The headlining news from Auburn’s Victim Impact Statement was its internal belief that it will receive a formal Notice of Allegations from the NCAA< and possibly further sanctions.
However, the entire five-page letter that the university filed to Manhattan federal court last week provided the most transparent look that anyone has given about how the university feels about the ongoing legal saga with former player/assistant coach Chuck Person that began in September 2017. Person avoided prison time on Wednesday, and will serve 200 hours of community service.
If you want to read the entire letter Auburn University wrote, click here. This post will break down the key claims that Auburn made in the letter, and we’ll provide additional context and analysis.
1. The “misconduct was driven by and largely isolated to Person.”
This is basically the backbone of the entire letter. Auburn is trying to separate itself completely and totally from Person’s actions. Person has basically confirmed this, stating in his own letter to the court that he was driven by his own financial hardships.
Auburn hired Lightfoot, Franklin and White, a Birmingham law firm in 2017 to conduct an external review of their basketball program. This letter basically confirms that these investigations took place at “extraordinary” cost in both man hours and money.
Person did attend court in an Auburn-colored tie, and did reportedly say he wants to be taken back by the school that he attended and coached at for several years. However, Auburn has continually tried to distance itself from the man that has single-handedly created more stress for the school than anyone else over the last two years.
The interesting aspect with all of that is Person’s jersey still hangs in the Auburn Arena rafter. A university spokesman hasn’t responded to AL.com’s inquisition about if that will be removed in light of the comments made in the statement.
2. “Press coverage of the matter has been unequivocally negative”
Auburn is basically claiming reputational damage was done. However, the document possibly exaggerates the level of press coverage that the actual team has had to endure.
“Since Person’s arrest, it is difficult to find mainstream mention of the institution, no matter how generally positive, without some reference to Person’s criminal activity,” the document read. “That is certainly the case with athletics, which Auburn considers the proverbial “front door” to the University. That department and its men’s basketball team have been inundated with ongoing, negative media coverage since September 2017. Coaches and student-athletes find press conferences and interviews consistently raising questions about Person, any ongoing investigations, and potential NCAA sanctions.”
It’s, of course, tough to quantify this as fact or false. But throughout the most recent season, head coach Bruce Pearl and the players were almost never asked about this topic by the local or national press. To say that they’ve been “inundated” with questions about Person during the 2018-19 season wouldn’t be accurate.
“Person’s actions have immeasurably damaged Auburn’s national reputation based on it being attached – fairly or unfairly – to Person’s criminal spectacle,” the statement read.
3. “As a result of Person’s misconduct, Auburn expects to receive a formal Notice of Allegations from the NCAA in the coming months”
This was the headliner from the letter. As far as we know, Auburn hasn’t yet received a Notice of Allegations, which would detail NCAA infractions that could lead to further NCAA penalties. It’s possible this line was written in the statement to further the point that Person harmed the school. However, it’s more likely that Auburn is one of the several schools that is expected to get served with the Notice this summer.
North Carolina State and former head coach Mark Gottfried have already gotten their Notice of Allegations. And it’s important to note that Gottfried was basically cited for not knowing what was going on within his program. That means there’s a scenario in which the NCAA looks to punish Pearl even if they don’t believe there was a direct involvement.
The NCAA has already suspended Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy for a full season, as a result of this saga. So whatever further punishment would likely take into account that AU has already paid a price.
4. “Auburn believes that Person targeted Purifoy based, in part, on the adoration Purifoy had for him.”
One thing we learned in this letter, that hadn’t previously been reported, was that Person directly paid Purifoy $1,250 and Wiley $800. So the school acknowledges there was at least some direct knowledge on the part of the student-athletes to the crimes/infractions that Person was committing.
The school paints these actions as a betrayal of trust. The letter even quotes Purifoy as saying that Person financially forced himself on Purifoy, and told him that accepting money “is what NBA players do.”
Interestingly, the letter also states that the NCAA tried to attach all $91,500 to both Purifoy and Wiley. The players said the conduct started in December 2016, and that it didn’t occur before that, or during the recruitment process.
5. “Auburn understands that Person has plead guilty and intends to acknowledge his victimization of Auburn and the two student-athletes entrusted to his care. While that is a significant step, that individual admission does little to repair the harm to Auburn and those students, alumni, and fans who support it.”
The contrast between how the federal government accepted a statement like this, and how the NCAA appears they won’t is interesting. No college coaches arrested in this scandal have served time, and the courts have accepted the narrative that they were rogue actors operating outside the scope of the schools.
But the NCAA seems to be more inclined to find blame with the school. And that appears to be the situation that Auburn finds itself in.