By Shane from Centerpoint
Some things never change. In the case of Auburn University the song remains the same. For a record seventh time, the War Eagles are up to their necks in an NCAA inquiry. Isnâ€™t it ironic that after spending the entire first quarter of 2008 accusing cross-state rival Alabama of cheating in recruiting, Auburn is the football program currently staring down the NCAAâ€™s gun barrel.
Truthfully, before we get too deep into this issue, we need a clarification from the NCAA. Exactly what is the difference between an informal inquiry and a preliminary letter of inquiry? Regardless of the terminology (splitting hairs in my opinion), the investigation is still pending. Nikki Borges (a familiar name?), Auburnâ€™s associate athletic director for marketing and communications wrote in a letter to The Birmingham News, â€œAt this time, Auburn is awaiting either additional questions or a final disposition from the NCAA.â€
Apparently the first real news coming from the Plains following spring practice is not good. No amount of spin can disguise or deflect the negative image cast over a program when the NCAA decides to start digging around.
Were the parents of the young recruits Tuberville courted this year made aware of the possibility of Auburn receiving the dreaded â€œletter of inquiryâ€? Did Tubby explain (in detail) the damage that investigation could do to the programâ€™s future? Did he inform the players that the dark cloud created by this issue would allow other teams to use the case against Auburn? At the very least, a family should be fully informed about the current situation so they can factor the potential trouble into their decision.
The inquiry began as a result of a New York Times article that questioned the legitimacy of a study program for student-athletes. According to The Birmingham News the problems arose from the fact that 18 players from the Tigers undefeated 2004 team received high grades for independent study courses that required little or no work. As a result, Auburn whitewashed the story and threw a professor under the bus. What was the Auburn administration thinking when they made the professorâ€™s life miserable and practically forced him to retire? Were they really foolish enough to think he would just go away and never come back to bite them?
Is this record seventh investigation business as usual at Auburn?
Will the NCAA want to look at Chette Williams Ministries while they are on campus since there have been violations involved with that guy before? Would they find it interesting that Pat Dye and Wayne Hall (two notorious cheaters?) are still directly involved with that ministry?
Concerning the ousted professor, an Auburn spokesman says that university policy does not allow comment on personnel issues. Will university policy allow Auburn to get out in front of the potentially damaging perception this new inquiry will bring?
One thing is for sure. The professor involved, whose concerns were legitimate enough for him to be honored by the Drake Group (a top NCAA watchdog group), has retired with his dignity intact. Of course Auburn is clamping down on information surrounding the grade scandal using the guise of maintaining student confidentiality. According to the former professor, â€œstudent confidentiality has worked to cover up more wrongdoing than anything out thereâ€.
Is the Auburn â€œeligibility systemâ€ going to be exposed by the current NCAA investigation? If so, Auburn may ruin it for every other institution. The NCAA is beginning to look at whether athletes cluster in certain majors and whether its eligibility rules have played a role. The War Eagles may become the poster child for cleaning up academic improprieties.
One major concern for the general public has to be that this situation has been covered up and disguised for some time. Judging by the fact that The Birmingham News has been requesting to see correspondence between Auburn and the NCAA for over a year now and Auburn hasnâ€™t budged, something damaging and serious must have occurred.
In spite of the Aubie spin machine running at full speed, nothing good ever comes from an NCAA inquiry. There is one thing for sure – nothing will change in Godâ€™s country. As always, itâ€™s business as usual for Tommy Tuberville and the Auburn Family.
You can reach Shane via email at firstname.lastname@example.org