Whatever you think of USA Today sports analyst Danny Sheridan, he has never shied away from offering his opinion and typically, his opinion is based on knowledge he gains from a variety of sources. No one succeeds in the business that Sheridan works in without having contacts in key organizations. If you don’t have inside information, you have no edge.
Last night at the Tuscaloosa Quarterback Club dinner, Sheridan spoke at length about a number of topics regarding the state of college football today. One of those topics was the seemingly endless entanglement between the NCAA and Auburn University.
I spoke with someone who attended that meeting and who spent some time with Sheridan during and after the event. Here are some of the things Sheridan didn’t tell reporters who also attended. I am paraphrasing here so please don’t quote this verbatim. While not an exact transcript, the paragraphs below capture the gist of what Sheridan said and believes, based on his contacts.
Sheridan's NCAA contacts tell him that a Letter of Inquiry and formal investigation are imminent. The preliminary phase has ended and recruiting irregularities may have occurred that warrant a full Enforcement investigation.
Both Sheridan and the NCAA understand that two unnamed assistants have been removed from off-campus recruiting activities, but they are still allowed to contact recruits via telephone and electronically.
Sheridan would not say which specific recruits, coaches or parts of the country were at the heart of the matters in question.
He said there is a high likelihood that Auburn University “cleans house,” meaning that everyone associated with Auburn football—from the athletic director all the way to “special advisers” to the program—will be dismissed.
Sheridan also said that NCAA President Mark Emmert has been on a warpath against what he believes are programs that calculate risk-reward ratios in deciding how closely to follow NCAA rules, and that Auburn University (among others) should be fearful of the new attitude in Indianapolis.
He believes that Bobby Petrino is the heavy favorite to replace Gene Chizik should the program go through with dismissing Gene Chizik and his staff. Petrino has made his “mea culpa” tour and expects to be coaching again in 2013. Petrino likes the Auburn opportunity because he believes, should he be hired there and the NCAA launches an investigation, he will have a 2-3 year period at a minimum as a “grace period.” This will allow the program to work through any investigation and address any sanctions that may result.
FWIW, this blog does not deal in rumors (other than what you see in the SEC Rumor Central page in the top level menu). The main blog deals only in information that can be verified by trusted sources. When I say I know someone who was there and spoke with Sheridan, please rest assured that I do, and he did.
That said, a lot of what appears above has been speculated on talk radio and internet message boards for much of the last few weeks. I don’t know and won’t judge the veracity of Sheridan’s sources, but I would hope he’s more resourceful than scouring message boards and dropping in on the Paul Finebaum Radio Network.
Extra Point: This is not the first time Auburn assistants have been pulled off of the recruiting trail in an effort to placate the NCAA. In 2010, numerous secondary violations occurred in connection with the Tiger Prowl and Big Cat Weekend affairs. As a result of those violations, Auburn agreed to restrict its staff from having any off-campus contact with at least one of the recruits in question from November 2011 through January 2012.
Auburn promptly broke that agreement when one of the recruits in question told reporters that he had an in-home visit from Auburn coaches during the so-called “restricted period.” To my knowledge, that matter was never resolved and could be part of the current probe.