Pic

    If it is only a missed call on Dyer, Auburn should keep the crystal ball. Refs are allowed to make mistakes.

    If, however, any one of these stories on fudging grades turns out to be true, the Oregon Ducks should be the 2010 BCS national champions: http://www.macronicity.com/The-Pic.jpg

  • William Greco

    hogwash

  • William Greco

    Consider the source. The author of the report is a hack and the player allegations come from a player who is about to be sentenced to prison for armed robbery. The only other players named have refuted the reporter’s account.

    • See-no-evil

      A ‘hack’ doesn’t work for the sources she did as long as she did. What you’re really suggesting, is that we don’t consider all of the allegations made here, to dismiss them categorically.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Schulte/1050063327 Dan Schulte

      These events have many credible sources. Everyone who pays attention realizes that. American thinking has taken a nosedive the last few decades.

      • enzo923

        You obviously don’t pay attention or think very well. This is the same lady who destroyed the Duke lacrosse players and falsely accused them of raping two women, remember that little incident? This lady was subsiquently FIRED from the New York Times and Sports Illustrated for frequently falsifying stories. She goes and creates her own website, Roopstigo, where she has unlimited power in publishing whatever she wants. Then she writes an article and hides her motives from her sources claiming she’s doing a character profile on McNeal, you’d know that if you took the time to read the interviews done on her ‘sources’ and never mentions to them the NCAA allegations she’s actually writing about. She does this same thing with Auburn University, but they actually released the email with her asking specifically to do an interview with the Athletic Director regarding only the armed robbery charges on the 4 former AU players. Maybe you’re the one with the thinking problem, ever think of that? You failed on this one.

    • J. Futuristic

      A “hack” who has over 25 years of writing experience, including with Sports Illustrated? Okay.

      • enzo923

        This hack was fired from the New York Times and Sports Illustrated for falsifying stories. Just fyi.

  • Wary

    Oregon doesn’t get the title if Auburn has to vacate its claim. Also, lets not go down that path, as Oregon itself is still under investigation. This is all history, lets focus on getting this title next year, instead of sounding like bitter losers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CarusOnomics Anthony Caruso

    I’m a die hard Oregon fan, I was at the game and am just as unhappy as the next fan that all this went down. However, and this is a huge however, the players weren’t on performance enhancing drugs (highly doubt synthetic pot helps you play football better). What happened is administrative skirting of the rules. If Auburn’s players didn’t cheat in the game then I can’t say that it makes any sense to give Oregon the title because we lost. I do agree that they should have to vacate it. And in the logic provided in this article at the end, technically the championship should be awarded to TCU because they jumped up to number 2 in the polls ahead of Oregon after the loss.

  • Rick

    In the SEC, if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.

  • Brian

    I for one would be ashamed of getting handed a title that I didn’t earn on the field. Auburn beat us, that’s how the game turned out. It was their best vs our best and they beat us, allegations or no.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.giambattista.7 Michael Giambattista

    I don’t recall Oregon having anybody of any caliper out of that National Title game, for grades, but if they did, then I do believe you give the title to Oregon. If not, whether the game had players ineligible or not, Oregon lost. The trophy would be meaningless at that point.

    However, if Oregon sat an important player due to academic issues, and Auburn did not, then you have yourself a legit reason to demand the crystal ball. In this case Oregon didn’t go into the game with a fully loaded roster, and abided by the rules, which could have changed the outcome. But I don’t recall anybody sitting out of that game for Oregon. Does anybody know if any Oregon players that would have contributed, who were forced out of that game?

  • Zoobee55

    As a die hard Duck fan for over 30 years, Who would want an asterisk by the first Football National Championship?

    • TheKOSMOS

      agreed, i love the ducks but i dont want their first natty to be handed down like this.

    • Dave King

      There is no chance they will be. Besides it will take the NCAA 12 years to reach a finding and the Ducks will have 2 NC’s by then !

  • akducks

    what is really interesting is that this could be the second time that oregon has had all of its losses deleted because of violations by the other school… See 2005 Season, Reggie Bush at USC, Rhett Bomar at Oklahoma

  • http://www.facebook.com/william.miller.39982 William Miller

    It’s not a matter of liking it or not. To assert conclusively that Dyer was not down because his knee never touched has no relevance because it had nothing to do with his knee. And to believe that “technically” he was never down is just as misguided as the call on the field.

  • cheatingucks

    Why would Oregon get it? They cheated for sure, just ask “Will” “Willie” Liles!

  • blogfather

    These articles are ridiculous!! First, a true freshman, Dyer, has been attending classes for 1 semester and the NCAA does not place any standards on grades until the next season. Changing a grade would have no effect on his BCS eligibility.

    Synthetic Marijuana was not illegal in Alabama in 2010. It was also not an NCAA banned substance at the time. Regardless of its use, a player on any team was not breaking NCAA rules at the time.

    Want to throw additional BS allegations?

    How about a few facts for a change? Willie Lyles was paid by Oregon for swaying recruits to Oregon. He was paid under the guise of providing recruiting information. This information was deemed worthless and actually included information on a player on the Auburn team for the BCS game (obviously not an Oregon recruit). Oregon was found GUILTY!! I’ve actually had to explain this to several Oregon fans. BTW, there are several other high profile players on Oregon’s team associated with Lyles. Maybe you guys should investigate them, if you were really wanting the truth.

    If you want to insure a team that has been found guilty of cheating does not own a BCS title, make sure Oregon is on your list.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Marybrown999 Mary Brown

    Amazingly, the widespread cheating goes on in the NCAA. At Auburn, it seemed obvious, even at the time. So, what does the NCAA do? They go after Penn State instead. Penn State’s problems had virtually nothing to do with football and were all caused by a sicko who was long ago removed from the program. Penn State was never before or since accused of cheating in football or academics and has perhaps the best record of compliance of any winning program in history. The NCAA never even did an investigation of Penn State…just used their monopoly power to moralize and destroy perhaps their best program for a non-football incident.

    The NCAA has a tough job…and they are doing it poorly.

  • FrankTheTank

    This is the best piece of comedic journalism I’ve read in a while. I don’t recall oregon being innocent throughout 2010. In fact, the investigation MAY turn up allegations worse than Auburn.

    • Dave King

      You are way off base here.

    • Mase

      Yeah Frank, you are tanked! Not going to waste time rehashing how we didn’t do anything wrong since people like you only hear what you want to believe anyway. But isn’t the idea of changing grades is a big no-no in any truly “academic” environment? What most intrigues me about SEC football fan, and I lived in Alabama for as long as I could take it so I know (1 month!), is why it is so vital that you win that annual contest that you’re willing to grant your athletic administrators the latitude to violate all sense of academic and competitive integrity? In most cases, these egregious violations would result in a loss of academic accreditation, but somehow this too doesn’t apply to the SEC schools?

  • Scoop003

    I’m not saying give Oregon the title, as I wouldn’t want an asterisk title, but I just wanted to point out to those who think it’s no big deal to have academically ineligible players playing…Essentially, if this is true, it means Oregon’s players had to work even harder to make the title game as opposed to Auburn’s. They had to actually go to class, and do their classwork, and turn it in at a level worthy of at least a “C” grade. That might not seem like much, but when you take into account all the hours of meetings, and practice, and film study they had to put in on top of their schoolwork, it makes a difference. The rule of thumb is, the number of credit hours you’re taking in a term is roughly the amount of hours a week you’re going to spend doing homework. So at a minimum, that’s 12+ hours a week the Oregon players would have to have spent doing homework while the Auburn players who were slacking off could use that time to just focus on football and smoking synthetic weed. That’s not even counting the hours they’d have to spend ACTUALLY going to class. Sometimes it’s laughable how people think the academic side of student athletes is a minor detail, and they dismiss it like it’s nothing. If college was so easy, there’d be a lot more college graduates in this world, and a lot less college dropouts.

  • Mase

    Love my Duck fans because once you get beyond the posturing we’re a pretty rational bunch: “We don’t want anything we don’t take head up!” The SEC is such an open cesspool that this isn’t really on my radar as one of their real violations. How many claims of money changing hands in exchange for signing a LOI come out of the good old SEC of late? That’s not even counting the Cam Newton mess… I could care less what these fools do! And while it would only be fair to USC if the NCAA came down real hard on an SEC team for a change I believe a greater message for all PAC12 teams is remember that our role in the NCAA is to represent scholastic excellence and integrity; let the SEC continue to represent its generally excepted persona also.

    As always…Go Ducks!