Guerry Clegg commentary: Nothing surprising in latest Auburn saga

April 6, 2013 

So a sports blogger and ESPN The Magazine, in separate reports, have accused Auburn of corruption in the football program under the head coach who is no longer employed. Grade fixing. Paying players. Drug use.

All bad things. So I'm supposed to feel …

Shocked? Not any more.

Outraged? I'd have to be surprised to be outraged.

Disillusioned? I'd have to be surprised and outraged to be disillusioned.

Worried for Auburn? Not really.

Let me know when the NCAA opens an official investigation. Even then, let the whole investigation play out before I attach any significance some salacious accusations made on a blog that I've never heard of. The fact that the writer, Selena Roberts, "broke" the story of Alex Rodriguez's steroid use is of little relevance. It was well-reported, but it wasn't exactly Woodward and Bernstein Watergate stuff.

On the flip side, her story on Duke lacrosse players accused of rape was exposed to be full of holes.

The fact that Roberts is an Auburn grad is equally irrelevant. Just because she went to school there doesn't make her a fan, past or present, or give her any more insight.

Meanwhile, the ESPN story focused on what it described as a culture of drug use.

If it's all true, would it be disturbing? Sure. It's also disturbing to know that marijuana use is rampant among high school students. To think Auburn would be immune to this epidemic would be delusional. But to think Auburn has a worse problem

with this than any other school is equally delusional.

Not trying to attack the messengers here. I've been there. Years ago, I reported that a few schools, including Auburn, alleged that someone took the ACT for Alabama's David Palmer, and that the Southeastern Conference was investigating it. My sources were highly placed, including one within the SEC office. But when it went public, they all denied it. One even looked me in the eye and said, "Hell, I had to lie."

"Just tell me," I said, "is it true?"

"Yeah, it's true," he said. "But the SEC ain't ever going to do anything about it."

Turns out he was right. It just sort of went away.

Maybe I've become too cynical regarding college sports. But with the enormous sums of money exchanging hands in college sports, there are no pure big-time programs, if by "program" we're including boosters and such, which the NCAA does.

Now, after the NCAA butchered the Miami investigation, we can't even trust the NCAA to be truthful and competent.

Even as Auburn was charging toward the 2010 national championship, the NCAA was searching closets for skeletons. This was prompted by accusations that Cam Newton's father, Cecil, was shopping his son to Auburn for $180,000. Not only did they not find any skeletons in Auburn's closet, they didn't even find any suspicious evidence.

There have been rumblings ever since that the NCAA was snooping around Auburn looking to nail the Tigers. Some Alabama fans gleefully chatted that Auburn was about to get hammered. First of all, there should be no joy in seeing another program go down, rivalry or not. Secondly, if the NCAA couldn't find anything with Newton, why should we think they would turn right around and open a new investigation?

This is not the Eric Ramsey case reenacted. There are no tapes (or digital recordings, as it would be now) or coaches telling a player, "Just keep this down home, Cuz." Several of the players Roberts quoted have now backtracked on their statements.

College athletics are corrupt all the way up to the highest levels, from coast to coast. And they will remain that way as long as universities stand to make millions upon million of dollars in television revenue, bowl and tournament revenue, booster donations, luxury suite rentals and pricey ticket sales.

Anyone who thinks this is just about Auburn might be inhaling second-hand smoke.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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