jay_sniderWe started this mission nearly two years ago now.  A group of like-minded Auburn men and women got together and decided we’d had enough.  Enough of the lies. Enough of the false characterizations. Enough of the garbage spewing from the cesspools of the Internet and the dregs of the radio airwaves.

We’d had enough of the unapologetic slant from local television sports anchors and national media outlets.  So we decided to do what nobody else seemed to have the guts or inclination to do: We decided to fight back.

We’re not done.

We are glad to see Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs finally step up to the plate and refute the salacious nonsense perpetrated by a relentless media witch hunt.

We’re proud that former head coach Gene Chizik went on the offensive to defend his and his former team’s reputation. It’s about time that bull was taken by the horns and branded with facts.

It encourages us to see even the small ripples coming from some state and national media and bloggers who’ve begun to question the continued attacks on Auburn.

We draw strength when we see other outlets take ESPN to task for its ridiculous E:60 report and lambaste Selena Roberts for her poorly written and poorly sourced article.

That’s just the beginning. We want more.

We’re sick of the broad brush with which the national media paints.  We’re fed up with their stubborn refusal to accept the truth when it’s shoved back in their collective faces.

We’re not going to take it lying down.  Not from our opponents, our enemies or even those who should be on the same side of this fight as we are.

We hear some people say the Never to Yield Foundation is comprised of nothing but whiners; that we should just man up and accept the evidence that Auburn cheats just as much or more than any other program. We hear that the Auburn Family is collectively naive and trusting; that our contention that Auburn runs a perfectly clean program is ridiculous. We’ve seen this sentiment far and wide, perpetuated by essentially every non-Auburn source whenever the subject of Auburn athletics is broached.

We hear what you’re saying, but you’re wrong on every count.

If you’d polled us in September of 2010, before the barrage of allegations first exploded, most would have conceded that the likelihood of the occasional NCAA violation was about the same at Auburn as at any other school. It’s not realistic to expect every program in the county to be squeaky clean, there are simply too many moving parts and too many people around the program for it all to be completely controlled.

That being the case, we freely admit to a twinge of nerves when the nationwide obsession with proving Cam Newton or his father to be guilty of something nefarious began. With every sports journalist in the country salivating to uncover some dirt on Auburn, who wouldn’t sweat just a little?

Then the NCAA & SEC got involved.  During that same span, the FBI was on campus. Not for the reasons so often whispered on message boards, but to research a possible point shaving incident involving Varez Ward.

Of course we were all just a little on edge.  How could the entire journalistic world and half of the federal justice department probe the Auburn program from top to bottom and come up  empty handed? That simply does not happen.

Until it does.

As we watched that situation unspool it became obvious to us that the problem in the Cam Newton situation was with Mississippi State, not Auburn. We quickly realized that the entire message board folly that started with whispers of bingo chips and credit cards and then spiraled into the tinfoil hat world of  FBI,  CIA, NCIS, SACS, Homeland Security, NEA, AEA, NRA, AARP and UN investigative teams was nothing more than a house of cards.

The truth was far less intriguing than the fantasy, so the fantasy spun on.

Despite all of the scrutiny from the SEC, the NCAA, the FBI and every jackal with a blog; despite the subsequent repetitious non-story garbage from sources like HBO RealSports, ESPN E:60, Selena Roberts, Danny Sheridan, Scott Moore, Clay Travis, Pete Thamel, Thayer Evans, not to mention the entire world vs. Cam Newton, what is the result?  NOTHING.  Not one single thing. 

The only investigation that turned up anything of substance was related to the Ward issue and that proved to be a case where Auburn acted appropriately and was the victim.

Nothing factual can be pinned on Auburn. ZERO. NADA. ZILCH.

Let us make one thing clear. We expect Auburn to do things the right way. Part of our mission is to defend against enemies foreign and domestic. If any investigation had turned up credible evidence that Auburn coaches, administrators, staff or players were involved in violating the rules we would have led the charge to demand accountability.

Our own research and the result of myriad investigations found nothing to warrant that.

Scott Moore’s tapes never materialized.

No one ever found a single record to indicate that any money, let alone $180,000, changed hands between Auburn and Cam Newton or his family. No phone conversations, no emails, no texts. No bank records or financial statements. Nothing. And you can bet your mother’s wedding ring every possible nook and cranny was examined with a microscope.

Sheridan never found the Bag Man he guaranteed to expose, and the NCAA told him to shut his trap.

When the NCAA left Auburn after chasing the Newton angle for months, it issued an unprecedented statement of exoneration. Never in its history has the NCAA offered a public statement declaring a program’s innocence as it did with Auburn.

That wasn’t enough for those still determined to find guilt where none existed. Some claimed the NCAA statement was just another case where the NCAA turns a blind eye.

A blind eye? Really? Nonsense. When has the NCAA ever been blinded to anything when the investigative engine was cranked?

Look at USC, North Carolina, Penn State and Oregon. The NCAA looked, the NCAA found. Even Boise State was found to have issues. The NCAA had Miami on the hook, too, before a procedural foul up derailed that train. Doesn’t mean they came up empty, it just means they probably won’t be able to use what they found.

Is there evidence to support this widely promoted notion that the failure to sanction Auburn simply means the NCAA has lost  power to the point that all its investigations come to nothing? No there isn’t. The opposite appears true.

Name one full-scale investigation where the NCAA walked away with nothing. You can’t.  It doesn’t happen. Until it does. At Auburn.

The NCAA’s exoneration of Auburn didn’t quell the blood lust of the circling pack. Auburn must be guilty of something and the jackals swarmed in to find it.

HBO followed with an exposé about nothing. Recruiting rumors percolated in Louisiana and Tennessee. Selena Roberts vomited out a pathetic attempt to restore her shattered credibility. ESPN cobbled together a laughable story about a culture that didn’t exist surrounding a substance that couldn’t be tested for and wasn’t even illegal.

Mud was hurled. Nothing stuck.

Documented, proven evidence completely obliterated the HBO feature. The outrageous claims it made were not backed up by bank records or any other verifiable proof. It rested solely on the claims of a few disgruntled players who’d fallen on hard times. Numerous current and former players refuted the reports.

The tapes Roberts claimed she had to support her dreadful effort turned out to be nothing but self-promoting vapor.

Nothing she wrote could  be verified. Essentially every word of her piece was repudiated by concrete evidence.  The sources she quoted denied the comments attributed to them. Her entire report was nothing but reeking garbage. That didn’t prevent ESPN from rushing to hail her as a dedicated harbinger of truth.

The E:60 report was completely neutered when Auburn released a detailed, fact-based response that debunked virtually every claim made. That didn’t stop ESPN from airing the ridiculous piece of journalistic tripe or prevent the hack who compiled it, Shaun Assael, from petulantly and lamely trying to defend his disgraced efforts.

When asked point blank by a radio host why he singled Auburn out when the “epidemic” he detailed existed in virtually all programs at the time, Assael responded “What’s your point?”

He followed that by claiming that documented facts and details presented by Auburn were irrelevant compared to his personal opinion. Now that’s great journalism.

After all of this probing, prodding, smearing, investigating and reporting, nothing of validity remains. No fire. No smoke. No ashes. NOTHING.

Show us another Division 1 program anywhere in the United States that could endure what Auburn has over the last two-plus years and emerge unscathed, particularly when so many of those searching were desperate to uncover anything they could.

Take Assael as an example. He wasn’t content to report what was, he took it on himself to manufacture a story hoping against hope to create something that wasn’t there. Rather than reporting the facts, Assael elected to create the narrative and craft a story out of nothing.

Had we known in 2010 the extent of the scrutiny the Auburn program would face, few of us would have believed Auburn could survive the witch hunt without a single scratch. But Auburn did.

Auburn must be the cleanest football program in the country. How else could Auburn emerge from each new attack and the only scars that remain are those of fabricated public opinion?

One hundred percent of the evidence in 100% of the cases points to Auburn’s innocence. But that makes Auburn dirty in the eyes of the public? Now who’s turning a blind eye?

So excuse us if we get a little defensive when the program we love has been repeatedly denigrated as a den of cheaters and  obviously the dirtiest program in football.

It’s been 20 years since Auburn’s last major violation in football. Most of the Auburn roster wasn’t even alive the last time the football program was sanctioned.

Look around the SEC. Since Auburn’s last finding, Alabama has been sanctioned three separate times and served seven years of probation. South Carolina has served six years, Mississippi State five. Five other teams have at least a year or more after major penalties.

The team the 2010 Tigers played in the SEC Championship game has since been sanctioned for numerous violations. Auburn’s opponent in the BCS Title Game admitted this month to major recruiting violations that occurred before, during and after the 2010 championship game.

Auburn? Nothing.

So tell us again who’s really dirty?  Which programs foster the so-called “culture.” What does the credible, actual evidence say?

Let the SEC, NCAA and FBI spend a year on your campus and see if they walk away empty handed. We dare you.

The smear campaign goes further than just investigations and rumors of investigations. We’ve seen our coaches, administrators, players, students and fans have their personal and professional reputations besmirched on air and in print. We’ve seen student employees branded as prostitutes on the radio and in social media.  A rival fan poisoned our beloved Toomer’s Oaks out of nothing more than bitter and deluded jealousy.

Are we supposed to suffer all of this with a smile?  We say no.

At some point “being the better man” requires you to do more than accept it.  Jesus set the bar at seventy times seven.  Safe to say that number has now been surpassed.

Refusing to take abuse lying down doesn’t make you or us whiners.

Point out the truth and the typical gloss-over-the-facts response from anyone not associated with Auburn  is “heh, heh, tl;dr, LOL; Auburn cheats.”

We have to change that narrative. The only way to do so is to patiently and consistently repeat the facts.

Investigations, journalists, bloggers and networks have come and gone. They’ve had their say and what they said was wrong. If there was anything to find, they would have found it. They did not. End of story.

Our message is one of truth. It needs to be heard.  It needs to be repeated over and over until it registers.  Repeating the truth has the same effect as repeating a lie. If you say it often enough, it will eventually sink in.

It won’t be heard, however,  if we all remain quiet and claim to be above the fray.

The fray is here. We aren’t above it. We can’t be. Just like Jay Jacobs and Gene Chizik have now done; as the Never to Yield Foundation has since the beginning, the time has come to strike back at those who wish to tear us down. We are armed with the truth. There is no greater weapon.

Ignoring the wolf  tearing at your front door won’t prevent you from being eaten.

 

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