No backing down for Auburn football

Aug. 19, 1993, was a dark day for Auburn football. In response to accusations made by former player Eric Ramsay, the program was barred from postseason play for two seasons and from television for one season.

President Bill Muse somberly spoke to reporters at the Auburn Hotel and Conference Center. His words were blunt.

"We have to be committed to not only success on the field but to preserving our integrity," Muse said. "This is not an optional decision. If this program is going to survive, we can't have any more days like this one."

Five days short of 19 years later, Auburn football hasn't had any more days like that one.

Since 1992, Auburn has won more SEC games than any team in the West Division. It has had three perfect seasons, more than anybody in the SEC. It has won two SEC championships, won or shared seven division championships and won a national championship. It has done that without being found guilty of a major violation since 1993. And the hard truth is it gets little credit for that accomplishment beyond its own loyal fans.

In fact, I would venture to say most people who follow college football, if they are honest, would admit to being surprised by that.

Why?

All you have to do to get an answer is watch, read and listen. There's no better example than the bizarre scenario that unfolded Monday.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that NCAA investigators would meet with Auburn commitment Reuben Foster, the nation's No. 1 linebacker prospect and No. 2 prospect overall. Foster transferred to Auburn High School from Troup County in LaGrange, Ga., last spring and later switched his commitment from Alabama to Auburn.

The story was wrong. Dead wrong. Foster and his mother had a routine meeting with Alabama High School Athletic Association officials to talk about his transfer. The idea that the NCAA would meet with Foster, who is heading toward his senior year, didn't make sense in the first place. Foster hasn't signed with anybody. The NCAA doesn't give a rip who is committed to whom or if a player commits to 100 different schools.

In the eyes of so many, Auburn isn't supposed to recruit on the level with Alabama or LSU, isn't supposed to win championships. It's a great mystery where that idea originates. History says the opposite.

Gene Chizik arrived as head coach in December 2008 vowing that Auburn would go after the best players in the state and beyond and vowed he and Auburn would not back down. He hasn't and Auburn hasn't. It's safe to say there are those with agendas of their own who don't like that.

When the Cam Newton saga began in November 2009, national reporters, ESPN analysts and small-time commentators rushed as one to convict him and Auburn. After an exhaustive NCAA investigation, Auburn was exonerated.

In 2006, New York Times reporter Pete Thamel traveled all the way from New York to write a story full of opinion and innuendo about Auburn players allegedly getting special treatment in the sociology department. The story and resulting investigation caused a lot of anguish for a lot of people. It did not cause Auburn's program to get into serious trouble.

The week before the BCS Championship Game, the ominous story was that the NCAA had gone to Thibodeaux, La., to look into the recruitment of Trovon Reed and Greg Robinson. When Auburn won, the debate was whether the championship would be stripped because of the Newton saga.

Last week came the story of an apparent change on the transcript of Jovon Robinson, Auburn's freshman running back. Where that one is going, no one knows. But the feeling among most at Auburn is that it's going nowhere, at least as far as the program is concerned.

And Monday we had the Foster story, written by a reporter who also equated receiver JaQuay Williams waiting to get academically eligible to an NCAA investigation of Auburn recruiting. The reporter then trumpeted his "scoop" on various radio shows and talked about red flags for Auburn recruiting.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.

It's not easy being Auburn.

Follow me on Twitter @PMARSHONAU

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