With a record-attendance spring game and an emotional farewell to the Toomer's Corner oak trees just days behind them, Auburn and athletic director Jay Jacobs went on the offensive Monday against allegations of academic fraud and other NCAA violations made in the recent Roopstigo.com story by reporter Selena Roberts.
Jacobs issued a statement claiming that Roberts' account includes "numerous inaccuracies and misrepresentations" and that an "independent review" conducted by the athletic department and Auburn University Internal Auditing found that "there is no evidence academic fraud occurred."
The Roopstigo story quoted former Auburn safety Mike McNeil -- who has since pleaded guilty to his armed robbery charge and was sentenced to three years in prison -- as saying he had had a grade changed from an F to a C ahead of the 2010 BCS championship game, and former Tigers defensive lineman Mike Blanc suggested that star tailback Michael Dyer and others had been the beneficiaries of grade changes as well. The Auburn statement responds that "documented reasons were provided" for McNeil's grade change, "including excused absences from classes for medical reasons," and that Dyer "was never in danger of academic ineligibility" in the fall 2010 semester.
"As Auburn's Athletics Director, it's my job -- no matter how proud I am of Auburn -- to carefully review charges made against our program when warranted," Jacobs wrote in an open letter to fans. "As the facts demonstrate, the article is clearly flawed. I want you to know that I will always act on the basis of facts. I will continue to fight for Auburn University, and I will continue to defend this great institution against such attacks."
This is the second such response from Jacobs within the past month, as he also issued a strongly worded counter to a recent ESPN story suggesting Auburn had covered up positive drug tests for synthetic marijuana. As with the Roopstigo story, the ESPN report relied heavily on accounts from the four former Auburn players charged in the March 2011 armed robbery.
Jacobs also got a hand Monday from former Auburn wideout Darvin Adams, who Roberts quoted as saying had been offered "financial incentives" to stay for his senior year. Monday, however, Adams issued a statement that "I was never offered any improper money by anyone at Auburn -- coach or booster."
Of course, neither Adams' statement nor Jacobs' point-by-point "Allegation/Fact" rebuttal to Roberts' story will alter the continued speculation surrounding the Tigers' run to the 2010 national championship. But they might at least turn the volume back down a notch after the recent reports had dialed it nearly back up to the height of the Cam Newton investigation -- and will, without question, provide plenty of support for Auburn fans who continue to protest their program's innocence.