July 21, 2011

Chizik, Auburn undeterred by NCAA rumors

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HOOVER, Ala. - Though an NCAA investigation of former Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton continues and suspicions of impropriety linger, Tigers coach Gene Chizik insisted he has a clear conscience.

"I feel great about where we are as a football program," Chizik said Thursday during SEC Media Days. "I sleep great every night when my head hits the pillow. That's what I can control. So I know we're every day doing things the right way."

Newton led Auburn to a national championship and won the Heisman last season, but still became a figure of controversy when it was revealed last November that his father sought $180,000 from Mississippi State during that school's recruitment of Newton. Consequently, the NCAA launched an investigation.

Last month, at the SEC spring meetings, Chizik asked NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach about the investigation. In what was described in a New York Times story as a "testy" exchange, Roe Lach told Chizik: "You'll know when we're finished. And we're not finished."

Appearing even more stoic than usual Thursday, Chizik disagreed that the exchange was angry or agitated and said he was just seeking clarification on the process.

"It was a simple question of process to Julie, who happens to be the head of NCAA enforcement, so I thought there would be nobody better to ask," he said. "It was very informative. There were some clarifications that were made that had to do with process, so I was very appreciative that we got some things cleared up and that I was able to be educated a little bit further in the questions that I had."

When asked how frustrating it is that the investigation continues, Chizik that wasn't an issue.

"I don't operate on rumors and innuendos or anything of that nature," he said. "My job at Auburn is to recruit and graduate great kids and great players and win championships. That's what I focus on."

USA Today oddsmaker Danny Sheridan said on a radio show in Alabama on Wednesday that sources had told him the NCAA had potentially damaging information on Newton and Auburn. Chizik was asked about that report.

"I'll make this real clear," Chizik said. "The NCAA on more than one occasion has said that Auburn has done nothing wrong in the recruitment of Cam Newton. Nothing's changed.

"Again, can't control everybody's microphone. Can't control everybody's opinion. Don't try to. But, again, I'll say as I've said it maybe the fifth time today, I feel real good when my head hits the pillow."

The ongoing investigation and speculation that Auburn may be subject to some kind of NCAA sanctions could, in theory, have a negative impact on recruiting. But Auburn's 2011 recruiting class was ranked No. 7 in the nation.

"Our recruiting right now is really, really going well," Chizik said. "We've had two back-to-back top-five recruiting classes and we don't expect this one [2012] to be any different."

Olin Buchanan is a senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.


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