When I caught wind that ex-Sports Illustrated and New York Times gumshoe Selena Roberts, writing for a site called Roopstigo, had dropped an investigative piece today on the Auburn football program, my initial reaction before reading it was "whatevs."
I mean, judging by recent history, have we seen any reason to believe that all of these aspersions cast towards the Tigers will lead to anything? The NCAA isn't exactly in a position to be making a big splash right now, anyway.
After reading it once, I had no clue if the article was supposed to be anything other than a jumbled mess in need of major editing. A second time through felt like an extended @SPORTSbyBROOKS conspiracy tweet deluge. Third time was far from a charm, but I at least felt like I had a better handle on things.
Roberts seemingly has a solid story regarding former Auburn safety Mike McNeil's armed robbery case. The article presents enough peculiarities about the events leading up to McNeil's arrest and the investigation surrounding the charges brought against him to raise questions as to if he's getting a fair shake as the legal process plays out.
Apparently, though, that wasn't enough for Roberts, who opted to paint McNeil's story as the hub of a football-program-gone-wild NCAA scandal.
I guess Roberts could have intended for her characterization of the culture of Auburn football to serve as some proxy. Maybe it was supposed to be an indirect explanation for the rationale behind intimations that the program and Auburn's notoriously zealous boosters have somehow played a role in influencing McNeil's case. A more cynical reading of her motivations would be that she knew including allegations of under-the-table payments to players and academic improprieties would generate more buzz.
That might work for the headline effect. Yet, it's easy to call into question stories as thin as a well-known coordinator at a major college program allegedly calling a player into his office to give him $400 out of a drawer. (That's what boosters and bagmen are for.)
Ultimately, Roberts seems to be stretching to shoehorn this collection of facts into blowing the lid off of some scandal in big-time football. Too bad, given that she already had a compelling story to tell.