April 22, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN — Gene Chizik came to the defense of Auburn on Monday, strongly disputing two national stories that put the football program he coached in a negative light.
"I'm just here for truth because it's very important that the integrity and character that I have stood for in all my years of coaching," the former Auburn football coach said. "It's very important that the integrity and character is brought to the light because the bottom line is, that's what I've been known for 20-plus years, and I want to make sure it's the explosion of the truth."
Chizik's comments were made on the same day that Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs defended his university with strongly-worded statements.
"I want to speak truth and it was really good that Auburn came out today and was able to refute a lot of the allegations that were made," Chizik said. "I think they did a very, very good job of not giving opinion, but backing everything up with fact and I think that was the right thing to do."
Chizik disputed a story that said Auburn paid players, that the police didn't follow the rules and that grades were changed. He disputed another story that said there was widespread use of synthetic marijuana.
Chizik said he wanted to speak out because accusations "were unsubstantiated."
"The payment of players is absurd and the notion that we would pay a player of any way, shape or form to either come to Auburn or stay at Auburn is absurd," Chizik said.
Chizik said the use of "spice," or synthetic marijuana, was not a widespread problem at Auburn as an ESPN story asserted. That story was partially based on players who either stand accused of a felony, or have pleaded guilty to a felony.
"You’ve got those accusations as a defense for people that are on trial basically for a lot of years involved with their life whether they go to prison or they don’t," Chizik said. "The sad thing that I want to make very clear is you can’t take two people’s perception of what they think is a huge problem and indict a whole university, coaches, other players. I'm going to go back to facts. This notion that 50 percent of our football team was smoking it… this is not a performance-enhancing drug, so let's use a little common sense here. It's a performance-debilitating drug. So if half of our football team is on it during our 2010 national championship run, how were we performing at a level that was the best football team in the country?
"When we did start testing, 10 percent or less of our team tested positive. Was that too many? Yes. But let's keep in mind, on one hand, the drug is illegal but on the other hand you can still go into the convenience store and buy it off the shelf.
"Since they started testing (for synthetic marijuana), there's been 2,500 random tests with three individuals testing positive for the test. If there's 2,500 random tests and three individuals test positive -- would you like it to be zero? You bet. But in my opinion, if you look at the numbers, it's overwhelming evidence that the transition period of us trying to figure out what the drug was, how to get it under control, educate, test for it. I think the facts say that it was pretty effective."
Chizik chose his words carefully in 2010 while the NCAA looked into the recruitment of Cam Newton. The NCAA cleared Auburn, and now Chizik isn't restricted about talking about the national championship run.
He said it wasn't easy to sit back in 2010 in the face of accusations he said were not true.
"I want you to imagine walking into your house, and I want you to imagine looking at your children and them saying, "hey daddy, at school, I heard X, Y and Z. Did you really do that?' 'No, we didn’t, son.' 'Well, then, why don’t you tell everybody?' 'Because we can’t.'"
Chizik said the allegations in 2010 were unfounded, and it was "very difficult for the Auburn people, and it's not fair.
"We didn't do anything wrong. We signed a good football player who became a Heisman Trophy winner and we won 14 games.
"It was a bunch of young guys and a bunch of coaches that worked their rear end off to win a national championship and they went undefeated. That's the beginning and the end of the story. Anything or anyway that it gets tainted other than that is simply not right. I’m going to say one thing more about Cam Newton: I will jump to his defense because what that young man went through, and the focus, and the way he carried himself under unbelievable scrutiny."
Chizik, who was replaced in December, said he's weighing his options.
"My job is to spend a lot of family time right now and come up with our next plan in terms of whatever that may be," he said. "But I've spent a lot of quality time with my children and my wife, which I needed to do, and will continue to do. But I've also stayed busy. I’m in a place right now where I'm continuing to map out a plan."
And through it all, he's stayed in Auburn.
"People have been very positive," he said. "This is a great community, and that's why we chose to stay in it."
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