published Thursday, April 4th, 2013

5-at-10: Auburn allegations, Braves' record-setting pace, UGA spring questions

Let's get focused. We're hitting full stride in arguably the best three-week, non-football season stretch of the sports calendar.

We've been a little remiss about out spring football recaps, and that stops today.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's give sportsfan an old-school Hee-Haw SAL-loot for getting promoted..

Loose lips sink ships

Former Auburn safety Mike McNeil is going on trial for armed robbery in the coming days. He faces 20 years in prison if found guilty on all charges.

Before he gets his day in court, he flipped the script and put the Auburn football program in the court of public opinion. Again. McNeil alleges a lot of wrong-doing within the football program with his statements to Selena Roberts here.

McNeil, who was Auburn's defensive MVP in the BCS title game win over Oregon in January of 2011 that capped the national title run, says:

• He was given five-times the amount of money allowed by the NCAA to entertain a top-flight recruit;

• He was given $400 cash by former Auburn defensive coordinator and current Florida head coach Will Muschamp;

• He had a computer class grade changed from an F to a C to be eligible for the national title game;

• He said as many as nine Auburn players had grades changed to get on the field against Oregon;

• His family alleges that the police department was going to cover up his arrest since he was a football player;

Selena Roberts, the author of this story and founder of the website, is a journalist that reached the highest levels of the profession, working for the New York Times and Sports Illustrated before launching roopstigo.com. She has credentials. She also shares something with the 5-at-10 beyond our line of work — we each graduated from Auburn.

There have already been quick denials. Muschamp denied the allegation completely through a Florida spokesman. Former Auburn defensive tackle Mike Blanc and defensive back Neiko Thorpe, two former Tigers who were quoted in the story, have denied or stepped away from the quotes attributed to them. Blanc even tweeted, "Man this article is outrageous and isn't true." Thorpe tweeted that he was "misquoted."

Believe the story. Don't believe the story. Say it happens everywhere. Say Auburn's an arch-criminal outlier along the lines of Miami and THE Ohio State in the mass mess that is the current NCAA enforcement structure. Say Auburn cheated to win a title. Say Auburn is the target of jealous opponents.

The questions from the multiple-sided coins above are endless. What is the truth? Is it somewhere in the middle of each end? Who's lying, the school or the accused felon? If there's real wrongdoing going on, who would be the better source, the former player with nothing to lose or those involved with everything at stake?

There are differing and opposing views of every scandal, and more times than not those opinions unfurl in accordance to the car flag you fly in September.

That said, here are a few things we believe for you to consider:

• Roberts needed a juicy tale, and nothing is juicier than SEC wrongdoings. That's not a judgement on anything she wrote or reported, like we said earlier, she has some big-time journalistic credentials. That's simply a business statement for the website she started. Before Wednesday had you heard of roopstigo.com? Neither had we.

• Of all the major allegations, the grade changing thing is far and away the most serious for a couple of reasons. First, if the NCAA is going to continue to perpetrate the wink-wink, nod-nod establishment that during the season big-time football players are student-athletes, then this type of stuff can't happen. (Side question here: McNeal said his grade was an 'F' because he missed too many classes, and as a former student on that campus who had trouble getting to every class (cough, cough), well, we can see that. However, during the football season, and as big a monster operation that is SEC football, don't you think the players' attendance — either good or bad — would be monitored. Plus, if there was a strict policy of "miss X classes, then you fail" that may not be the best class for during the season when players do miss class for whatever reason. And we all know that very little is left to chance in football programs like Auburn) Second, since the entire coaching staff was fired after last season's debacle, the people inside the football office have almost all been replaced. The academic structure, though, is still there. Plus, if grades are being changed, the school's accreditation may come into question and more. The other stories may be juicier about money and such, but this is the most serious, especially since McNeil gives direct account of his grade being changed.

• This case has the chance to be quite different than most NCAA allegations or investigations. McNeil is about to go on trial and could be asked a lot of things to test his credibility under oath. If any of these allegations come up, it will be sworn testimony as opposed to the normal, "He claims, they deny" stuff the NCAA normally gets.

• After the Cam Newton ordeal, when everyone was convinced that Auburn was assuredly guilty of some wrongdoings, we have forever discredited the cliche, "Where there's smoke there's fire." Sometimes where there's smoke, there's just smoke.

Is this smoke or fire? McNeil talking facts or attempts at payback?

We don't know. No one does — not yet anyway.

————

G-Day coming

We're going to move quickly for the rest of today's show.

So in an effort to expand out horizons we're going to offer something special here at lunch. Our UGA-beat ace David Paschall will have three things he's looking for in Saturday's G-Day scrimmage.

Deal? Deal.

And some of you red-and-black supporters out there that even have Dawg in your handle, if you post some questions below, we'll get Paschall to answer them.

————

Braves start quickly

  • photo
    Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman watches his three-run double to left center field Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies during their game in Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 9-2
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Braves are 2-0. At this pace they'll go 162-0 and if that happens we like their chances to make the playoffs.

Freddie Freeman had three more RBIs in Wednesday's 9-2 thumping of the Phillies. At this pace Freeman will drive in 486 runs. We think that would be enough to get the MVP.

Despite scoring five runs in three-plus innings against some random dude that looked like an old Roy Halladay and stole Roy Halladay's uniform (Ehat? That WAS Roy Halladay? Egads, that looks like a faded ace), the Braves fanned 16 times. Yes 16 times. OUCH-standing. Atlanta hitters were 9-of-17 when they put the ball in play. Each starter had at least one K, led by B.J. Upton's four.

Swing hard, swing often. Score some, miss a lot.

————

This and that

— Lil' Ricky Pitino, Rick's boy who actually goes by Richard (is that REE-shard or just Richard?) will replace Tubby Smith as the head coach at Minnesota. Kind of a role reversal there — a Pitino trying to win with Tubby's players does not seem like the likely success story that Tubby had inheriting that juggernaut he had in the late 1990s at UK.

— Can we stop with the Brittney Griner talk? She would get thunderdunked in the NBA. Period. Normally we try to have the opposite position of Geno Auriemma whenever possible, but this time he's right. Can't happen.

— The Patriots are looking at signing T.O.? Tom Brady and Terrell Owens were spotted working out together and throwing at USC's facility. Interesting. Side question: Assuming that USC coach Lane Kiffin was somewhere on the grounds at the time, if T.O. and Lane were there together, wouldn't that become the biggest narcissist black hole ever? Somehow it would be so self-consumed it could be dangerously close to self implosion.

— Speaking of comebacks, everyone's favorite Purple Drank fan JaMarcus Russell is planning on having a pro day next week. In preparation for it he's lost 27 pounds and is "no longer breathing like a fat man." He was was apparently up to roughly 315, which would mean J-Marc's comeback could be at guard or center before losing the LBs. Maybe he could be a 3-4 defensive end?

Let's go to pretend Mel Kiper Jr. — "What you have with a JaMarcus Russell is a guy with the measurables of a player that could be a projected mid-round guy at 6-6, 285. He has the frame and the pedigree at a football factory like an LSU yo be ready for the mindset of the rigors of the NFL.

But Mel, what about at quarterback?

MKJ — No freakin' way. Not even McShay's that dumb.

————

Today's question

Deliver the knowledge. Send a mailbag question. Ask about Georgia football.

But today's question is up to you.

Whatcha' got?

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
chas9 said...

Juicy tail? What happened to the FOIB 5@10?

The over-under on the number of games in the NBA before a putative Griner would suffer a dislocation or compound fracture is 1.5.

Break up the Braves.

April 4, 2013 at 10:16 a.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Fair point. That's on us, and well caught.

In the interest of the F-O-I-B 5-at-10 we'll change it. We all operate under the same rules and 9er gets a bonus point for calling out the host. There was no intent, but there was unintended consequences. So it goes.

Well-played indeed.

For the rest of the day, you're Freddie Freeman9.

April 4, 2013 at 10:33 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

JG spot on with the Griner stuff...GOOD GRIEF! Once again the worldwide leader is taking the point in making her the greatest female hoopster of all time or so they think, and just like with Lebron, we must indure the constant rump kissing. The great and powerful Oz oops Geno is correct. BTW it appears Cuban has been on too many reality shows or perhaps that statement about Griner was made after his cameo on Dallas at J.R. Ewings funeral.

As for the doings down in Updikeville, this is a load of hooie. Granted there are some psuedojournalists locally making a huge deal of this when it nothing more than a criminal trying to save his heiney.

Bravos off to a 2-0 start? Big whoop just 160 more to play. I am not so worried about the strikeouts as much as I am the managerial skills of Freddie. Let us wait until September 1 and then maybe start the chop.

April 4, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.
mcpell3 said...

5/10- re Auburn - isn't she the same journalist who once reported on the grade changing in auburn once before? Grades get changed, even for non-athletes. If it is the same one, she seems to have an ax to grind.

Griner would get killed in the NBA.

April 4, 2013 at 11:07 a.m.
jgreeson said...

OG —

What's the fun in waiting and seeing? Is it the smart play? Sure. But the fun play is in the hyperbole.

We don't think Freddie Freeman's going to drive in 486 runs. That's silly. But 250 is doable right?

We're OK with Fredi G's managerial ride. There's little to no blame for the manager with this lineup. It's not like he's giving them the "Strike out" signal.

McPell —

Not sure if Roberts was writing about the grade-changing charges before or not. Could be.

But great point on students getting grades changed all the time. We had a few juggled during our time on the Plains.

Is there a sport in which a woman would crack the top-100 in the men's league?

Bowling maybe? Curling possibly.

— 5-at-10

April 4, 2013 at 11:31 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From SEC ace David Paschall — some UGA tidbits for Saturday's spring game:

  1. How many touches will Todd Gurley get?

Gurley is obviously a proven commodity after rushing for 1,385 yards as a freshman last season. Carries this spring have been sparse, however, as the 6-foot-1, 218-pounder compiled just five rushes for 29 yards in Georgia’s first two scrimmages combined. Hey, at least he still knows how to average 6 yards a pop. Bulldogs fans hoping to see a lot of Gurley on Saturday may actually witness more Kyle Karempelis, a junior walk-on who had seven carries the first two scrimmages.

  1. Can LeMay make a move?

Redshirt sophomore Christian LeMay was Rivals.com’s No. 3 quarterback nationally in the 2011 signing class, but he has yet to make his mark in Athens. The 6-2, 201-pounder ended last season fourth on the depth chart behind Aaron Murray, Hutson Mason and walk-on Parker Welch. In two scrimmages this spring, LeMay is a combined 6-of-22 for 44 yards. No player needs a bigger confidence boost from a productive G-Day than LeMay.

  1. Will the young safeties shine?

There have been several players creating a buzz this spring on Georgia’s rebuilding defense, with safeties Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons leading the way. Matthews was the most touted member of this year’s signing class, and the early enrollee has been working with the first team and, according to teammates, has routinely made big hits in the closed practices. Harvey-Clemons, the most touted defensive signee of the 2012 crop, has worked at safety and outside linebacker during his time with the Bulldogs, and tracking him Saturday could be entertaining as well.

April 4, 2013 at 11:49 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Sorry, 5, I got nuthin' today. Wait a minute ... maybeeee ... not.

Let's play another round of ... Guess Who Wrote This Lead!

5, ordinarily, we give our guests three guesses. But because of your uncanny skill, you're only getting one. You can wager anywhere from 0 to your current total. Are you ready?

Not-so-new Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof summed up the general feeling that permeates spring practice at just about every football program about as perfectly as anyone can following the Yellow Jackets' second spring session this past Wednesday.

5, you have 10 seconds to Name That Tune. Wait, wrong game. Anyway, I think you know the answer ....

April 4, 2013 at 12:15 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

What a difference a year makes.

Or maybe not so much.

This feels like deja' vu all over again.

Wait.....

April 4, 2013 at 12:18 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, you win again! Well played once more....

April 4, 2013 at 12:55 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Elena Delle Donne> Brittney Griner, even if neither could hang in the NBA more than five minutes. Delle Donne had no teammates who could even make the roster at Baylor.

One of the ESPN radio hosts was talking about how situations that may or may not have taken place at Auburn could be reduced or eliminated by paying the players. My question on that, say everyone from Alabama to Idaho is allowed to pay their football team members $5,000 apiece. How long before an Auburn or USC or Miami decides to gain advantage, they'll pay $6,000 with $1,000 under the table? What if Idaho or Eastern Michigan can't afford $5,000 or whatever the accepted rate will be? How about for basketball? The big programs and the ones with football programs like Alabama can afford it, but what about UTC? Going even further, what about women's sports including those than generate virtually zero revenue? When those athletes and coaches see football players getting the paychecks they're bound to have a lawsuit to get their share. It's more mess than needed..education that can be worth hundreds of thousands in the short term, or millions over a lifetime, along with room and board over four or five years should be sufficient.

April 4, 2013 at 12:57 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

I don't know if this qualifies as a question or more of a hypothetical ponder, but here it goes: Could the 2013 Georgia Defense be an improvement over the 2012 squad?

I won't deny that wishful thinking has me leaning towards an improved defensive output in 2013. We all know that UGA lost a bunch of starters on the defensive side of the ball. However, our defense last season was not one that lived up to its potential. The pieces were there and they looked impressive getting off the bus, but the on-the-field performance was often disappointing. Several early season suspensions contributed to a lack of continuity that lingered throughout the remainder of the season.

My biggest concern for the 2013 defense is at the nose tackle spot. Mike Thornton seems to be the front-runner at the moment, with Chris Mayes and John Atkins competing. John Taylor has been moved to an end spot. Georgia was not good against the run last year and if we are not strong at NT that will be difficult to improve upon.

The ends are looking good with Ray Drew and Sterling Bailey. Bailey has had a breakout Spring according to Coach Grantham. We are blessed with a good crop of linebackers and the defensive backfield is taking shape with Swann, a proven commodity holding down one corner, and Sheldon Dawson has quickly made a name for himself in The Classic City. There is talent on the defensive side of the ball in Athens and if this unit displays cohesion, well...It could be a good year.

Okay, I'm starting to ramble. I'm pretty sure somewhere in that diatribe there was a question or two. Go Dawgs!

April 4, 2013 at 3:31 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Laughter —

Fair debate.

Delle Donne is Bird; Griner is Jabbar.

Neither is ready for the NBA.

And we could not agree more with your view on paying players. Plus, the folks that say the players are exploited but a couple hundred bucks a month would be fair. PUH-lease. That will quickly be viewed as below minimum wage.

Once the payments starts, college sports is on the death clock in our view.

GratefulDawg —

Interesting point. We'll research — i.e. ask Paschall — and get back to you. Check back in Friday's mail bag.

April 4, 2013 at 3:41 p.m.
Stewwie said...

Big game tonight between the Spurs and Thunder. At stake is a leg up on getting home court in the West. Love watching games that are at OKC...great crowd and atmosphere.

If the playoffs started today, I'd be intrigued at all the 1st round playoff matchups in the West. SA vs. LAL has a lot of recent history between those teams and you know Kobe isn't going to make anything easy for the Spurs. OKC vs. HOU would be exciting and Harden gets 4+ games against his former teammates. DEN vs. GS looks like loads of fun with those offenses. MEM vs. LAC is a rematch of their 1st round series from last year and it would be another good one.

Stopping LeBron looks near-impossible these days. So what's the best way to play against him and the Heat to give yourself the best shot at beating them? Play man-to-man straight up and take your chances? Or send a double every time or at certain times...and who do you double with--post or guard? (Hello Shulman Fire defense? Haha...j/k.) Or try a zone of some kind?

April 4, 2013 at 3:44 p.m.
chas9 said...

I'm more Freddy Freeloader than Freddie Freeman. LB has a good point about Della Donne having to carry the whole Blue Hen load.

Does AU cut corners? Yes. Does my alma mater? Yes.

April 4, 2013 at 3:48 p.m.
jomo11 said...

Jay- Auburn may have cheated ? And paid players ? Are you kidding me, thats shocking !

April 4, 2013 at 4:05 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

"Does AU cut corners? Yes. Does my alma mater? Yes. --chas9"

A wise approach 9er. I'm sure some of my Bulldog brethren are having a good chuckle about the latest round of allegations of improprieties at Auburn. Careful Icarus. All of us who are alums and-or supporters of a university with a big time athletic program are one overzealous booster away from finding our beloved program in the NCAA crosshairs.

I will not comment on the merits or lack thereof of McNeil's allegations, but you will have to excuse me if I am less than moved by a come to Jesus moment experienced by a guy who is looking at twenty years in the gray bar hotel. Seems misery really does love company.

April 4, 2013 at 4:48 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Stewwwwwwwwww —

We want to answer the LeBron question in the mailbag. Deal? Deal.

9er —

That would be an interesting debate. Della Donne may be a better player, but if/when they both enter the draft this year, we all know who is going No. 1. Heck even Mark Cuban got that one right.

Jomo —

If memory serves the Mocs were on probation more recently than the Tigers......

Dawg —

Amen — on both counts.

Misery sure do love company. And be careful giggling at the misfortune of others for those misfortunes bounce around and those giggles can echo.

April 4, 2013 at 5:39 p.m.
sportsfan said...

Jay - I realize it's last minute but if you have time for the mailbag...if you had an unlimited budget and Mrs Fiver had no veto power, what's your Rushmore of cars you'd like to park in your driveway? Put me down for Magnum's Ferrari, a Mini Cooper, a 1956 Vette (ragtop), and the Batmobile (just for fun).

April 4, 2013 at 7:43 p.m.
mcpell3 said...

Late getting back...work is again getting the way of a personal life. Good question on a female cracking top 100, that will require many co-colers.

Are you going to have a draft contest? Rumor has it the 5/10 loves a draft.

April 4, 2013 at 7:57 p.m.
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