There hasn't been much good news, at all, for Auburn since Wes Byrum hit that field goal at the gun to beat Oregon.
That was 80 days ago. Makes sense that it seems like the football program has been around the world.
If it wasn't someone poisoning their oak trees, it was their former Heisman winning quarterback under investigation by the NCAA. And now this: Failing to get any more dirt on Cam Newton, HBO settled for four former mostly-disgruntled Auburn players who said they received extra benefits at the school. I received an advance copy of the "Real Sports" Tuesday. Maybe it's the age we live in, but when Stanley McClover started talking about hundred-dollar handshakes, it hardly registered.
Isn't that what the SEC calls "game week"?
Now it's a national story, I guess, but until we have a) a paper trail and b) names, this is an athletic version of "Entertainment Tonight." SEC-schools-paying-players is the equivalent of Lindsay Lohan entering a courtroom. Sooner or later you get numb to it all. (Although Lindsay does dress better.)
There's also the issue of the NCAA's statute of limitations. The association sets a prosecution limit of four years from the time of the wrongdoing. Most of the payments mentioned came between 2001-07. An NCAA official told me Tuesday that the association is interested if the players want to talk, but the trail is so cold will there be any footprints leading investigators to the offending sugar daddies/coaches?
The NCAA can re-open cases beyond the statute of limitations -- this one seems juicy enough -- but where does it find the time? Also Wednesday, ESPN reported that infamous seven-on-seven entrepreneur Will Lyles solicited upwards of $80,000 from Texas A&M to land cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Let's not forget that Bruce Pearl is waiting to see if he can ever work again at a major college. USC is awaiting its appeal in the Reggie Bush case. Remember those carefree days of last June? I guess what I'm saying is, don't get antsy. The USC case took four years and is still going on, with at least one lawsuit sure to follow if an appeal isn't won. These Auburn players could have their own web-based cyber-shows by the time the NCAA gets to them -- "Who Wants to Be A Deadbeat?"
OK, so the fact that these guys might not have been upstanding citizens shouldn't matter. Wrong is wrong. And we shouldn't diminish HBO's reporting. I didn't get those guys to talk. Neither did anyone else. When you hear $7,000 for a car, that's starting to get into some serious Maurice Clarett-type money. But admit it, we've got bigger, more tangible scandals to concentrate on. Jim Tressel tried to upstage the cable network Wednesday by "apologizing". Well, apologizing for things he can't discuss. I'll translate: Tressel is so sorry that he allowed five of his players to compete while ineligible than he's genuinely worried about his job. That kind of sorry.
Oh, and pay attention to the man behind the curtain. That's Luke Fickell who was introduced as interim coach when Tressel starts working only six out of every seven days a week. The five-game suspension is so serious that Tressel will, get this, actually miss game day.
Anyway, back to Auburn. The players' allegations don't involve just the Tigers. McClover said he had sex while on a visit to Ohio State. LSU and Michigan State are mentioned too in the cavalcade of hundies. It's been a dreary offseason for the Tigers, one big hot mess. If it wasn't already, confidence in the system is eroding. But until the NCAA sends out that message, a corrupt system is going to keep operating. Alabama had four major violations in 14 years. It won the national championship (2009) in the same year as its last one. Newton's daddy solicited money at Mississippi State. The kid skated, remained eligible, because of a loophole in the NCAA rules.
Some obscure six-year-old language allowed the Buckeye Five to play in the Sugar Bowl. Talk about a competitive advantage. Disgusted? Yeah, well, at least we have the annual refreshing bowl experience to cheer us up. Oh wait...