NCAA clears Auburn

NCAA clears Auburn

October 13th, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Auburn coach Gene Chizik walks the sidelines during the first half of the NCAA college football game with Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that it has concluded its 13-month investigation into Auburn's football program and that it found no major violations stemming from the recruitment of former quarterback Cam Newton or from allegations that four other former Tigers received impermissible benefits.

According NCAA associate director of enforcement Jackie Thumes, more than 50 interviews were conducted regarding the alleged pay-for-play scenario involving Cecil Newton, Cam Newton's father. The NCAA finding reflected Auburn's self-report last November, which determined that Cecil Newton violated amateurism legislation when he discussed a $180,000 payment with Mississippi State but that Cam Newton and Auburn were not aware of the activity.

The investigation overshadowed much of Auburn's stretch run last season, when the Tigers rallied from double-digit deficits to defeat rivals Georgia and Alabama. Auburn then waxed South Carolina 56-17 in the Southeastern Conference title game and topped Oregon 22-19 in the BCS championship to capture the program's first national title since 1957.

"As I have said many times, I feel very confident about the way we run this program, and I have said many times that we haven't done anything wrong," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Wednesday night. "So quite frankly, I moved on a long time ago. My focus has been to win football games, and that is where it will continue to be."

Asked if he felt vindicated, Chizik said, "I don't really live my life like that. As I have said many times, I feel really, really good when I go to sleep at night about the way we run this program."

Raven Gray, Stanley McClover, Chaz Ramsey and Troy Reddick made pay-for-play claims in March on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," but the NCAA determined after interviewing Gray along with his family and friends that his allegations could not be substantiated. Thumes added that in some instances his claims were disputed by others.

When it came to McClover, Ramsey and Reddick, Thumes wrote, "Even though the enforcement staff made several attempts to interview those individuals, they refused to cooperate."

Reddick started three-plus seasons at tackle, including in 2004 when the Tigers went 13-0, while McClover is remembered for tallying four of Auburn's 11 sacks in a 28-18 win over Alabama in 2005.

"We appreciate the NCAA and thank them for their professionalism and thoroughness during this exhaustive investigation," Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said. "We are pleased to put this matter behind us."

Thumes did note that if the NCAA becomes aware of additional information regarding Newton or the four players who made claims on HBO, the enforcement staff would review that information to determine whether further investigation is necessary.