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Don't Believe the Talk; Auburn's Football Program Remains Solid

When news broke Friday of the arrest of four Auburn players for armed robbery, I thought back to a comment ESPN's Colin Cowherd made a few years ago regarding successful college football programs.

"Show me a super successful college football program and I'll show you one that's had trouble with the law," said Cowherd. He made the comment following a rash of arrests at top programs, including Alabama. In light of the incident here at Auburn, you have to wonder if he was on to something.

Despite a flood of negative stories about the Auburn program since Friday, the roof is not caving in on the reigning national champions. The talk of this incident putting a stain on Auburn's title season and questions about how Gene Chizik runs his program is an example of sensationalism at its best.

Four kids who on the sum, played a minuscule role in Auburn's magical season, made a horrible judgment call. To enter a home with a firearm and commit an act of theft suggest these individuals have much deeper issues than any coaching staff is equipped to handle.

Does it give the football program a black eye? Of course, it does. It was perhaps the single worst off-campus incident in the program's history. Does it reflect on the entire team? These things always do.

But that doesn't mean Auburn suddenly has a character problem on its football team. The ones with the problems are sitting in the Lee County jail today.

At its core, football is a violent game. That goes without saying. There are few valedictorians starting at inside linebacker in the SEC. Former coach Tommy Tuberville always liked to say he recruited character as much as talent. I never fell for that line.

Unless they were arrested in high school, you never know what you've got until they arrive on campus. That goes for both talent and character. The cold hard truth is these kids come from homes that are less than ideal. Many live in conditions most of us could hardly imagine.

Does that somehow excuse armed robbery? No way. But it's ridiculous to suggest as many have, that Auburn coaches somehow don't run a tight ship.

On a Thursday night in March, I just don't know what Trooper Taylor could have done to stop Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens from making fools of themselves at a trailer park off Wire Road.

It's amusing to watch some in the media find a way to tie this incident to the Cam Newton controversy. They do their best to bundle it up and present Auburn as this kind of rogue program.

If it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable.

In his column yesterday, Birmingham News writer Kevin Scarbinsky cited Auburn's program as having "a serious image problem." Despite the context of the story, he does make some valid points.

"(The) court of public opinion, which already had thrown the book at Auburn based on unrelated incidents and unsubstantiated allegations, now has the strongest evidence yet to charge Chizik with running a rogue program," writes Scarbinsky.

While untrue, that's the storyline many will run with in the national media. How many times do Auburn officials have to point out that at the center of the Newton controversy is Mississippi State and Cecil Newton? Last I checked, neither were part of the Auburn football program.

Where does the story go from here?

For the four players implicated, their lives are shattered. It's a terrible tragedy on so many levels.

For the Auburn football program, it means more of the same. The school will continue to take incoming hits from news outlets across the country. Any day now, Thayer Evans will deliver another scathing attack on Auburn.

We all know the drill by now.

At the end of the day, who really cares? Auburn people have something that no one will ever take away. Try as they might, no one will take away that afternoon last season at Jordan-Hare Stadium when LSU visited.

As vindictive as they may be, they'll never take away that cool fall day in mid-November when Georgia came calling and limped out an 18-point loser.

And most importantly, we'll always have that magical afternoon in Tuscaloosa and that championship night in Glendale.

Let'em all talk. I just checked again and Auburn's still national champions.