Gene Chizik

They were known as great defensive coordinators at Texas, but now Will Muschamp and Gene Chizik have both been accused of being involved in a wide-ranging scandal at Auburn.

Chizik, who served as the Longhorns’ defensive coordinator when they won their last national championship in 2005, oversaw an Auburn football program that reportedly bribed players to keep them from declaring for the NFL Draft and changed players’ grades to ensure their eligibility.

Muschamp, a defensive coordinator at Auburn and Texas before taking over as Florida’s head coach two years ago, denied a report by former Sports Illustrated and New York Times reporter Selena Roberts that he was one of many to provide payments to Auburn players.

This latest wake of scandal comes 27 years after the NCAA handed SMU the death penalty for paying players, the beginning of a series of sanctions handed down on programs that offered impermissible benefits a generation ago.  

When former Longhorns offensive lineman and 1989 team MVP Ed Cunningham was a sophomore in high school, a school sent him a pair of custom cowboy boots. He sent them back and eventually signed with the Longhorns. 

“Texas has always been super clean. A lot of it is because they don’t have to do it,” Cunningham said. “SMU couldn’t compete. They had to pay players. Eric Dickerson got caught in the paying process between A&M and SMU and ended up driving to SMU in A&M’s car.”

Seven of the nine teams in the Southwestern Conference were disciplined by the NCAA in the late 1980s, including Texas, which was placed on probation in 1987 for providing benefits to current and prospective football players. Only Rice and Arkansas scraped by cleanly. TCU, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Houston and Baylor, along with SMU, were all sanctioned by the NCAA.

“There was an O-lineman that played at a school in the conference. He had been a Longhorns fan his whole life and wanted to come to Texas,” Cunningham recalled. “But when he went on his recruiting trip to Texas and Texas didn’t offer him anything, he assumed Texas didn’t want him because every other school had offered him something.”

Paying recruits and offering them impermissible benefits became the norm in college football, particularly in the SWC.

Said Cunningham of another player in the conference: “He got drafted and said he’d taken a pay cut. He had cash, a new car every year in college. Then he got to the NFL and he had a car payment and had to pay taxes.”

Only recently has the proliferation of cheating in college athletics rivaled the amount of wrongdoing that took place in the 1980s. Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush at USC, head coach Butch Davis at North Carolina and booster Nevin Shapiro at Miami have headlined prominent college football scandals in the last few years.

“I know in the 80s there were universities that had organized pay schemes. At UT, honestly, it just didn’t happen,” Cunningham said. “Texas is pretty strict. [Men’s athletics director] DeLoss Dodds isn’t going to risk his job on organized payments. Texas isn’t motivated to cheat.”

The Longhorns may not be, but the fervor at other schools to cheat seems to be rivaled only by that of the fervor schools had to break the rules in the 1980s.

Robert Griffin is a one-of-a-kind athlete, and the Baylor Bears are doing everything they can to spread the word. Among the pamphlets and guides made available to the press at the Big 12 Media Days sat a stack of notepads with Griffin’s face emblazoned on the front. On the reverse side, quotes from the nation’s top college coaches and leading analysts praised Griffin’s ability.

“Absolutely amazing,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown.

“Extremely gifted,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik wrote.

And the catchiest of them all — “The Baylor Blur,” from the Winston-Salem Journal.

He’s even got his own website, created by the Bears athletic program. The site, BU-RG3.com, is still under construction, but all signs point to the site being dedicated to his Heisman campaign.

The praise is justified. Griffin holds the Big 12 career record for lowest interception percentage, at 1.4 percent. He also helped Baylor go to their first bowl game since 1994, and he’s not stopping there. Early Heisman watches have Griffin among the candidates for the 2011 season. However, Griffin isn’t buying into the talk just yet.

“I’ve always said that the Heisman is a team award,” Griffin said. “If the team is doing well and everyone is playing together, that’s when you can start talking about it.”

Humbling words coming from a player that many around the league have accused of “trash-talking” on the field. Bears head coach Art Briles sees Griffin’s behavior on the field in a different light.

“Robert is a confident athlete with reality to back up what he’s saying on the field,” Briles said.

If anyone knows Griffin as a player, it’s Briles. While the head coach at Houston in 2007, Briles recruited Griffin to come play for the Cougars. Griffin initially committed to Houston, but after Briles landed the head coaching job at Baylor, Griffin made the switch as well.

From that point on, the face of Baylor football changed. Griffin immediately became the centerpiece of the entire Baylor athletic program. He was the crowning achievement for a school that has had trouble bringing in top talent from around the state. In came the 6-foot-3-inch, 215 pound Griffin, and he brought more than speed and a high football IQ to the program. The signing of Griffin opened the door for other blue-chip players to come to Waco as well.

Griffin’s first year with the Bears was more than the team could have asked for. He started 11 of 12 games, recorded 13 of 23 passes for 241 yards in an upset win over Texas A&M and also won the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award. His quick start with the team couldn’t stop the Bears from going 4-8 in 2008, and three games into the 2009 season, things came to a crashing halt when Griffin tore his ACL. He sat out the remainder of the season and was granted a medical redshirt since he had not played for more than 30 percent of the season. Griffin was able to make it back on the field in 2010 but even Briles admits he wasn’t at full strength then.

“We saw a little hesitation last year,” Briles said.

The arrival of Griffin has revived a fledgling football program in Baylor, and in 2010 he and the Bears made a full recovery.

Their appearance in the Texas Bowl served as a reminder that one player can indeed turn an entire program around. The Bears lost to Illinois 38-14, however, it is that loss that served as fuel for offseason preparation. Griffin made it clear that simply making it to a bowl game isn’t going to cut it this season.

“We’re not just content with sitting at the table — we want dessert,” Griffin said. 

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III jokes around during NCAA college football Big 12 Media Days. Though he battled injuries, Griffin has taken the Bear’s football program from obscurity to a potential conference powerhouse in a short amount of time.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Robert Griffin is a one-of-a-kind athlete and the Baylor Bears are doing everything they can to spread the word. Among the pamphlets and guides made available to the press at the Big 12 Media Days sat a stack of notepads with Griffin’s face emblazoned on the front. On the reverse side were quotes from the nation’s top college coaches and leading analysts praising Griffin’s ability.

“Absolutely amazing,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown.

“Extremely gifted,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik wrote.

And the catchiest of them all — “The Baylor Blur,” from the Winston-Salem Journal.

He’s even got his own website, created by the Bears athletic program. The site, BU-RG3.com, is still under construction, but all signs point to the site being dedicated to his Heisman campaign.

The praise is justified. Griffin holds the Big 12 career record for lowest interception percentage, at 1.4. He also helped Baylor to their first bowl game since 1994, and he’s not stopping there. Early Heisman watches have Griffin among the candidates for the 2011 season. However, Griffin isn’t buying into the talk just yet.

“I’ve always said that the Heisman is a team award,” Griffin said. “If the team is doing well and everyone is playing together that’s when you can start talking about it.”

Humbling words coming from a player that many around the league have accused of “trash-talking” on the field. Bears head coach Art Briles sees Griffin’s behavior on the field in a different light.

“Robert is a confident athlete with reality to back up what he’s saying on the field,” Briles said.

If anyone knows Griffin as a player, it’s Briles. While the head coach at Houston in 2007, Briles recruited Griffin to come play for the Cougars. Griffin initially committed to Houston, but after Briles landed the head coaching job at Baylor, Griffin made the switch as well.

From that point on, the face of Baylor football was changed. Griffin immediately became the centerpiece of the entire Baylor athletic program. He was the crowning achievement for a school that has had trouble bringing in top talent from around the state. In came the 6-foot-3-inch, 215 pound Griffin, and he brought more than speed and a high football IQ to the program. The signing of Griffin opened the door for other blue chip players to come to Waco as well.

Griffin’s first year with the Bears was more than the team could have ever asked for. He started 11 of 12 games, recorded 13 of 23 passes for 241 yards in an upset win over Texas A&M and also won the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award. His quick start with the team couldn’t stop the Bears from going 4-8 in 2008, and three games into the 2009 season, things came to a crashing halt when Griffin tore his ACL. He sat out the remainder of the season and was granted a medical redshirt since he had not played for more than 30 percent of the season. Griffin was able to make it back on the field in 2010 but even Briles admits he wasn’t at full strength then.

“We saw a little hesitation last year,” Briles said.

The arrival of Griffin has revived a fledgling football program in Baylor, and in 2010 he and the Bears had made a full recovery. Their appearance in the Texas Bowl served as a reminder that one player can indeed turn an entire program around. The Bears did lose to Illinois 38-14, however, it is that loss that has served as fuel for offseason preparation. Griffin made it clear that simply making it to a bowl game isn’t going to cut it this season.

“We’re not just content with sitting at the table, we want dessert,” Griffin said.

Printed on Thursday, July 28, 2011 as: Baylor star poised to make Bears conference contenders, ‘Absolutely amazing’ Griffin placed on award watch lists by national media, coaches