Monday, April 8, 2013
Distractions not deterring Auburn players
By Edward Aschoff
Auburn's football program is coming off of a bad week in the media world.
First, there was the report by former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts discussing grade changes, money exchanging hands and other recruiting violations conducted under the watch of former coach Gene Chizik.
Then, a six-month investigation conducted by ESPN The Magazine and "E:60" stated that a dozen players, including star running back, Michael Dyer, failed tests for synthetic marijuana during Auburn's national championship run in 2010.
Shortly after these stories ran, Chizik, former players and athletic director Jay Jacobs denied any wrongdoing. Jacobs even went as far as to write an open letter to the Auburn community disputing the ESPN The Magazine report. You can read Jacob's full letter here.
If you follow Twitter or Internet message boards, you'll notice that most of the Auburn faithful are quite upset with Roberts and ESPN The Magazine. No one likes when bad things are written about their teams, and they have every right to be upset by the negativity thrown Auburn's way. So do current players and coaches.
But you won't hear much coming from Auburn's team about reports. On the surface, players either don't care, aren't worried about any potential fallout or both. Honestly, there really isn't any other way players could handle the situation. Sure, they could be mad and sling mud at Roberts and ESPN, but they know this entire ordeal is out of their hands. They can't control what's been written, but they can control how they get through it and finish spring practice.
That's what's important to this team, especially after a disaster of a 2012 season that led to the firing of Chizik and the hiring of Gus Malzahn. Routes, schemes and technique should be on the minds of players, not the 2010 season.
Players have even said coaches haven't really addressed the allegations with them.
"You really just don't pay any attention to it," cornerback Joshua Holsey told members of the media last week. "You try to stay off the Instagrams and the Twitters and the ESPNs. You just try to block it out as much as you possibly can. It's really hard because there's so much of it, but you just try to do your best to not worry about it and focus on what you've got in front of you."
And what the Tigers have in front of them is the challenge of getting back to being a factor in the SEC West race again. Kudos to players and coaches for staying focused during a spring that has thrown a lot at them. A new staff is in town, so this team is trying to build trust while re-learning old stuff and digesting new concepts. There's no time to worry over allegations.
Even Auburn great Bo Jackson isn't sweating the negativity. Over the weekend, Jackson told reporters that he thinks attention might be the main factor behind the allegations from former players. One of those former players is defensive back Mike McNeil, who was the subject of the Roberts' report. Monday, he received a split sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree robbery.
"I don't even know the kids. I've probably met them. But it seems like to me somebody's fishing, somebody wants some attention, and they aren't getting it," Jackson said. "I actually wouldn't give those accusations the time of day, to be honest with you."
Opinions on the truth surrounding Auburn's situation will surely differ, and we may never truly get all of the answers, but that's not for these current players to worry about. Their concern should be elsewhere, and it sounds like they're doing a good job of avoiding what Chizik once deemed as "energy vampires."