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Sheridan Defends Self; Still Big On Polygraph Tests

In the past few weeks, Danny Sheridan has become a punchline for sports columnists and many college football fans.  The USA Today oddsmaker tried to defend himself yesterday with a statement released via Twitter.  Sheridan was reacting to the fact that he was blasted by the NCAA on Friday.

“The NCAA statement about me is total propaganda and an absolute misrepresentation of the facts,” the statement reads.  “For the record, I do have sources at the NCAA and that’s why the organization has chosen to shoot the messenger.

“I spoke with two NCAA investigators last Wednesday for almost an hour.  I was consistent with them as I have been with the media and the public in refusing to divulge my sources.

“I also politely declined to share the name of the individual I have been told gave money to Cecil Newton.  For the NCAA to claim I did anything else is specious, deceitful, disingenuous and completely false.  I will be happy to take a polygraph test on these specific issues and challenge them to do so as well.”

First, the NCAA was pretty damning and pretty detailed in its statement regarding Sheridan.  It also put the statement front and center on its website.  There didn’t seem to be much worry on the NCAA’s part that it was defaming Sheridan’s character.  That is why we — and most thinking adults outside the state of Alabama — tend to believe what the NCAA said about its dealings with Sheridan last week.

Second, what’s up with all polygraph offers from Sheridan.  He’s offered during the Paul Finebaum radio show to take one.  Now he’s offering to take one in a statement released on Twitter.  Doesn’t he realize that we all know lie detector tests can be beaten:

Naturally, there are still a few Tide fans out there who want to believe Sheridan simply because they despise Auburn.  Their conspiracy theory goes like this: “If Sheridan didn’t have real dirt, why did the NCAA attack him so roughly?  They haven’t done that with anyone else!”

As if the NCAA’s slapdown of the oddsmaker’s claims somehow proves those very statements in a roundabout way.

That fact is — of course — that no one else has made claims nearly as outlandish as Sheridan’s.  Even Scott Moore spoke of having heard someone else’s tapes.  He didn’t claim to know the name of a bagman and he certainly didn’t suggest that an NCAA mole gave him audio tapes or information regarding Cam Newton.

Also, it’s a mighty long way from Sheridan’s “I have a name” claims to the photo-based scandals that pop up on websites like SportsByBrooks.com and OutkickTheCoverage.com.  Those sites are basically showing pictures and suggesting something’s fishy.  They’re not claiming that the photos were given to them by NCAA officials.

In the end, Sheridan may well turn out to have been telling the truth all along.  But unless he’s willing to put up, it’s definitely time for him to shut up.

And offering to take a lie detector test isn’t “putting up.”  Especially when laws in the state of Alabama protect him against any suits that might be filed against him by someone he chose to name as Auburn’s bagman.  There’s absolutely no reason for him to not give up the name.  The fact that he’s decided to remain silent anyway… speaks volumes.

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Sheridan Reveals… Nothing On ESPN’s “OTL”

Oddsmaker Danny Sheridan appeared on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” this afternoon and revealed… pretty much exactly what he recently revealed on Paul Finebaum’s radio show — nothing.

Yes, Sheridan claimed that the NCAA knows the name of a bagman who helped funnel illegal funds from Auburn to Cam Newton’s family.

Yes, he said his source works inside the NCAA.

And no, he said he would not give up the alleged bagman’s name.

Been there, done that. 

Seriously, “Outside The Lines” is supposed to be ESPN’s last remaining bulwark of actual sports journalism. 

Oh, well. 

Can’t wait to see where Sheridan pops up next week.

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NCAA Wants To Talk To Sheridan About “Bagman” Comments

The odds are pretty good that Danny Sheridan — oddsmaker for USA Today — will soon be meeting with a representative from the NCAA to discuss his much-publicized “bagman” story.

Sheridan has appeared often on Paul Finebaum’s radio show claiming that a source inside the NCAA has gotten word to him that investigators are aware of a “bagman” who helped shuttle money from Auburn to the family of Cam Newton.  Just a week ago he appeared on the show and said that he actually knew the name of the go-between… but he would not reveal that name.

Well now he’ll get to share his story with the NCAA.

“I let them know that if they wished to talk to me, I will talk to them on or off the record about subjects of mutual interest,” Sheridan said.  “I have no idea if the allegations against Auburn are true.  I only know that what I reported was exactly what I was told.”

Yeah, allegedly by someone inside the NCAA.  So why would a group that already knows the name of this bagman want to talk to Sheridan about the same guy?

Either a) Sheridan’s source had no connection to the NCAA in the first place or b) the NCAA is trying to determine who in their operation is leaking info to Sheridan.

Or c) Sheridan ran with a bunch of nonsense and now the NCAA wants him to back up his nonsense, if he can.

Uh, we’ll go with c.  At least for now.

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No One’s Showing A Lack Of Respect For Auburn

Boy, there’s one storyline that’s already getting old when it comes to the 2011 SEC season.  As ESPN put it today: “Historic lack of respect for Auburn in polls.”

Ugh.

Chris Low does a great job and he’s certainly not alone in suggesting AU is getting cold-shouldered by pollsters — you can bet Gene Chizik and his aides are making that point to their players, too — but unfortunately that argument just isn’t true.

Sure, Auburn’s #23 ranking in the AP poll marks the first time in 20 years that a defending national champion hasn’t started the following season in the Top 10.  The horror.

But let’s look at the facts:

1.  You’d be hard-pressed to find another national titlist in that span whose success was so much attributable to one great player.  We’re not saying Cam Newton was the whole Auburn team, but how many of those close games would the Tigers have won last year without him?  For the record, seven of AU’s 14 wins were by determined by eight points or less.

2.  Newton isn’t around this year and the top two guys on the quarterback depth chart aren’t dual-threat guys like Newton (who actually led the SEC in rushing last season).  That’s really going to change the way Gus Malzahn calls plays.

3.  The Tigers also lost Nick Fairley, their most disruptive, dominant player on the defensive side of the ball.

4.  And Auburn lost 16 starters total from last year’s squad.  Those 16 slots will be filled — in most cases — by players who have little experience or by true freshmen who have none.

5.  Finally, AU’s schedule this season is much tougher than it was a year ago with road trips planned for Clemson, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia.  Toss in Mississippi State, Florida and Alabama for good measure at home.

Put Newton or Fairley of half of those lost starters back on Auburn’s squad and they would likely be smack dab in the Top 10.  Flip-flop this year’s schedule for last year’s and the Tigers would likely be getting more love from the voters, too.

But as it stands, there haven’t been many national champions in the last 20 years that have been so unproven going into the following season.

And let’s not forget that Texas’ precipitous fall from grace last season (from the BCS championship game to 5-7) is still fresh on pollsters’ minds as well.  They now know that the logo on the helmet doesn’t always offset the departure of a gaggle of stars.

We at MrSEC.com expect Auburn coaches, players and fans to talk about how the Plainsmen are being disrespected.  By year’s end, they may be proven right.

But in August, looking at that schedule and all the uncertainty in that Tigers’ line-up, AU’s preseason ranking isn’t a story of disrespect.  It’s the story of playing the odds.  And no one should have to apologize for simply playing the odds.

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SEC Headlines – 8/12/11 Part Two

1.  Nick Saban has no qualms with the NCAA’s new tougher, meaner APR policy.  (Here’s more on the new plan.)

2.  Linebacker Dont’a Hightower has a fracture in his left hand, but it’s not considered to be too serious.

3.  The development of Dre Kirkpatrick is good news for Bama’s secondary.

4.  Here’s a UA practice report.

5.  Practice conditions at Auburn are better now under Gene Chizik than they were under Tommy Tuberville.

6.  Onterio McCalebb’s 8.53 yards-per-carry average last season was the best in Tiger history.

7.  AU’s running backs feel they can fill the void left by Cam Newton.

8.  Arkansas has announced that Knile Davis is indeed expected to miss the 2011 season with “an injury to his left ankle.”  (That’s too bad for Davis, too bad for Arkansas, and too bad for the SEC.  Best wishes to Davis in his recovery.)

9.  Davis has had a long history of unfortunate injuries.

10.  In other news, Tyler Wilson looked sharp in last night’s scrimmage.  (I’m reminded of the old joke: “Aside from that, how did you enjoy the play, Ms. Lincoln?”)

11.  Want stupid?  Country music star Brad Paisley actually had to apologize for burning a Razorback rug as part of a simple tour prank.  (Some folks just have no sense of humor.  Or sense, for that matter.)

12.  Two of LSU highest-ranked — and biggest — recruits are squaring off daily in practice.

13.  Redshirt freshman center Cameron Fordham has left the Tiger team.

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NCAA Looking To Close The Newton Loophole

Tired of talking about Alabama’s current football scandal?  Then let’s dig back into Auburn’s old football scandal.

An NCAA panel has come up with a new plan to close the Cam Newton loophole that allowed the player to keep playing last year… even though his father had asked Mississippi State boosters for $180,000 in cash.  The idea is to broaden the NCAA’s definition of an agent.

If the proposal is passed, any people who represent or attempt to represent athletes or prospects for financial gain would be considered agents.  Also included?  Anyone who seeks money or other benefits for steering a prospect to a school.

Under this rule, Cecil Newton would have been viewed as an agent and his son would not have been eligible to play last year.

However, an NCAA spokesperson says the issue is bigger than the Newton case.

“Cam Newton is one of the reasons for it but it’s broader than that because there are other situations in which third parties are interceding with regard to prospects or student-athletes.”

Before our email boxes blow up, yes, this creates the possibility of a new type of problem.  It’s possible that someone not close to the player — a third cousin, an estranged father — could ask for money and get a player into trouble.  But that’s not likely to happen very often.  And to rule on such a case, the NCAA would need only prove that the player did or did not have a relationship with the person trying to act as an “agent.”

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Travis Tosses More Dirt on Bama?

For all the Alabama fans who loved SportsByBrooks.com for digging into Auburn’s dirty laundry — or alleged dirty laundry — the worm has now turned.  OutkickTheCoverage.com continues to dig into the questionable ties between Alabama, it’s football players and the owner of a menswear shop in Tuscaloosa.

Today the site has posted several photos of just-departed Tide receiver Julio Jones posing in a number of suits from the clothing store.  The obvious question: Were Tide players getting money or clothing from the store owner — who happened to have Bama sideline passes in 2009 and 2010.  If so, several players could be found to be retroactively ineligible.  If that happens, wins — and the 2009 BCS championship — could be lost.

Before AU fans celebrate too much, everyone should remember that UA fans have cheered false lead after false lead in the Cam Newton case.  A website report doesn’t necessarily mean the NCAA will find hard evidence of wrongdoing.

But an internet report is embarrassing.  Auburn fans know that.  Alabama fans are finding it now.

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Sheridan’s “Bombshell” Newton Claims Likely Just Another Dud

Is anyone out there surprised in the least that the “shocker” of this year’s SEC Media Days — unless something big blows up in the next 24 hours — will apparently be tied to the always nutty Iron Bowl?

Or that the names Cam Newton and Paul Finebaum are somehow involved? 

Didn’t think so.

Yesterday afternoon, long-time oddsmaker Danny Sheridan went on Finebaum’s popular radio show and announced to the world that a source he trusts told him that the NCAA is aware of a “bag man” who helped deliver the controversial Newton to Auburn.  Sheridan’s source — he claims — is a 25-year vet of the NCAA.

Boom! went the messageboards. 

Bama fans bought Sheridan’s story hook, line and sinker.  Of course they did.  They want Auburn to be found guilty of cheating.

Auburn fans, meanwhile, believed nary a word of Sheridan’s claims.  He’s an Alabama grad.  No need to listen to the man, his blood runs crimson.

And away we went.  Instead of Mike Slive’s agenda for big NCAA changes being the top story of Thursday’s meetings, it was instead Sheridan… and Cam… and Finebaum.

We at MrSEC.com pretty much ignored the story because we’ve been down this road before with a fellow named Scott Moore.  In February, Moore — a Bama fan — claimed to have access to audio tapes recorded by a pair of Mississippi State boosters that proved Newton knew of his father’s requests for cash.  At the time, we said “put up or shut up.”  Moore eventually shut up and the tapes were never heard.  (Just as transcripts of FBI wiretaps proving an Auburn-Newton plot have never turned up.)

This time around, Matt Hayes of The Sporting News tried to get Sheridan to put up.  Hayes spoke with the oddsmaker himself:


“‘In the last 20-30 years, I think I’ve been right on 45 of 46 NCAA-related stories,’ says the guy who gives betting odds for USA Today.  ‘About $20-30,000 went to a church for repairs, and another $150,000-175,000 went to the Newtons.’

So let me get this straight.  A person (or persons) Sheridan knows, knows a person (or persons) in the NCAA who told him what we knew all along: Something ain’t right in the land of Newton.

This, of course, led to the obvious question: What are the odds of this Sheridan information panning out?

‘I’d say 50-50,’ Sheridan said matter of factly.”


Despite the paper thin nature of Sheridan’s claims, Gene Chizik was asked about those allegations during his main presser with the SEC’s writers today (funny how this came out just in time for Chizik to face questions about it, huh).

“I’ll make this real clear — the NCAA on more than one occasion has said that Auburn has done nothing wrong in the recruitment of Cam Newton,” Chizik said.  “Can’t control everybody’s microphone, can’t control everybody’s opinion, don’t try to.”  Love the last part of that answer, even if the first part ignores the rather obvious fact that the NCAA hasn’t actually stopped investigating Auburn yet.

From our point of view, the next time someone breaks news regarding Cam Newton and Auburn it would be nice if they actually had some facts to go along with their story.  The whole affair was distasteful enough the first time around.  Too bad talking heads keep bringing it back up… without a shred of new evidence.

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Chizik At The Podium

Here’s a rundown of Auburn coach Gene Chizik’s comments:

* Chizik seems a bit more relaxed this year than he has in the previous two summers.

* He referred to last year’s BCS title run as “an incredible journey.”  But the minute the Auburn plane touched down in Montgomery on January 11th, “we had moved on.”

* “I feel really excited about not just the 2011 football season, but really just kinda where we are in the program.  Really, really excited about it.  Feel great about the direction.  Recruiting’s going tremendous for us right now.”

* Chizik said the spring was one of the most fun spring practices he’s ever gone through.  “It’s exciting to watch young guys who have a lot of energy compete for jobs.”

* Chizik said Auburn has “about nine” players left from the 2007 and 2008 signing classes combined.

* The coach said he has the best coaching staff in the country. 

* Chizik is taking forever in his opening statement.  Makes you wonder if he’s dodging questions.

* The first question was about Michael Dyer and Gus Malzahn.  Chizik: “You must be from Arkansas, huh?”  Yep.  Bob Holt indeed works for The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

* Chizik says he will be willing to take a hands-on approach anywhere he feels it’s necessary… not just on defense, which is his background. 

* Asked about the Destin run-in with Julie Roe-Lack, Chizik said:  “Typically I don’t talk about what I thought were private meetings.  Apparently it became public somehow or another.  For that reason I will address it.  It was a real simple question of process for Julie. … And to be honest with you it was very informative and there were some clarifications that were made that had to do with process.  So I was very appreciative that we got some things cleared up.”

* “I don’t operate on rumors and innuendos or anything of that nature.”

* “I feel great about where we are as a football program.  I sleep really good… every night that my head hits the pillow.”

* Asked if he regrets “angering” the NCAA rep in Destin, Chizik said, “I didn’t see that at all.  It wasn’t an angry or agitated exchange at all for me personally, in my opinion.  It was a clarification of process.”

* Asked about the Iron Bowl, the coach said: “The Auburn-Alabama game is a huge, huge rivalry regionally and nationally as well and always has been.  And rightfully so.  It’s a great rivalry.  It is a great rivalry. … It’s great for the state of Alabama and it’s just a great rivalry.  And I’ve always said there’s such a huge level of respect for the coaches and the players and the high, high majority of the fans.  So this is a great rivalry.”  So the rivalry in a word: Great.

* Asked how to replace a Cam Newton or Nick Fairley without losing a step, the coach said: “I don’t know that you can replace a Cam Newton or a Nick Fairley in terms of production right away.”  He let out a little laugh and then said that he feels good about the recruiting AU has done the past couple of years.

* Chizik was asked if there is a code of silence among coaches when it comes to turning in other schools for cheating.  (Oh, please.)  “I can’t intelligently talk about anybody but me.  What we try to do at Auburn is we try to recruit the right way, we try to always do what we feel to be in the best interest of the student-athlete.  Our compliance office does an outstanding job of educating coaches and players. … I really don’t have the energy or the time to worry about what other people do.  I’m worried about Auburn University.”

* Regarding Toomer’s Corner, Chizik said: “The majority of the people out there, both sides, are really, really educated football people.  They’re very, very in tuned to the passion of the rivalry without going overboard.  But as with anything in life you’re going to have some individuals who go over the limit.”

* Chizik says recruiting services can be of value.

* Chizik said Mike Blakely’s case is still ongoing and “I’ll let everyone know when it’s not.”

* Chizik was asked about Danny Sheridan’s claim on a radio show yesterday that his NCAA sources had told him that they “thought they had found a third-party bag man” who tied Auburn to Newton.  Very calmly and coolly, Chizik said: “I’ll make this real clear — the NCAA on more than one occasion has said that Auburn has done nothing wrong in the recruitment of Cam Newton.  Nothing’s changed.  So, again, can’t control everybody’s microphone, can’t control everybody’s opinion, don’t try to. … I feel really good when my head hits the pillow at night.”  Great response by Chizik. 

* Chizik said the rumors haven’t kept him and his team from having “a ball” in celebrating their national title.

* Chizik said the Clemson game showed him that he had a special team last year.

* Auburn’s coach took some high, hard ones today and he handled it smoothly.  Like Hannibal Lecter, “his pulse never rose above 85.”  The last two SEC Media Days, Chizik has been the single most boring character behind the league’s mics.  He can coach football, but an engaging speaker he has not been… at least not in Hoover.  Today, however, he actually came across a little bit better, despite the tough questions.  An impressive performance by Chizik.  (‘Cause you know he wanted to tell everyone to go stick it.)

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Lugenbill: Malzahn Not Afraid To Use Frazier

The Auburn quarterback job is still open and many folks are wondering if incoming freshman Kiehl Frazier might wind up grabbing the job.  ESPN’s Tom Lugenbill says that he spoke with Gus Malzahn recently and…


“He really feels that if Kiehl Frazier mentally can handle what they’re bringing him along with — ’cause he’s only there in the summer right now, they haven’t seen him in practice, they don’t know what he’s going to do — then possibly there could be a package ready for him.”


Frazier appears to be the player most similar to Cam Newton in terms of dual-threat capability.  If he grasps the offense, we at MrSEC.com expect him to be Auburn’s quarterback by the time October rolls around.

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