AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn coach Gene Chizik declined to comment on reports that the NCAA is investigating alleged improprieties involving the football program.
“I’m not going to comment on speculation,” Chizik said Wednesday. “It won’t be a distraction to me. I’m just focused on the Iron Bowl.”
The Birmingham News reported Wednesday that NCAA investigators have interviewed at least one assistant coach and several players this week as the Tigers prepare for their season finale Saturday against No. 2 Alabama.
The newspaper, citing an unidentified source, reported the investigation included but is not limited to the signing of running back Jovon Robinson, who was ruled ineligible amid allegations of academic improprieties. The report said Auburn has not received an official letter of inquiry from the NCAA.
Yahoo! Sports also reported Wednesday that the NCAA has been investigating potential wrongdoing involving Auburn recruits, players, coaches and others. That report says assistants Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper haven’t been allowed to recruit for several weeks.
The Yahoo report said the NCAA has investigated whether Wooddale physical education teacher Rhonda Wilkinson provided impermissible benefits to Robinson during his recruitment, including transportation to Auburn at least once. Wilkinson, an Auburn graduate, declined comment for that story.
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said Wednesday that the governing body does not comment on current, pending or potential investigations. Auburn spokesman Kirk Sampson said the school had no comment on the reports.
Chizik has already been under fire during Auburn’s 3-8 season.
University President Jay Gogue has said he’ll evaluate the program after the season, which ends on Saturday.
In October, Chizik refused to discuss whether any coaches had been pulled off the recruiting trail.
“I don’t have time for all of that,” he said at the time.
He also has repeatedly declined to address questions about whether he might be fired after the season. Chizik led the Tigers to the 2010 national championship, and the NCAA later said it had found no wrongdoing in an investigation into the recruitment of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton.
Chizik parlayed that championship - Auburn’s first since 1957 - into a contract worth about $3.6 million annually. He would be owed a $7.5 million buyout if he is fired on or after Dec. 1. He would be paid in monthly installments of about $208,000.
His new contract in June 2011 stipulated that he agrees to comply with Southeastern Conference and NCAA rules and disciplinary procedures. His previous deal would have allowed Auburn to suspend Chizik’s salary if the program came under investigating by the university, the SEC or the NCAA for “alleged major rules violations or significant or repetitive violations.”