published Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Four Auburn football players dismissed from team

By McClatchy Newspapers

AUBURN, Ala.—Four Auburn football players — Mike McNeil, Antonio Goodwin, Shaun Kitchens and Dakota Mosley — have been kicked off the team after being arrested early Friday morning on charges of robbery, burglary and theft of property.

The Auburn Police Department said McNeil, Goodwin and Kitchens entered a residence three miles from campus, displayed a handgun and stole property before driving away in a car driven by Mosley.

The four were arrested shortly thereafter and are currently being held at Lee County Detention Center, each on a $511,000 bond.

They were each charged with five counts of robbery in the first degree and one count of burglary in the first degree, Class A felonies under Alabama state law, in addition to one count of theft of property in the third degree, a Class A misdemeanor.

A first-degree burglary or robbery conviction in Alabama is punishable by 10 years to life in prison, depending on a defendant’s criminal background, and a $60,000 fine.

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik released a statement calling the incident “deeply troubling” and saying the four have been “permanently dismissed from the team.”

“While we realize the legal process will run its course and these young men have a right for their case to be heard, playing for Auburn University is an honor and a privilege. It is not a right,” Chizik said.

“We hold our student-athletes to a high standard of conduct on and off the field as representatives of Auburn University, and this kind of behavior is not tolerated.

“I am extremely disappointed and embarrassed by the actions of these individuals. I want to personally apologize to all of those who were impacted by this senseless act, including the victims, Auburn University and the Auburn family.”

McNeil, 22, who is from Mobile, Ala., started at safety last season as a junior. He made 56 tackles, including a team-high 14 in Auburn’s BCS title game victory against Oregon.

Goodwin, 20, and Kitchens, 19, wide receivers from Atlanta and College Park, Ga., respectively, played mostly on special teams as freshmen. Mosley, 19, a tight end from Little Rock, Ark., who was running back Mike Dyer’s high school teammate, redshirted.

According to the Auburn police, officers responded to a robbery report at a residence located on the 2300 block of Wire Road at 12:25 a.m. The five victims present told police three black males entered the residence, with one displaying a hand gun.

Personal property was stolen, although it was not specified. No injuries were reported.

A patrolman responded to the area and observed what he believed to be the suspects’ vehicle based on the description he was given. Officers stopped the car and found a pistol and the stolen property before transporting the four football players to the Lee County Detention Center.

Teammates expressed shock about the players’ arrest. Former left tackle Lee Ziemba called the incident “unfortunate” and “embarrassing” during an appearance on Paul Finebaum’s radio show. Former safety Zac Etheridge tweeted: “Prayers going up for those guys. Not like them to do that!!!”

Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs stood behind Chizik’s actions.

“This type of behavior will not be tolerated at Auburn,” he said. “I fully support coach Chizik’s swift and decisive action to dismiss these four student-athletes from our football team effective immediately.”

It’s the second time in the last month Auburn has dismissed a player because of legal issues. Running back Eric Smith was kicked off the team Feb. 28 after being arrested for third-degree domestic violence. It occurred a year and a half after he was arrested for third-degree assault after police said he knocked a fellow student unconscious at an area hotel.

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