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Auburn in self-defense mode over scathing reports

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 5, 2013 at 7:56 pm •  Published: April 5, 2013
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AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn is once again on the defensive amid allegations of wrongdoing going back to the 2010 national championship season.

Two reports surfaced this week accusing the athletic department of wide-ranging misdeeds ranging from covering up widespread use of synthetic marijuana among football players to grade-changing and illicit payments, allegations the school strongly denies.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs and other officials have disputed the findings in both reports, which painted a bleak picture of a department and football program that weathered an NCAA investigation in the recruiting of Cam Newton through much of the title run.

Jacobs dismissed allegations made by former players and their parents in an ESPN report Thursday that Auburn covered up widespread use of synthetic marijuana as "baseless and inaccurate." Former football coach Gene Chizik said an earlier report on roopstigo.com by former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts was "short on facts and logic."

Regardless, the reports again cast a negative light on a season that produced Auburn's first national championship in 53 years and a Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall NFL draft pick in Newton.

Chizik compared the latest reports to the Newton investigation in a statement Thursday in response to Roberts' story. The NCAA ultimately said it found no evidence of wrongdoing by Auburn or Newton in an investigation into pay-for-play allegations.

"The NCAA focused intently on widespread accusations about Auburn players being paid and other alleged recruiting violations," Chizik said. "The NCAA conducted 80 interviews. In October 2011, the NCAA rejected 'rampant public speculation online and in the media.'

"Unfortunately, the recent story published by Selena Roberts is more of the same. It once again portrays Auburn University, current and former coaches, professors, fans, supporters and community officials in a false light. Unfortunately, Ms. Roberts' story is long on accusation and inference, but short on facts and logic."

Chizik's agent, Russ Campbell, said Friday that the former Tigers coach had no comment on the ESPN report.

Jacobs declined comment Friday on the reports.

"I feel like the statement addressed everything," he told The Associated Press outside the athletic complex. "That's all I want to say at this time."

In the meantime, Auburn maintained that the reports were misleading or inaccurate.

Both reports relied heavily on four players who have been charged with robbery, or their families.

The armed robbery trial of former defensive back Mike McNeil is set to begin Monday. Ex-teammate Antonio Goodwin received a 15-year sentence in June in the case, while Shaun Kitchens and Dakota Mosley are awaiting trial.

Cassie Arner, an assistant athletic director, confirmed Friday that 12 football players and six other athletes tested positive for synthetic marijuana — out of 799 tests administered — from January 27 through July in 2011.

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