Auburn responds to 2010 academic fraud allegations

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs released a letter Monday in response to allegations of academic fraud among members of the 2010 national championship football team reported earlier this month., a website run by former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts, had reported that players had grades changed to remain eligible for the team's national championship game against Oregon.

Jacobs, in Monday's letter, said the article prompted an internal review and the results found no such evidence.

Roberts had reported that as many as nine players had grades changed. Jacobs stated that six players were academically ineligible for the BCS National Championship game and none made the trip to Arizona.

In the article, former Auburn cornerback Mike McNeil asserted that an academic counselor was able to have the player's grade changed from an F -- given to him because he missed too many classes -- to a C to remain eligible. Jacobs said the professor did change McNeil's grade after documented reasons were provided, including excused absences for medical reasons.

"The independent review by Auburn University Internal Auditing showed that all institutional policies regarding grade changes for excused absences were followed," Jacobs stated.

McNeil, who was dismissed from the football program after being a participant in an alleged armed robbery in 2011, also said in the article that he was given $400 from then-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp after a tough day at practice in 2007. Muschamp, now the head coach at Florida, immediately disputed those claims.

In the article, McNeil added that coaches gave him $500 to entertain recruit Dre Kirkpatrick on an official visit to Auburn. The NCAA allows less than $50 a day for such spending. Jacobs said Kirkpatrick never took an official visit.

"As Auburn's athletics director, it's my job -- no matter how proud I am of Auburn -- to carefully review charges made against our program when warranted." Jacobs said in the letter.

"As the facts demonstrate, the article is clearly flawed. I want you to know that I will always act on the basis of facts. I will continue to fight for Auburn University, and I will continue to defend this great institution against such attacks."

The 2010 Auburn team was led by Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, whose eligibility was in question during the season because of allegations that his father requested money during recruitment. The NCAA cleared Auburn of any wrongdoing.

Auburn's head coach at the time was Gene Chizik, who was fired last November after the Tigers finished 2012 with a 3-9 record, including 0-8 in the SEC.

"Coach Chizik came to Auburn with a strong record of rules compliance and a reputation as a man of the utmost character and integrity," Jacobs added. "I have enormous respect for coach Chizik, the way he ran his program throughout his entire tenure at Auburn and also the way he left -- with dignity and class."

About a week after the article was printed, McNeil accepted a plea deal for three years in prison and three years of probation for first-degree robbery.