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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Ex-Tiger Mike McNeil accuses Auburn of changing grades, paying players

Mike McNeil AuburnMike McNeil, a safety on Auburn’s 2010 national championship football team, has accused the program of academic fraud, paying players, violating recruiting rules, and targeting players based on looks for random drug testing, according to a report by Roopstigo.

McNeil is one of four former Auburn football players who were kicked off the team after being charged with armed robbery in 2011. One of the players, Antonio Goodwin, was found guilty last year and sentenced to 15 years in prison. McNeil refuses to take a plea deal because he insists his innocence. He is scheduled to go to trial on April 8.

In an excellent investigative report by Selena Roberts, formerly of Sports Illustrated and The New York Times, McNeil levies numerous accusations against Auburn’s football program. He says the program and school disassociated themselves from the players after the charges. His mother also accuses Auburn and the local police of trying to keep the armed robbery story from the media.

According to Roberts, academic fraud in the form of grade changing was common at Auburn. Three Auburn players say they were told as many as nine of their teammates would be ineligible to play in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 10, 2011, but somehow all of them were cleared. McNeil says he had a grade changed from an F to a C after going through the athletic department (he had no luck having the grade changed when he approached the teacher and the teacher’s boss).

Roberts documents instances of Auburn paying players. Former wide receiver Darvin Adams, who led the team with 52 catches and 963 yards during the 2010 season, says coaches offered to pay him thousands to keep him from entering the NFL Draft. He left school and went undrafted. A scout reportedly says Auburn coaches gave negative reports to NFL teams about him.

McNeil says former Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, now the head coach at Florida, gave him $400 in cash after a practice. McNeil indicates there was no real motivation for the payment. He also says coaches gave players much more than the $50 maximum allowable daily amount for students hosting recruits for visits. He says the amount would be as much as $500 when they were hosting a top recruit, such as Dre Kilpatrick, who eventually signed with Alabama and became a first-round pick in the NFL Draft.

Roberts says players recall that as many as 40 players tested positive for drugs after the national title game. They say former Auburn coach Gene Chizik was image-conscious, and that he did not like players who had tattoos or long hair. Chizik reportedly often urged players to cut their dreadlocks. Roberts also says several players felt like players who had a certain image were drug tested more frequently than others, even if the tests were supposed to be administered randomly.

Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton left school after that season. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn stuck around one more year before leaving. Gene Chizik went 8-5 in 2011, and was fired after the Tigers went 3-9 in 2012. You may recall that allegations about Cam Newton getting paid to attend Auburn dominated conversations for several months that season. It looks like that was the least of Auburn’s issues.

One could argue McNeil is motivated by revenge — and I’m sure that’s exactly what Auburn fans will do — however, that does not mean what he alleges is untrue. Remember, we shared stories about all the alleged corruption going on at Auburn at the time. I don’t doubt that any of this is true.

Head over to Roopstigo to read the full story.
Photo: Mike McNeil/Auburn

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