Thursday, March 31, 2011

Former Tigers Hudson, Ross on MLB rosters

Tim Hudson and David Ross begin the 2011 Major League Baseball season as former Auburn baseball players on Opening Day rosters.

Hudson is in his 13th big league season and his seventh with the Atlanta Braves. The 2010 National League Comeback Player of the Year and a two-time All Star, he went 17-9 for Atlanta last year with a 2.83 ERA. In 12 big league seasons he has gone 165-87 with a 3.42 ERA, striking out 1,541.

At Auburn, Hudson played from 1996-97 and was named the Rotary Smith Award Winner as the National Player of the Year after going 15-2 with a 2.97 ERA on the mound and hitting .396 with 21 doubles, 18 home runs and 95 RBI as Auburn advanced to the College World Series for the fourth time in program history. Last year he was a part of the inaugural class of Auburn Baseball’s Wall of Fame inductees.

Hudson is scheduled to make his first start of the season on Sunday against the Washington Nationals.

Ross is beginning his 10th major league season and is in his third season in Atlanta. A career .233 hitter, he hit a career-best .289 in 2010.

Ross was a part of the 1996 and 1997 clubs with Hudson before transferring to Florida for the 1998 season. In his two-year stay at Auburn he hit .251 with nine doubles, a triple and two home runs, driving in 26 RBI. His second home run is one of the most memorable in Auburn history as it was the final blow in a five-run ninth inning that helped Auburn overcome a four-run deficit to Florida State in Tallahassee en route to an 8-7 win, which Auburn parlayed into a trip to the College World Series.

Other former Tigers to be on 40-man rosters but not active rosters include Josh Donaldson (2005-07) with the Oakland A’s and Clete Thomas (2003-05) with the Detroit Tigers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chizik reacts to HBO special

Here's Auburn coach Gene Chizik opening statement following Wednesday night's practice about pay for play allegations on the HBO special:

“Let me start out first by addressing a tv show that is probably airing right now In regards to four former players here at Auburn. When I was the defensive coordinator here from 2002 to 2004, all of the allegations that are out there on this particular show I can assure you, in my three previous years here as an assistant, I had no knowledge of any of that stuff.
“Moving forward to being head coach here now at Auburn that’s not what we do here, that’s not what who we are, that’s not what we stand for. That’s not how this program is going to be run. I feel very strongly about that. It’s sad to me, it’s very sad to me, that HBO is going to go ahead and air something that, really admittably, they’ve got no proof on anything. What’s disturbing to me is that they interviewed other former Auburn football players who had exactly the opposite to say but somehow or another that failed to make the air, unless I missed that section. So I’ve got other former players that are calling me who are still playing and who are great players who had absolutely no knowledge of any of that stuff. So it saddens me that somebody is going to air a show with basically one side being known. I think that’s pathetic. And I think it’s pure garbage. So I feel really good about how this football program and this athletic department is being run. I feel great about the reputation we’re trying tro build here. Again I think that’s very clear about how I feel about it and I won’t spend any more time on it.”

Auburn, SEC react to HBO special

Auburn president Jay Gogue and athletics director Jay Jacobs, as well as the Southeastern Conference, issued statements late Wednesday regarding the pay for play allegations to be raised by four former Auburn football players during Wednesday night's segment of HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."

"As a university president, there are several things you want from the athletics department,” Gogue said. “One of them is playing by the rules, and Jay Jacobs and the athletics department are committed to that priority. They will investigate these allegations thoroughly and completely."

Jacobs’ statement confirmed that the matter is under investigation.

"We are aware that four former football players have made allegations against Auburn,” Jacobs said. “While HBO confirmed to us they have no proof that any of these claims are true, we contacted both the NCAA and Southeastern Conference as soon as these allegations surfaced. We have engaged outside counsel to investigate this matter and will spare no resources to find the truth."

The Southeastern Conference also issued a statement regarding the allegations.

“We are aware of some of the information to be aired during this evening’s HBO Real Sports,” statement said. “Representatives from Auburn University, representatives from LSU and the SEC office have communicated with the NCAA Enforcement Staff. The involved institutions and the NCAA staff will pursue the allegations in a timely manner.”
By Charles Bennett

AUBURN – HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” won’t air until 9 p.m. but the claims of “pay for play” by former Auburn football players have already ignited a firestorm.

The HBO special highlights four former Auburn football players who say they were paid by boosters, and in once case an unspecified assistant coach. The four are Stanley McClover, Raven Gray, Chaz Ramsey and Troy Reddick.

All four played during Tommy Tuberville’s time as Auburn’s coach.

Former Auburn players Lee Ziemba and Ryan Pugh, who finished their eligibility this past season, don’t believe the claims. The careers of Ziemba and Pugh, both four-year players at Auburn, intersected with those of both Ramsey and Gray.

Ziemba, an All-SEC offensive lineman who started a school-record 54 consecutive games, weighed in with his opinion on Twitter.

“I was recruited by the same folks as the HBO star bums, walked out the same locker room doors as them after games, never a dime,” Ziemba said.

Pugh responded in similar fashion on Twitter.

“We all walked out of the same locker room and had the same coaches, but never had any money given to us,” Pugh said. “It’s a shame what people will say.”

HBO Real Sports reporter Andrea Kremer said Wednesday on Dan Patrick’s syndicated ESPN radio show that the network sought interviews with a lot of different sources, including former head coach Tommy Tuberville, who declined comment.

“We reached out to a number of different coaches, and they declined to speak to us,” Kremer said.

Kremer also said the network was approached by someone who wanted to talk about the recruitment of Cam Newton, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who led the Tigers to this year’s national championship and who has been the subject of a pay for play controversy since October of 2010.

"The day I was getting on the plane they pulled the plug on it,” Kremer said. “HBO does not pay for interviews, and that was one of the issues that came up."

An All-SEC defensive end who played for Auburn from 2003-05, McClover, said he received “money handshakes” from boosters of LSU, Auburn, Ohio State and Michigan State during the recruiting process.

He said he eventually switched his commitment from Ohio State to Auburn after receiving an unspecified amount of money from a booster.

The money was allegedly delivered in a book bag.

“You opened it up, what are you thinking?” Kremer asked, according to a transcript of Wednesday’s HBO special that was published on the website SportsByBrooks.

“I almost passed out,” McClover said. “I literally almost passed out. I couldn’t believe it was true. I felt like I owed them.”

McClover also said he received money after games, including $4,000 after he had a particularly good game against Alabama.

Reddick, an offensive lineman from 2001-04, said he was offered money by an Auburn alum during the recruiting process but did not take it.

Later in his career, he said he was considering leaving the program but was given $500 by a member of the coaching staff to stay, and later received several more payments in similar amounts.

Gray, a defensive lineman who signed with the Tigers in 2008, said he received approximately $3,000 from boosters during his recruitment by Auburn.

An offensive lineman who played for the Tigers in 2007, Ramsey said he was slipped
money from fans after games, usually in amounts of $300 to $400 per game.

“You walk out and all the fans are waiting for you to sign autographs and everything and some random guy just walks up to you and shakes your hand and there’s a wad full of money,” he said.

Ramsey also said he also made anywhere from $5,000 to $6,000 by selling game tickets supplied by the school. Receiving a ticket allotment from the school is approved by the NCAA. Reselling them is not.

Later, Ramsey filed a lawsuit against the school over the school’s diagnosis and treatment of a back injury that ended his career. The lawsuit was dismissed, but an appeal is pending.

“I’m not out to get anybody,” he said. “I want high school athletes to know what they’re getting into. This is what college football is really about. It’s a business.”

The NCAA’s four-year statute of limitations may render moot the allegations of McClover and Reddick, although could be included in an NCAA investigation if the NCAA determines an ongoing pattern of abuse of the rules.

Auburn officials have declined comment but issued the following statement to HBO.

“Auburn athletics respectfully declines comment on these alleged claims apparently made by a few former football players. Compliance with all NCAA and Southeastern conference rules is a major emphasis and top priority for all our athletic programs at Auburn University.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wallen adjusts to closers' role

By Charles Bennett

AUBURN – When Auburn’s coaches approached pitcher Ethan Wallen about being the Tigers’ closer, he jumped at the chance.
“I just wanted the ball,” said Wallen, a junior from Anderson who was a three-sport athlete at Lauderdale County High. “I was all in for it.”
The results thus far seem to indicate that both Wallen and the coaches made a good decision.
Heading into this weekend’s three-game SEC series at Mississippi State, Wallen is 1-2 with four saves in nine relief appearances for the Tigers (14-7, 2-1 SEC) and has the team’s best earned run average at 2.14.


Monday, March 21, 2011

SEC honors McElroy

AUBURN - Auburn shortstop Casey McElroy has been selected as the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week following his 8-for-13, six RBI performance in No. 24 Auburn’s series win over No. 9 Arkansas this past weekend at Plainsman Park.

Riding a career-best 15-game hitting streak and reaching base safely in all 20 games this season, McElroy doubled, hit two home runs and scored five runs over the weekend, helping Auburn win two of three from Arkansas.

McElroy, who leads Auburn with a .422 batting average and 12 extra-base hits (eight doubles, four home runs), homered with two outs in the fifth inning on Friday to give Auburn a 5-4 lead and then homered to lead off the third on Sunday to give Auburn a 3-1 lead. In Sunday’s contest, he matched his career-high with four RBIs, including driving in the first two runs in the four-run eighth that saw Auburn go from down 5-4 to up 8-5.

The junior infielder ranks second in the SEC in hits (35) and home runs, is fourth in batting average, fifth in slugging (.663) and doubles, sixth in runs scored (20) and eighth in on-base percentage (.473) and RBIs (20).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Newton has successful Pro Day

By Charles Bennett
AUBURN – Cam Newton took another step in the process of becoming a pro quarterback, displaying his throwing arm at Auburn Pro Day at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Tuesday in front of representatives of every team, including the head coaches of those holding five of the top six picks in the NFL Draft.

“Today was OK,” said Newton. “I felt comfortable. The biggest thing was for me to come out comfortable. I had a blast interacting with my former teammates and just competing. Today was another day for me to get better. That was all I was trying to do.”



Monday, March 7, 2011

A pro-day addition

Add offensive lineman Byron Isom to the list of Pro Day probables at Auburn.
Pro-Day will be televised live on ESPN3.

Auburn to hold Pro Day

Here's a list of the players who may be participating today in Auburn's Pro Day at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Pro Day is closed to the public.

2011 Draft Eligible Players
Darvin Adams
Mike Berry
Mike Blanc
Jorrell Bostrom
Kodi Burns
Josh Bynes
Wes Byrum
Antoine Carter
Zach Claytong
Zac Etheridge
Nick Fairley
Mario Fannin
Michale Goggans
Cam Newton
Ryan Pugh
Craig Stevens
Demond Washington
Terrell Zachery
Lee Ziemba

2009 Seniors
Gabe Mckenzie
Chris Todd

Gabriel selected SEC Player of the Week

AUBURN - Auburn forward Kenny Gabriel was named SEC Player of the Week after averaging 20.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in both of the Tigers’ double-digit comeback wins over Ole Miss and at LSU the last week of the regular season.

He shot 50 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from 3-point range and 81.3 percent (13-of-16) from the free throw line.

Gabriel notched his first career double-double against an SEC team and third overall with game-highs of 16 points and 11 rebounds at LSU on Saturday. He scored 10 straight points for Auburn to keep the Tigers within striking distance in the first half, trimming a 20-9 deficit to 27-21. He drilled a huge jumper just inside the free throw line with 1:45 remaining in the game to give Auburn a six point lead.

He scored a career-high 24 points on 3-of-5 three-pointers and had seven rebounds as Auburn erased a 20-point deficit to defeat Ole Miss 76-73 on March 2. It was the second largest comeback in school history.

“I am excited for Kenny, and it is a much-deserved honor for him for the way he played this past week,” said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. “What he has to realize is to believe in himself because he has the ability to be that type of player consistently over the course of the season. He hasn’t this year. That has a lot to do with why we struggled because we needed him to play better because he has that ability. I’m excited that he is playing his best down the stretch, and this will be a big offseason for him to put in the work to physically improve his body so he can compete at that kind of level night-in and night-out in this league.

“It seems like with individual awards, they are also indicators of how your team is playing. If we went 0-2 last week, as well as he played, he doesn’t get this award. It is a great indicator of your team’s success as well.”

Gabriel is Auburn's first SEC Player of the Week since Korvotney Barber was selected in the final week of the 2008-09 season.

Gabriel is averaging 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds this season, but in Auburn's last four games, he is averaging both a team-high 15.0 points and 6.5 rebounds.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bryant out for the season

AUBURN – Justin Bryant will have surgery on his throwing arm and
will miss the remainder of the 2011 baseball season, Auburn baseball coach
John Pawlowski announced on Friday.

A right-handed pitcher/utility player, Bryant made three starts in left
field and one as the designated hitter, hitting .182 in 11 at bats with
two RBI and two runs scored. He also made one appearance on the mound,
striking out two in a four-out save.

Dr. James Andrews will perform the surgery on Bryant during the next

Auburn's Alverson honored for community service

BIRMINGHAM - Auburn sophomore Blanche Alverson has been named to the 2011 Southeastern Conference Women's Basketball Community Service Team.

This marks the 13th year for the SEC Community Service Team for women's basketball as well as for men's basketball. All 20 league-sponsored sports have had a Community Service Team since 2004, with at-large teams for men's and women's sports being chosen from 1999-2003. The SEC began this concept with a football Community Service Team in 1994.

Alverson has been involved with several community service projects during her time at Auburn. She has spent time greeting students at Ogletree Elementary School and Drake Middle School and has also worked with the “Wild About Reading Read-A-Thon.” She has volunteered at the East Alabama Medical Center/Opelika Sportsplex Camp Good Grief and helped collect food for the East Alabama Food Bank. She also worked with the children at Storybook Farm, a therapeutic horse farm and volunteered to work the Auburn City Schools Educational Foundation FACES 2nd Annual 5k Run/Walk.

Alverson, an Andalusia native, is second on the team in scoring with 10.5points per game and leads the team in rebounding with 4.6 boards per game. She hit 49 three-pointers this season, a mark that ranks her 10th all-time at Auburn in single-season 3-pointers. She also has 89 for her career, ranking her ninth all-time at Auburn.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Auburn hires defensive line coach

AUBURN — Mike Pelton, a former All-SEC standout at Auburn, has been named defensive line coach at his alma mater, announced head coach Gene Chizik Wednesday.

Pelton worked under Chizik as the defensive line coach at Iowa State from 2007-08.

“I’m very excited and humbled to return to Auburn and be a part of what Coach Chizik and his staff have built during the last two years,” Pelton said. “I look forward to working with a young defensive line and getting them ready to compete next season. Auburn has always had a special place in my heart and it’s been my goal to coach at my alma mater. I can’t wait to return to the Plains and get started.”

As a player at Auburn, Pelton was a standout defensive tackle at Auburn, earning first team All-SEC recognition in 1994. A four-year letterman from 1991-94, Pelton was a co-captain as a senior and helped the Tigers win a school-record 20 consecutive games from 1993-94.

“I was fortunate to have Mike on my previous staff and I have known him for several years,” Chizik said. “He’s a great coach, a tireless worker and an outstanding recruiter who has mentored some very good players, including NFL standouts Demarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora, both who are from Auburn. Mike is very familiar with the state and region, and he knows what it takes to coach and recruit in the Southeastern Conference. We look forward to having a member of the Auburn Family return home and join our staff.”

Pelton, 39, was hired in January as defensive line coach at Louisiana Lafayette after serving as defensive ends coach at Vanderbilt in 2010.

At Iowa State, Pelton's defensive lines were an area of strong improvement during the Chizik era. Pelton mentored a pair of second-team All-Big 12 selections at Iowa State in nose guard Ahtyba Rubin and defensive end Kurtis Taylor. Rubin just finished his second year as a starter for the Cleveland Browns after being selected in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft.

Prior to working under Chizik at Iowa State, Pelton spent six years under Larry Blakeney on the staff at Troy, including the final two years at co-defensive coordinator.

The Troy defense was consistently among the nation's leaders in several categories. In 2002, the Trojans ranked fourth nationally, allowing just 277 total yards per game. In 2004, the Trojans ranked 16th in total defense.

Pelton worked with two of the most prolific defensive linemen in Troy history, in Demarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora. A six-year veteran, Ware is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro linebacker with Dallas. Umenyiora is a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end for the New York Giants.

Prior to going to Troy, Pelton coached the defensive line at Valdosta State (Ga.) University in 2000. The Blazers posted a 10-2 record and made the NCAA Division II playoffs.

Pelton was a fifth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1995 NFL Draft

He graduated from Auburn in 1995 with a degree in Health & Sports Science.

Pelton and his wife, Staci, are the parents of three daughters: Myesa, 14; Tyra, 11; and Peyton, 1.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Auburn's Smalley selected All-SEC

BIRMINGHAM – Auburn senior Alli Smalley was named to the All-Southeastern Conference First Team, the league office announced Tuesday.

The postseason honors were determined by a vote of the league’s head coaches.

“I think it is awesome and a real tribute to Alli, how hard she has worked in this program and to finally be recognized as the great player she is,” said Auburn head coach Nell Fortner. “She is one of those players that is a consummate team player and competitor. I am so proud of her and this honor for her.”

Smalley, a native of Arab, finished the regular season averaging 12.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. She posted 11.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in SEC play. She scored more than 20 points in three games this season, including the last two. She tied her season-high with 22 points in Auburn’s 63-58 win at No. 22 Georgia and then set a new season-high with 24 points in the regular-season finale against Kentucky.

“It is definitely a huge honor because the SEC is such a great conference and there are so many great players in the league,” said Smalley. “It was a goal coming into the season, but not something I thought about a lot. I would trade it for a few more wins, but it is a great honor, nonetheless.”

She currently ranks ninth all-time in career scoring at Auburn with 1,557 career points. She is also the Auburn record-holder for career 3-pointers with 218. Smalley hit a 3-pointer in all but five games this season and hit four on three occasions.

Known mostly as an offensive player, Smalley became a defensive presence this season. She leads Auburn in steals with 48 on the season, ranking 10th in the SEC with 1.7 per game. In SEC-only games, she tallied 28, tying for ninth in the conference with 1.8 per game. She tied her career high three times this season with four steals in a game.

Joining Smalley on the First Team are Tierney Jenkins (Alabama), Porsha Phillips (Georgia), Victoria Dunlap (Kentucky), LaSondra Barrett (LSU), Shekinna Stricklen (Tennessee), Glory Johnson (Tennessee) and Jence Rhoads (Vanderbilt).