Muschamp ‘totally denies’ illicit payment claim in Auburn report

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The fallout from yesterday’s explosive report on the Auburn football program continues today, with a former AU assistant and current SEC head coach very stridently denying claims of improper conduct leveled against him.

In the report from Selena Roberts of roopstigo.com, former Auburn defensive back Mike McNeil, amongst myriad other claims, alleged that in 2007 then-Tigers defensive coordinator Will Muschamp had given him $400 in cash following a particularly rough day at practice.  From Roberts’ report:

McNeil recalls having a difficult day at practice in 2007 and then-defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, calling him into his office. “I had no clue what it was about because I’d never directly asked him for anything,” says McNeil. “He slid about $400 over to me. He went into a drawer and gave me money and said, ‘Is this enough? Is this good?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’”

Muschamp, now the head coach at Florida, denied the allegation shortly after the story broke through a UF spokesperson.  Thursday, Muschamp, who left AU for Texas following the 2007 season, met the claims head-on with a brief statement to the Gainesville Sun.

Totally deny it,” Muschamp told the Sun‘s Robbie Andreu. “I don’t know where this is coming from.”

In a cryptic tweet, Pat Dooley of the Sun stated that he too had spoken to Muschamp today and that the coach “[h]as an idea why it was made.”  What the reason was is unclear.

Two other ex-players quoted in the article that briefly mentions Muschamp, defensive end Mike Blanc and defensive back Neiko Thorpe, have very publicly backed off quotes attributed to them, with the former claiming “this article is outrageous and isn’t true” and the latter alleging he was “misquoted… my words are very out of context.”

McNeil is awaiting trial this month on an armed robbery charge that led to his dismissal from AU two years ago.  McNeil has claimed he’s innocent of the charge, although he faces 21 years to life if convicted.

Neither AU nor the NCAA have publicly addressed the latest round of allegations that have dogged the Tigers’ football program since — and even before — winning the BCS championship in following the 2010 season.  It’s unclear if, as was the case when former AU players appeared on an HBO show alleging misconduct within the football program, the NCAA will talk to the players quoted in a report involving allegations of academic fraud, impermissible benefits and illicit recruiting tactics.