By Zac Ellis
Gene Chizik said his Auburn team "did it right" despite allegations of NCAA violations, specifically academic fraud, within the program while he was head coach. In his first interview since being fired as the Tigers' headman after last season, Chizik spoke with Alabama's WJOX radio on Monday and defended his tenure at the school.
A Roopstigo.com story earlier this month reported numerous instances of academic fraud, as well as impermissible financial benefits to players, under Chizik's watch. On Monday, Auburn released a statement from AD Jay Jacobs refuting the Roopstigo report based on a lack of evidence found by an internal review of the program.
Chizik backed the university's defense, saying his reputation has been on the line with these allegations:
"I'm here because I care about my reputation, I care about the integrity of who I am and what I do, and I'm simply giving out the facts, because I'm 100 percent confident that we did it right," Chizik said.
The coach went on to deny the allegations that his coaching staff changed players' grades:
"Absolutely not. We don't deal with professors. We have an outstanding academic support staff. Everything that they do is the utmost class, it's the utmost integrity. They're the ones that deal on a daily basis with anything academically related Simply, coaches dealing with professors, putting pressure on people, it's simply not true."
A substantial portion of Roopstigo's report centered on allegations made by former safety Mike McNeil, who accepted a plea deal on a first-degree armed robbery charge on April 8 and was sentenced to at least three years in prison. McNeil and his family criticized Auburn's handling of McNeil's legal situation, implying that Chizik and staff attempted to cut ties with McNeil.
Chizik told WJOX he didn't understand McNeil's motive for turning against his former team and teammates.
"You know, I don't know, and I'm going to be honest with you: it's a very unfortunate case for Michael McNeil. He's in a tough place. I can't even imagine what him and his family are going through in terms of what they're feeling and motives, but I will say this: everything that Mike McNeil and three other individuals right now that are up for charges for what the crime they allegedly committed, it's all personal responsibility."You can find the full transcript of Chizik's interview here.