The Auburn Tigers were marching steadily toward an unbeaten season and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game while media pundits far and wide gnashed their teeth, rended their garments, wrung their hands and bemoaned a system gone awry.
The national media tried, convicted and attempted to execute the Auburn team and its players in a frenzy of mass hysteria fueled by know-nothing Internet theorists and kindled by twigs of supposition and speculation. Funny how that worm turns.
Even as the Tigers earned the right to play in and won the BCS Championship, the Auburn witch hunt continued unabated for months in its aftermath.
We’ve chronicled the trials and tribulations of the Tigers here before, but let’s quickly recap a pertinent few.
There were those who said Auburn didn’t deserve the right to play Oregon in the BCS Championship Game because there were allegations of improprieties in the recruitment of Cam Newton.
There were those who said Auburn coach Gene Chizik didn’t deserve SEC or national Coach of the Year for his efforts in leading the Tigers to the BCS title because of those same allegations.
There were those who said Newton didn’t deserve to be named SEC Athlete of the Year because of those same allegations.
Funny how those worms have turned. And bitten. Hard.
Auburn was exonerated by the NCAA after an exhaustive investigation. In an unprecedented move the NCAA announced that it was closing its investigation into Newton’s recruitment after finding nothing and discovering no other potential violations of any kind related to any other issue.
Auburn’s BCS opponent Oregon? Subsequently investigated and charged by the NCAA with recruiting violations spanning four years. Included in that four-year span was 2010. Auburn: clean. Oregon: dirt on a duck’s back. So all those fingers were pointing in the wrong direction in 2010 apparently.
The Associated Press tabbed Oregon’s Chip Kelly as its Coach of the Year for 2010, the lingering Newton rumors a prime culprit in their decision. This despite the fact that Auburn beat Oregon head-to-head and that the revitalization of the Auburn program was a far more difficult task than that inherited by Kelly. But those NCAA issues, you know. Yes. Turns out they were looking at the wrong guy. See dirt on a duck’s back above.
Chizik was snubbed in voting for SEC Coach of the Year in favor of South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier. Forget the fact that Chizik’s Auburn team had beaten Spurrier’s Gamecocks twice that season, once in a rout in the SEC Championship Game. The snub was credited in large part to the perception surrounding the recruitment of Newton. In case you missed it: Auburn exonerated by the NCAA.
Spurrier? Rampant NCAA violations and the dreaded failure to monitor tag. Sanctions handed down in April.
So the coach of the BCS national champion was denied due and just recognition based on rumor while a coach who was at the time under investigation and would subsequently be sanctioned was rewarded? That’s one ugly worm.
No one remembers who the SEC Male Athlete of the Year was in 2010. Most remember only that it wasn’t Newton, whose effort that season is almost universally recognized as one of the greatest individual performances in the history of college football.
Newton, like Chizik, was snubbed by SEC coaches based on nothing but rumor and conjecture. Or perhaps petty jealousy, that’s certainly a trait displayed by a couple of formerly scaly (Gator) and currently slobbery )Bulldog) SEC coaches.
Someone needs to find whoever was named SEC Male Athlete of the Year in 2010 and warn him. If the bloody mess left behind by the worm that turned on Spurrier and Oregon is any indication that poor soul has a day of reckoning coming.
Might be a good idea if he picked up the phone, called the SEC office and suggested they rename the award the Cam Newton SEC Player of the Year Award. That might help offset the mojo.
While Auburn’s ship continues to sail straight and true, the fans of other programs, many of those same fans who excoriated Auburn and Newton, have seen their own rough seas.
We’ve had coaches fall off motorcycles, seen suits fly out of malls and into numerous rental cars, sniffed drug arrests, watched the NCAA paw through tattoos and yachts, and witnessed searches and sanctions for Buckeyes, Broncos, Sooners, ‘Canes, Heels and assorted others.
In case you didn’t catch it earler? Auburn. Exonerated.
The day of atonement is coming for all who picked up a stone or a hushpuppy and threw it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but it’s coming.