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A Plainsman’s Plight: Where Have All The Good Times Gone?

gfx - honest opinion“Here we go again,” the Auburn fan must be thinking today.  From the fall of 2010 through the spring of 2013, the AU football program has been the target of numerous media investigations, a lengthy NCAA investigation, and multiple rumors, innuendos, claims, and accusations.

Just this week, the school has been the focus of two investigative pieces that have gained national attention.  Selena Roberts’ allegations of grade-changing, paying players, and recruiting violations came first.  A day later, ESPN decided to unveil “a six-month investigation by ESPN The Magazine and ‘E:60′ into the spread of synthetic marijuana at Auburn.”

In the case of the ESPN probe, why Auburn?  LSU Heisman candidate Tyrann Mathieu became the poster boy for synthetic weed — “spice” — late last summer when he was booted from the Tiger team.  Yet ESPN decided to investigate AU instead.  Why?  And why now?

The second question can be answered first.  ESPN wanted to cash in on the national spotlight already being aimed on the Plains.  No one’s talking about Roberts and the site Roopstigo.com now.  They’re talking about ESPN.  You can trust the network decided to push up the release of its story to take full advantage of the Auburn buzz already created by Roberts.

The answer is simple on the “Why Auburn?” front, too.  Because AU’s athletic department is near the top of the NCAA’s all-time most wanted list.  Its seven all-time major infractions cases rank behind only Arizona State and SMU in terms of repeated bad behavior.  Also, Auburn is one of the traditional power schools in what’s currently the best conference for football in America.  An SEC scandal?  That’s worth a lot of pageviews and eyeballs as so many people across the country want to see the king’s crown tarnished.

Auburn’s repeat offender status ensures that the Tigers will always be a suspect.  Like an ex-con who’s turned to every time a watch goes missing, AU will always have to deal with raised eyebrows and suspicious glances.  The school’s athletic department has made that bed and fair or not it will always have to lie in it.

According to ESPN’s latest piece, “The 2010 national champion Auburn Tigers were gripped by an epidemic of synthetic marijuana use that led to a rash of failed drug tests and a decision at the highest levels of the university’s athletic department to keep the results confidential.”  ESPN claims no parents were notified of their sons’ positive tests.

Not to be AU’s defense attorney, but let’s look at a couple of issues here.  First, neither the public nor the media knew very much about the rise of synthetic marijuana use in college athletics before the aforementioned Mathieu and two other LSU players got in trouble with the stuff last summer.  Yet AuburnSports.com – the Rivals site covering Auburn — reports that “sources” have confirmed to the site that “the athletic department quickly partnered with its drug-testing company to create new tests to identify the substance in athletes’ bloodstreams” back in 2010, years prior to Mathieu’s issues.  At that time, Aegis Sciences Corporation of Nashville “hadn’t yet developed a test for the then-legal substance.”

Granted, a pro-Auburn site is hardly the place to turn for objective news coverage, but the site goes on to claim that a parent of a Tiger football player says he was notified when his son tested positive for the drug in 2011.  Of course, the player and the parent aren’t named, so many will ignore AuburnSports.com’s “source” altogether.  (Like an ex-convict or a program that’s been in NCAA trouble time and again, a website that is constantly positive in its coverage of a team won’t be trusted by non-fans.)

A second issue is the fact that schools across the country were trying to come to grips with spice in 2010 and 2011.  To pick out Auburn for investigation seems — as we suggested earlier — sales- and ratings-driven.

The “everybody does it” defense never worked on my parents during my high school years and I’m guessing it rarely holds up in court, either.  Everyone who drives 80 miles per hour doesn’t get a speeding ticket… the guy who gets pulled over for driving 80 gets the ticket.  Them’s the breaks.

So if Auburn really had a synthetic marijuana issue that it attempted to cover up, it can’t complain too loudly.  There’s a legitimate gripe that AU is always getting picked on, but bad behavior is still bad behavior.

All that said, AU officials have to be getting tired of NCAA and media gumshoes walking around their campus, going through their dirty laundry.  And the same can be said for Auburn fans.

It’s hard to imagine that at least one or two Tiger backers haven’t thought to themselves: “I’ve got enough real issues in my life without the added heartache that comes with following the NCAA’s and media’s most wanted athletic program.”

Sports are supposed to be fun, an entertainment, an escape.  But at Auburn, the 2010 title and the school’s long history of cheating have landed the program smack under a microscope.  From HBO to ESPN, the Tiger football program has been in and out of the news — mainly in — for three straight years now.  That’s a full-on siege.  Heck, Auburn fans must feel a bit like the Rebels at Vicksburg by now.

So if sports are supposed to be an amusement, at what point do Tiger fans just throw up their hands and walk away?  Where’s the fun in all the recent misery?

Throw out whether or not Auburn cheated — as Roberts suggests — or looked the other way on a new drug — as ESPN claims — and focus instead on the fans.  The men and women who attended AU.  Children born into pro-Auburn homes.  Those folks have done nothing wrong.  Their only sin is caring about a football team.  They don’t deserve all the grief and worry that’s come their way since Cam Newton first arrived on campus.

But every time another reporter arrives on the Plains, the fans are the ones who do end up dealing with the heartache and the misery.  So is it really worth it to be an Auburn fan at this point?  With America seemingly determined to bring AU’s program down?

Where have all the good times gone?

 


15 comments
I4Bama
I4Bama

In Auburn's defense, try going to a parent with the results of a drug test for a drug that is not illegal and is largely unknown based on a testing method that has just been developed.  Then try going back to the parent when you find out that the initial testing methods that were hot off the press are flawed.  All of this while you are already under the NCAA microscope. 

However, and though I am an Alabama fan, I hope from the bottom of my heart that none of this is true, but...

The belief that all of this is just the result of Auburn being picked on and not having political connections is unhinged lunacy.  Cam Newton's dad was banned from Auburn games for a reason.  Am I then to believe that Cam was then eligible for every game of a national title campaign without any political clout and with the NCAA out to get them?  Please.  There is a lot of smoke to be no fire.  As I have said before, though, there is no proof.  Again, I hope none of it is not true.

JRsec
JRsec

The agenda is fairly obvious.  It's close to signing day.  These stories have been around in the hopper for a while now.  Is it any wonder they are broken a week before signing time.  Who might be behind that?  Nothing has changed since Bear.  I traveled the Southeast for two decades and there was only one clean coach and one clean program I ran across in that time span, Bill Curry at Georgia Tech.  The cheating at Alabama has a zipper on it because the players are afraid of retaliation against family members should they step out of line.  The same type of system exists for other SEC universities with law schools.  Law grads have a way of winding up in the state legislatures where they can do all sorts of favors for their alma maters.  The recent MO for Tide cheating involves jobs for family members.  It won't be investigated because it seems to originate inside state offices.  The NCAA isn't going to crack that.  It was a trick learned while Saban was under Emmert at L.S.U..  But I doubt the investigative journalists that depend on a living inside their home states want to pursue that.  There is little future in it.

Is Auburn dirty?  Yes they have been.  Are they dirtier than most of the other conference teams?  No    So why do they get caught?  Part of it is as John points out.... they talk.  Maybe that goes back to Eric Ramsey who got paid to talk.  Maybe that's because those who do can earn state favors from happy Tide alums with connections in government too.  All I've got to say is that there is far more dirt nationwide that these so called journalists are afraid to touch.  Synthetic marijuana is nothing compared to prostitution, harder drugs than pot, and gambling influences that are still clinging to the athletes from one coast to the other.

The NCAA returns to Auburn, S.M.U., Arizona State and the like because they are easy targets without great political connections.  Attacking one of those whipping boys is like the police rounding up the usual suspects when you don't really want to find out who committed a crime.  Auburn got a pass with Cam Newton mostly because the story was set up by two former Alabama football players and because Mississippi State was guilty of wrongdoing as well.  Throw in the inability to get the supposed "bag man" to talk and a guy with FBI connections clearing them and you might say all was well and the charges were trumped up. I would just remind everyone that at the time this was all happening an Auburn man was the President of the United State's Press Secretary.  Maybe they had a little political cover after all.

Auburn is a great place and a great school.  Many of my family have attended and graduated from Auburn.  In fact several generations worth.  I met my wife while at Auburn.  But as I learned up close and first hand in my travels they are not and never have been the cleanest of programs, but neither have their cousins and brothers in the conference.  They just lack heavy duty political cover.  If that is to change they should open their own law school and seek to outnumber Bama grads in the State House.  Then maybe a week before signing day the stories would be breaking about the Tide.  If not, at least they wouldn't still be breaking about Auburn.



Holtbru
Holtbru

As much as I LOVE AUBURN, there is one thing that Auburn has all over the place " POLITICS " !!  That is how Auburn is run, and it is Auburn's main problem....

Being an alum, a fan, and being totally innocent of all these happenings can surely get the average fan down....  Hearing all of the back stabbing from your rival, even others around the nation,  having a rival fan destroy your trees that were 130 years old, others stating Auburn has a Tainted Crystal Ball..... It is really hard to take, hear and continue to hear of it all year end and year out......

Inspite of it all, and I am one of those innocent fans, who will continue to still LOVE AUBURN no matter what becomes of our situation....  I am praying that all of this is just another SMEAR attack......TIME will tell the tale..... IF though, those that have been running the show are found GUILTY, then a price would have to be paid surely in some way, and it could be dramatic too !! 

 I am just hoping that Auburn has been doing the right thing all along.....

blh

DaveinExile
DaveinExile

Two points, one to the article and one to the comments:


Why Auburn? Because enough people connected to the program are willing to talk. I doubt ESPN found that at LSU. Obviously, anyone with a tape recorder and some time on their hands can find a former Auburn player willing to say something and a second to corroborate it. HBO, then Roberts, now ESPN. Yes, the Auburn name is attractive as a ratings grabber. But so are Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and LSU, and that's just the SEC. People are digging there. Difference: no one's talking.

Auburn Perception: In addition to the proven major infractions cases, you have to add the accusations of Terry Bowden, the Tribulations of Lowder, and the entire Newton saga. Nothing was ever proven relative to those affairs, but the fact remains that Auburn has been in the headlines for the past 10 years mostly for all the wrong reasons. "It's the media's fault!" No, it's Auburn's. See point #1.

This isn't shoddy journalism. It's capitalist journalism with an advertiser-driven revenue model. Knowing that reality, why can't the "all-in" and "all about family" school keep it in the family?


Brad_ATX
Brad_ATX

Fellow Auburn grads and fans, lay off of John.  He wrote a fair piece and nothing stated about our history of infractions is inaccurate.  Yes, for the last 20 years, AU has been clean in football, but that doesn't mean that people automatically trust you.  And when he says "long history", it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out he's talking about the entirety of our athletic history, which has more than its fair share of blemish marks.

John, thanks for capturing my thoughts on this subject.  A friend and I were discussing this morning if there is another school that is harder to be a fan for sometimes considering the amount of negative media attention and hatred from rival schools thrown our way. Living 1,000 miles away from campus, I can assure you that it is tough, especially when I'm surrounded by folks who only read headlines (which I realize is most of America).

aubieman2002
aubieman2002

Good piece.  It's sad that I can't enjoy being an Auburn fan without having to defend them against shoddy "journalism".

kkolumbo
kkolumbo

@MrSEC AUs portrayal as a dirty program is inaccurate, if we are talking relevant history of the past 20-30 years.

kkolumbo
kkolumbo

@MrSEC I like ur stuff, but TEN SEC programs have had major sanctions against them since AU last did, in 1993. AU has been clean since then.

VMErwin
VMErwin

@MrSEC WHAT long history of cheating??? You, sir are the very problem. AU got a colonoscopy by the NCAA and came out clean. Give me a break!

I4Bama
I4Bama

None of it is true.  Sorry.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@kkolumbo @MrSEC


Stated in the story: Only Arizona State and SMU have faced more major infractions cases than Auburn.


I find it pathetically predictable that someone coming to the defense of Auburn fans is ripped by Auburn fans because one sentence out of a thousand didn't kiss the school's rear enough.  Maybe it's time to stop trying to provide objectivity on this site.


Thanks for reading,

John



John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@kkolumbo @MrSEC


Stated in the story: Only Arizona State and SMU have faced more major infractions cases than Auburn.


I find it pathetically predictable that someone coming to the defense of Auburn fans is ripped by Auburn fans because one sentence out of a thousand didn't kiss the school's rear enough.  Maybe it's time to stop trying to provide objectivity on this site.


Thanks for reading,

John

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@VMErwin @MrSEC


Stated in the story: Only Arizona State and SMU have faced more major infractions cases than Auburn.


I find it pathetically predictable that someone coming to the defense of Auburn fans is ripped by Auburn fans because one sentence out of a thousand didn't kiss the school's rear enough.  Maybe it's time to stop trying to provide objectivity on this site.


Thanks for reading,

John

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