5-at-10: Auburn allegations, Braves' record-setting pace, UGA spring questions

5-at-10: Auburn allegations, Braves' record-setting pace, UGA spring questions

April 4th, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Let's get focused. We're hitting full stride in arguably the best three-week, non-football season stretch of the sports calendar.

We've been a little remiss about out spring football recaps, and that stops today.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's give sportsfan an old-school Hee-Haw SAL-loot for getting promoted..

Loose lips sink ships

Former Auburn safety Mike McNeil is going on trial for armed robbery in the coming days. He faces 20 years in prison if found guilty on all charges.

Before he gets his day in court, he flipped the script and put the Auburn football program in the court of public opinion. Again. McNeil alleges a lot of wrong-doing within the football program with his statements to Selena Roberts here.

McNeil, who was Auburn's defensive MVP in the BCS title game win over Oregon in January of 2011 that capped the national title run, says:

• He was given five-times the amount of money allowed by the NCAA to entertain a top-flight recruit;

• He was given $400 cash by former Auburn defensive coordinator and current Florida head coach Will Muschamp;

• He had a computer class grade changed from an F to a C to be eligible for the national title game;

• He said as many as nine Auburn players had grades changed to get on the field against Oregon;

• His family alleges that the police department was going to cover up his arrest since he was a football player;

Selena Roberts, the author of this story and founder of the website, is a journalist that reached the highest levels of the profession, working for the New York Times and Sports Illustrated before launching roopstigo.com. She has credentials. She also shares something with the 5-at-10 beyond our line of work - we each graduated from Auburn.

There have already been quick denials. Muschamp denied the allegation completely through a Florida spokesman. Former Auburn defensive tackle Mike Blanc and defensive back Neiko Thorpe, two former Tigers who were quoted in the story, have denied or stepped away from the quotes attributed to them. Blanc even tweeted, "Man this article is outrageous and isn't true." Thorpe tweeted that he was "misquoted."

Believe the story. Don't believe the story. Say it happens everywhere. Say Auburn's an arch-criminal outlier along the lines of Miami and THE Ohio State in the mass mess that is the current NCAA enforcement structure. Say Auburn cheated to win a title. Say Auburn is the target of jealous opponents.

The questions from the multiple-sided coins above are endless. What is the truth? Is it somewhere in the middle of each end? Who's lying, the school or the accused felon? If there's real wrongdoing going on, who would be the better source, the former player with nothing to lose or those involved with everything at stake?

There are differing and opposing views of every scandal, and more times than not those opinions unfurl in accordance to the car flag you fly in September.

That said, here are a few things we believe for you to consider:

• Roberts needed a juicy tale, and nothing is juicier than SEC wrongdoings. That's not a judgement on anything she wrote or reported, like we said earlier, she has some big-time journalistic credentials. That's simply a business statement for the website she started. Before Wednesday had you heard of roopstigo.com? Neither had we.

• Of all the major allegations, the grade changing thing is far and away the most serious for a couple of reasons. First, if the NCAA is going to continue to perpetrate the wink-wink, nod-nod establishment that during the season big-time football players are student-athletes, then this type of stuff can't happen. (Side question here: McNeal said his grade was an 'F' because he missed too many classes, and as a former student on that campus who had trouble getting to every class (cough, cough), well, we can see that. However, during the football season, and as big a monster operation that is SEC football, don't you think the players' attendance - either good or bad - would be monitored. Plus, if there was a strict policy of "miss X classes, then you fail" that may not be the best class for during the season when players do miss class for whatever reason. And we all know that very little is left to chance in football programs like Auburn) Second, since the entire coaching staff was fired after last season's debacle, the people inside the football office have almost all been replaced. The academic structure, though, is still there. Plus, if grades are being changed, the school's accreditation may come into question and more. The other stories may be juicier about money and such, but this is the most serious, especially since McNeil gives direct account of his grade being changed.

• This case has the chance to be quite different than most NCAA allegations or investigations. McNeil is about to go on trial and could be asked a lot of things to test his credibility under oath. If any of these allegations come up, it will be sworn testimony as opposed to the normal, "He claims, they deny" stuff the NCAA normally gets.

• After the Cam Newton ordeal, when everyone was convinced that Auburn was assuredly guilty of some wrongdoings, we have forever discredited the cliche, "Where there's smoke there's fire." Sometimes where there's smoke, there's just smoke.

Is this smoke or fire? McNeil talking facts or attempts at payback?

We don't know. No one does - not yet anyway.

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G-Day coming

We're going to move quickly for the rest of today's show.

So in an effort to expand out horizons we're going to offer something special here at lunch. Our UGA-beat ace David Paschall will have three things he's looking for in Saturday's G-Day scrimmage.

Deal? Deal.

And some of you red-and-black supporters out there that even have Dawg in your handle, if you post some questions below, we'll get Paschall to answer them.

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Braves start quickly

Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman watches his three-run double to left center field Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies during their game in Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 9-2

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

The Braves are 2-0. At this pace they'll go 162-0 and if that happens we like their chances to make the playoffs.

Freddie Freeman had three more RBIs in Wednesday's 9-2 thumping of the Phillies. At this pace Freeman will drive in 486 runs. We think that would be enough to get the MVP.

Despite scoring five runs in three-plus innings against some random dude that looked like an old Roy Halladay and stole Roy Halladay's uniform (Ehat? That WAS Roy Halladay? Egads, that looks like a faded ace), the Braves fanned 16 times. Yes 16 times. OUCH-standing. Atlanta hitters were 9-of-17 when they put the ball in play. Each starter had at least one K, led by B.J. Upton's four.

Swing hard, swing often. Score some, miss a lot.

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This and that

- Lil' Ricky Pitino, Rick's boy who actually goes by Richard (is that REE-shard or just Richard?) will replace Tubby Smith as the head coach at Minnesota. Kind of a role reversal there - a Pitino trying to win with Tubby's players does not seem like the likely success story that Tubby had inheriting that juggernaut he had in the late 1990s at UK.

- Can we stop with the Brittney Griner talk? She would get thunderdunked in the NBA. Period. Normally we try to have the opposite position of Geno Auriemma whenever possible, but this time he's right. Can't happen.

- The Patriots are looking at signing T.O.? Tom Brady and Terrell Owens were spotted working out together and throwing at USC's facility. Interesting. Side question: Assuming that USC coach Lane Kiffin was somewhere on the grounds at the time, if T.O. and Lane were there together, wouldn't that become the biggest narcissist black hole ever? Somehow it would be so self-consumed it could be dangerously close to self implosion.

Jamarcus Russell

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

- Speaking of comebacks, everyone's favorite Purple Drank fan JaMarcus Russell is planning on having a pro day next week. In preparation for it he's lost 27 pounds and is "no longer breathing like a fat man." He was was apparently up to roughly 315, which would mean J-Marc's comeback could be at guard or center before losing the LBs. Maybe he could be a 3-4 defensive end?

Let's go to pretend Mel Kiper Jr. - "What you have with a JaMarcus Russell is a guy with the measurables of a player that could be a projected mid-round guy at 6-6, 285. He has the frame and the pedigree at a football factory like an LSU yo be ready for the mindset of the rigors of the NFL.

But Mel, what about at quarterback?

MKJ - No freakin' way. Not even McShay's that dumb.

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Today's question

Deliver the knowledge. Send a mailbag question. Ask about Georgia football.

But today's question is up to you.

Whatcha' got?