Here’s video of Auburn coach Gene Chizik addressing the HBO allegations tonight.
Here’s all of what he had to say:
“Let me start out first by addressing a TV show that is probably airing right now In regards to four former players here at Auburn. When I was the defensive coordinator here from 2002 to 2004, all of the allegations that are out there on this particular show I can assure you, in my three previous years here as an assistant, I had no knowledge of any of that stuff.
“Moving forward to being head coach here now at Auburn that’s not what we do here, that’s not what who we are, that’s not what we stand for. That’s not how this program is going to be run. I feel very strongly about that. It’s sad to me, it’s very sad to me, that HBO is going to go ahead and air something that, really admittedly, they’ve got no proof on anything. What’s disturbing to me is that they interviewed other former Auburn football players who had exactly the opposite to say but somehow or another that failed to make the air, unless I missed that section. So I’ve got other former players that are calling me who are still playing and who are great players who had absolutely no knowledge of any of that stuff. So it saddens me that somebody is going to air a show with basically one side being known. I think that’s pathetic. And I think it’s pure garbage. So I feel really good about how this football program and this athletic department is being run. I feel great about the reputation we’re trying to build here. Again I think that’s very clear about how I feel about it and I won’t spend any more time on it.”
(Did HBO try to contact you?)
(You were here as an assistant. Was there a culture of compliance?)
“Let me tell you something, our compliance office does a great job. And I’m going to say it again. I was here three years. I’ve got absolutely no knowledge of any of that. And I don’t have my head in the sand. So that’s how I feel about it.”
(Ever had this kind of scrutiny before?)
“Here’s what we’re doing here at Auburn, and people who are on the outside, they’re going to speculate and they’re going to ask all kinds of questions: nothing’s changed with us. We are focusing on the things that are important that we can control. That was so many years ago. I’m not sure exactly how everything unfolded after we wont he national championship, but you know what, the outside distractions to us, they’re really insignificant. That’s why I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it. Because I want to spend time on things that we can control, and you know, that we’re focused on. So as I said, I can sleep good at night. I feel very good in my heart that we’re doing all the right things for Auburn University and representing this athletic department and this football program.”
(Wizards behind the curtain … steady drumbeat of negative stories in last several months?)
“You know, to be honest with you, I’m not really aware of all the things that are out there. Obviously this was brought to my attention today. That’s what I’m addressing it. If you know me, you know I don’t spend a lot of time on trivial things and people’s opinions. And I still don’t. But again, I’m speaking up for Auburn University and how we’re running this football program. So I feel again really good. I can’t speculate as to who, what, why, where. Really don’t have the energy or the time or the inclination to do that. And I won’t try to.”
(Players have spoken out against the allegations)
“I don’t know who did, but I can tell you this: this place was built on great people and great players. And that’s what this place stands for. So I don’t know who they were. I’m sure I’ll eventually hear it and I’ll appreciate it. But they know what Auburn’s all about. And they know what we’re trying to do.”
(Bother you that most of it involves unnamed boosters who could be anybody?)
“This is going to be the last question, because I think you know how I feel. We are going to control what we can control. And we’re going to do it in our heart of hearts the best way we know how. And I can sleep really good at night knowing that. And that’s what I know. All this other stuff I don’t know. And to be honest with you, I don’t really have the energy to figure it out. But I know in my heart of hearts that we’re doing things the right way here at Auburn.”
(With the negative stuff, how much have you had to cope with that in recruiting?)
“I really don’t want to open this back up kind of to that world, but I’m a positive guy. And again, in my heart, I know exactly what we’re doing. And that’s what we impart on the people we recruit. It’s that simple. So again, I don’t speculate on the ifs, ands or whats or buts. With any of that, it’s business as usual and we move on and keep marching.”
Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs:
“We are aware that four former football players have made allegations against Auburn. While HBO confirmed to us they have no proof that any of these claims are true, we contacted both the NCAA and Southeastern Conference as soon as these allegations surfaced. We have engaged outside counsel to investigate this matter and will spare no resources to find the truth.”
Auburn President Dr. Jay Gogue:
“As a university president, there are several things you want from the athletics department. One of them is playing by the rules, and Jay Jacobs and the athletics department are committed to that priority. They will investigate these allegations thoroughly and completely.”
“We are aware of some of the information to be aired during this evening’s HBO Real Sports. Representatives from Auburn University, representatives from LSU and the SEC office have communicated with the NCAA Enforcement Staff. The involved institutions and the NCAA staff will pursue the allegations in a timely manner.”
The NCAA is not a group that is wont to talk about ongoing issues like this and I won’t pretend to be an expert on the governing body. But I spoke to someone who has some insight into how it might react in this scenario: Dr. David Ridpath, an assistant professor in Sports Administration at Ohio University.
He teaches classes that, among other things, deal with sports law and issues in intercollegiate athletics. He was also an assistant athletics director for compliance at Marshall, where he was a scapegoat for NCAA violations he had nothing to do with. (He later had his name cleared after he filed a lawsuit.)
Here’s what he had to say about Auburn’s current situation:
(What can happen to Auburn in this case, considering the NCAA’s four-year statute of limitations?)
“This is where the NCAA, they get kind of interesting in their rules. Something like this that is recruiting and unethical conduct issues on the part of a player or coach, there’s not statute of limitations on that. So technically something from 20 years ago can be re-opened. But there is a statute of limitations out there, and I don’t have the language out there, but there are some exceptions to the statute of limitations. And this could fall under that. I can’t say for sure, because there have been several times I thought the NCAA should have enacted investigations, including one I was involved in at Marshall University, and they didn’t do that. Although I felt it met all the criteria to have it extended beyond that.
“Now, that being said, where this investigation likely will go, knowing what I know, I think the NCAA is going to ask some questions. Now with this being out in the media, and they often don’t act until something becomes very, very public, kind of like the USC scandal a couple years ago with Reggie Bush. But they’re going to go out and I think ask some questions and obviously talk to these players. Their best resource usually are players that have graduated, maybe have some remorse or maybe have no problem telling their stories because their eligibility is up. But it might be difficult for them to be able to really tie this to anyone specifically. Again, it just really depends. From what the players said, it was all very nebulous and general. I have no doubt that it happened. I don’t see any reason why these players would lie about this. But being able to have some kind of paper trail to really nail someone or attach something to a specific booster, it might be tough. But I do think the NCAA will ask questions.”
(How can someone document “money handshakes” from a crowd? Is that hard to prove?)
“They can say that it happened. Auburn could say that it didn’t happen. It’s kind of a he said, she said. The NCAA operates on the scenario not beyond a reasonable doubt, though. It’s kind of like civil. It’s what’s more likely than not. And I think anyone would say it’s probably more likely than not that some money exchanged some hands somewhere. But being able to prove that and actually sanction someone would be very, very tough. It might just be a wakeup call to Auburn that maybe this has to be watched a little bit closer. And for other schools too. I don’t want to just pick on Auburn. Obviously other schools were involved too. Even the schools beyond what are named in the HBO report, I mean, this goes on everywhere. I said on a radio show this morning, until we really kind of alter the paradigm of college athletics, this is going to be going on for a long, long time. Kids getting cash from strangers, that’s pretty hard to regulate.”
(Of the claims, what is most serious? The pay for sacks, other big plays?)
“I think the ones they are going to pursue, my understanding of that one and then there’s another one, but one player he claimed he wanted to transfer and he was given money directly by a coach. You’re getting into there might some issues that aren’t easy to find but maybe potentially there might be some more evidence that could be uncovered for those two scenarios, rather than a booster coming up and giving you a $500 handshake.”
(Some of these guys played nearly a decade ago. Is this common to come out so long after they were done playing?)
“Believe it or not it is. As I mentioned before, the NCAA, and sometimes they go and uncover it by themselves, but many times their investigations are spurred by former players or former people who were associated with the program who are no longer associated with the program. And it could be for many reasons. It could be by someone who is disgruntled, and maybe rightly so. It could be a player who while they were in the system enjoy all the spoils and whatever extra benefits they were able to get, and in many ways, if you want to say more power to them, you maximize your utility when you can, so to speak. But a lot of times these players will mature to the extent of saying, ‘Wait, this is wrong.’
“And if somebody’s savvy enough to ask them. A lot of times when players are away, four or five years or 10 years or whatever it may be, a lot of times you go up and ask them, they’ll tell you exactly what happened. It’s very tough to get information from them when they do have eligibility remaining. They’re also savvy enough to know they better keep their mouth shut or their meal ticket will be gone. But when they’re away from the system, my experience with them, they’re very easy sources of information. Not that it’s always right all the time, but where there’s smoke there’s fire. And I think there’s something to this.”
(Do you have a gut feeling on what might happen?)
“Well, there’s going to have to be some kind of proof. Auburn has been taking a beating like Ohio State has been. But let’s not lose sight of that these are two very powerful entities within the system. And we’re talking primarily about something that the NCAA doesn’t control, and that’s college football. I don’t think that the investigation is going to be as diligent as one might expect. Because believe me, my experience with NCAA investigators are they tend to investigate much harder in some things. And in something like this, if I had a gut feeling, they’ll come in and look at it, they probably won’t see a direct connection anywhere and just say these facts are unsubstantiated and they’ll move on. Honestly, I don’t think we’ll hear a whole heck of a lot about it until the next scandal, which is probably going to happen tomorrow.” [edit: should be noted that he was talking generally about the next major NCAA scandal, not necessarily Auburn.]
Lots of reaction on the Plains today to the claims made by four former Auburn players on an HBO special that airs tonight that they received money from boosters and, in one instance, coaches during their careers.
Left tackle Lee Ziemba, who was an All-SEC selection as a senior last season, said the claims were ludicrous.
“I started 52 games, walked out the same locker room doors after games, were recruited by the same men, met the same people a lot together and I never saw a dime,” he said.
Ziemba’s career overlapped with offensive lineman Chaz Ramsey and defensive end Raven Gray, two of the players in the special.
He noted that their departures from Auburn were not amicable. After Ramsey left in 2008, he sued the school for mismanaging his back injury. Gray, who signed with Auburn in 2008, had a lingering knee injury that prevented him from playing a game with the Tigers. He transferred before the next season.
“The only thing I’m going to say is the two players I played with that were on this thing had bad divorces from the university,” Ziemba said. “It definitely didn’t end the way it was expected to end.”
Center Ryan Pugh, who was in the same class as Ziemba and Ramsey, wrote something similar on his Twitter account: “We all walked out of the same locker room and had the same coaches yet never had money given to us. It’s a shame what people will say.”
Clinton Durst, a punter from 2007-09, said in a brief conversation that the former players’ claims are false. (He said he’d elaborate later today when he has a chance to talk more in depth.)
Auburn has only had this official response: “Auburn Athletics respectfully declines to comment on these alleged claims apparently made by a few former football players. Compliance with all NCAA and Southeastern Conference rules is a major emphasis and top priority for all of our athletic programs at Auburn University.”
UPDATE: Andrea Kramer, who did the reporting on the HBO special, said on the Dan Patrick radio show that former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville did not comment on the issue. She said the show “ reached out on a number of different coaches, and they declined to speak to us.” Attempts by the Ledger-Enquirer to reach former Tigers coaches have been unsuccessful as well.
Chaz Ramsey, Troy Reddick, Stanley McClover and Raven Gray will appear on an “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” episode and say they received money during their time at Auburn, according to a transcript from an advance copy of the show published by the website Sports by Brooks. (The full transcript is here.)
All four played during Tommy Tuberville‘s time as Auburn’s coach.
McClover, an All-SEC defensive end who played for the Tigers from 2003-05, said he received “money handshakes” from boosters of LSU, Auburn, Ohio State and Michigan State during the recruiting process, getting slipped a couple hundred dollars to consider their school.
After committing to Ohio State, he said he switched to Auburn after asking for and receiving an unspecified amount of money from a booster.
“I almost passed out,” he said. “I literally almost passed out I couldn’t believe it was true. I felt like I owed them.”
He said he also received money from boosters for his performance on the field, getting anywhere from $300 to $400 per sack. For one Iron Bowl performance, he said he received $4,000. Asked if it was more money because it was a rivalry game, he said, “Definitely. No other game matters.”
Reddick, an offensive lineman from 2001-04, said he was contacted by a local alumnus in Auburn during the recruiting process and offered a large sum of money, but he did not take it.
Later in his career he was unhappy at Auburn and wanted to leave but stayed after he said he was given an envelope from one of the coaches containing $500. He said that happened two or three more times that year and seven more times his senior year.
Gray, a highly-touted defensive lineman who signed with the Tigers in 2008 but never played because of an injury, said he received $2,500 to $3,000 from boosters trying to convince him to go to Auburn coming out of junior college.
Ramsey, an offensive lineman who played for the Tigers in 2007, said he received “money handshakes” from fans after games, totaling $300 to $400 a contest.
“You walk out and all the fans are waiting for you to sign autographs and everything and some random guy just walks up to you and shakes your hand and there’s a wad full of money,” he said.
Ramsey also said he made about $5,000 to $6,000 by selling game tickets provided by the school.
Ramsey’s career was cut short by a back injury. He filed a lawsuit against the school for mismanaging the injury that was recently thrown out of court, but he said he doesn’t have a vendetta against Auburn.
“I’m not out to get anybody,” he said. “I want high school athletes to know what they’re getting into. This is what college football is really about it, it’s a business.”
McClover and Reddick’s claims fall outside the NCAA’s statute of limitations.
The transcript said all the schools named in the report denied any wrongdoing.
Auburn had this official response: “Auburn Athletics respectfully declines to comment on these alleged claims apparently made by a few former football players. Compliance with all NCAA and Southeastern Conference rules is a major emphasis and top priority for all of our athletic programs at Auburn University.”
The HBO program, which deals with the state of big-time college sports, airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.
AUBURN, Ala. — Between practice and class, days are long in the spring for Auburn’s football players. Yet somehow walk-on center Blake Burgess has carved out time for another one of his passions: the theater.
Burgess, a rare theater major among football players, uses his mornings for football, his afternoons for class and his evenings for rehearsal for the on-campus Telfair Peet Theatre’s upcoming production of “Hamlet.”
He’s playing a major role as Claudius (the bad guy for non-Shakespeare aficionados).
On the football field, he’s hoping to be more than just an understudy.
The departure of three-year starter Ryan Pugh has created an opening on the Tigers’ revamped offensive line. The candidates are both inexperienced: Burgess, a redshirt sophomore walk-on is competing with true freshman and early enrollee Reese Dismukes.
“It’s opportunity time,” Burgess said. “I’m real excited.”
I put together a video of today’s post-practice interviews. It’s got head coach Gene Chizik, wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and running backs coach Curtis Luper. Enjoy.
When wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor came across an article talking about all the talent the Tigers’ receiving corps lost from last season, he didn’t throw it away. He posted it on the wall.
“ Anything I can do to motivate those guys,” he said. “It didn’t hurt my feelings. … I want to see if they’re going to react to that. If you sit back and take something, you tolerate or accept it, you encourage it. What I want them to understand is that that’s everyone else’s perception.”
Taylor, like many of Auburn’s coaches, is facing an overhaul at his position. Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery are gone, along with their 95 catches, 1,568 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
“Players graduate; tradition never graduates,” he said.
The remaining group has some talent. Emory Blake emerged last year as a viable option, with 33 catches for 554 yards and a team-high eight touchdown receptions.
But Taylor is also encouraged by veteran DeAngelo Benton, who’s time is now, and redshirt freshman Trovon Reed, who is back healthy after a knee injury last year.
Travante Stallworth and Quindarius Carr return, but the rest of the receivers are walk-ons. Taylor singled out Codey Frederick, Cameron Groce and Sam Brown as walk-ons making progress, something he said they must do this spring.
“These 15 days are their interview,” Taylor said. “When we get to two-a-days, we’re polishin’ and we’re trying to see which freshmen can help us.”
Here are some other news and notes from Monday’s post-practice interviews: