AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn’s football program has been under investigation by the NCAA for several weeks, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports senior columnist Pat Forde Wednesday afternoon.
There was not much new unveiled in Forde’s article, as the Memphis Commercial-Appeal and USA Today oddsmaker Danny Sheridan have each discussed allegations regarding Auburn’s potential illegalities in recruiting running back Jovon Robinson, who is academically ineligible for the year.
“It’s not a distraction to me. We haven’t thought one second about it. We’re right down the line on the Iron Bowl.”
Forde wrote, “According to multiple sources, NCAA investigators have spent weeks looking into potential improprieties involving Auburn recruits, players, coaches, representatives of the school’s athletic interests and third parties. Assistant coaches Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper have been scrutinized by the NCAA, sources said.”
In a coinciding report, The Birmingham News’ Charles Goldberg reported the NCAA interviewed “at least one Auburn assistant coach and several players on campus this week”, according to an unnamed source. Auburn has not received a formal letter of investigation from the NCAA, though the reported investigation is not limited to Robinson’s recruitment.
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said she cannot comment on current, pending or potential investigations.
The timing of the follow-up report could have other ramifications, with Chizik’s position as Auburn’s head coach to be addressed immediately following the season finale Saturday.
If university president Jay Gogue concludes his evaluation by terminating Chizik, the fourth-year head coach would be owed $7.7 million (if he’s fired before Dec. 1) or $7.5 million (on or after Dec. 1). When he addressed reporters Friday, Gogue did indicate one of his top factors is “we look at how well we’re complying with the rules of the SEC and the NCAA. Do we have major violations? Have we had any? Those are the areas you look at.”
In Chizik’s initial head contract, Paragraph 13 “Compliance with Policies, Rules and Regulations” states the following stipulations:
a) Coach will faithfully perform the duties and obligations of the position of Head Football Coach to the best of his ability, and Coach will conform to the policies, rules and regulations of University, its Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, and to the rules and regulations of the SEC and the NCAA.
b) Coach understands that he is responsible for the actions of all persons under his supervision or subject to his control or authority, and further that he is responsible for monitoring the conduct of those persons under his supervision or subject to his control or authority.
d) In the event an investigation is instituted by Auburn, the SEC or the NCAA into alleged major rules violations or significant or repetitive violations involving Coach and/or the football program, during the pendency of the investigation, University shall have the right, after written notice to Coach, to suspend payment of any amount owed to Coach under Paragraph 15 or Paragraph 16.
Then Paragraph 18, “Termination of Employment by Auburn University”, explicitly states if “the University elect to terminate Coach’s employment prior to the end of this Agreement for cause as defined in paragraph 13 above, then University owes no further payment of funds or other benefit to Coach under this Agreement and will be deemed to have fully satisfied its obligations to Coach” up to that time period.
No significant changes were made to those clauses in Chizik’s restructured contract in June 2011.
Since Auburn has not officially been notified by the NCAA of an investigation, that all is moot for the moment. There are also loopholes that make any situation unlikely that Chizik could be cut loose without some type of severance pay. But it’s something to watch if the NCAA officially acknowledges any involvement.
The Tigers (3-8, 0-7 SEC) are preparing to play No. 2 Alabama Saturday in the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa.