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The news this morning could be better, yes

Not exactly the way you want to kick off your campaign for the starting QB job, Tyrik.
Not exactly the way you want to kick off your campaign for the starting QB job, Tyrik.

Two pieces of less-than-thrilling news this morning for Auburn fans:

One. The battle to be Auburn’s starting quarterback in 2010 has seen its first shot fired … by Tyrik Rollison, into his foot*:

Auburn freshman quarterback Tyrik Rollison, who is being redshirted this season, has been suspended for violation of team rules, announced head coach Gene Chizik in a press release Thursday.

The length of the suspension will, presumably, be taken day-by-day and be lifted when Rollison has done the things he needs to do to be an Auburn Man … or something along those lines, no doubt.

Auburn’s got 15 practices between now and the bowl game; if you’ll remember, it took Chris Todd barely more than half of that to claim the starting job away from Burns and Caudle last fall. So if Rollison misses all 15 of those while Caudle continues to sharpen up, well, the road back into contention is going to be long and winding (assuming Rollison does eventually come back to the fold at all). With all the things that were already in his favor–5th-year senior, big arm, adequate mobility, promising showings in the second half of the year–you had to peg Caudle as the early front-runner. Now? It’s not even worth debating. Far, far from a done deal, certainly, but the odds are now firmly in Caudle’s favor … aren’t they?

As for Rollison, the Eric Smith saga has shown that it’s plenty possible to work your way back into the Chiznick’s good graces after suspension … but you could also nearly fill out a starting 11 of players who Chizik’s given the boot, who’ll also tell you how possible it is to never see the light of day again. This is bad, bad news for him.

(And while I really don’t want to start a bunch of aimless speculating over Rollison’s character or off-field activities, I do think it begs the question: we assumed the grades issue was the reason Auburn had to beat out only the likes of Kansas St. and Baylor for his services. Was there more to it than that? This makes you wonder.)

Two. We all knew from the moment reports from Big Cat Weekend started trickling out that Auburn would wind up reporting some secondary violations, and we found out this morning precisely what those were and what punishments Auburn served for them. For the long-form version and the documents themselves, check out Woodbery, while Tate has the “what you need to know” slant. (It’s worth clicking over to Tate just for his pitch-perfect post title.)

To tidy it up even further, the punishments essentially amounted to:

1. Trooper had some restrictions placed on his recruiting

2. Auburn had some restrictions placed on their recruiting of the players involved.

Taylor’s limitations might have hurt Auburn in ways we can’t quite quantify, but as for No. 2 there, let’s look at each of those six players and see how badly this hurt the Tiger’s efforts:

Jessel Curry: Committed to Auburn that weekend and as been steadfastly committed ever since

Khairi Fortt: LB Was a Penn St. lean even before he came to Big Cat and eventually committed to the Lions; always a long shot for Auburn and plays a position Auburn’s filled nicely

Trovon Reed: Committed to Auburn last month

Eric Mack: Committed to Carolina during season but has wavered and at the very least continues to seriously consider Auburn

Lache Seastrunk: Auburn universally considered one of three finalists along with USC and LSU for one of country’s top prospects

Marcus Lattimore: Replace “USC and LSU” with “South Carolina and a couple other teams” and it’s the same story as with Seastrunk.

So, how much has Auburn actually suffered for their Big Cat transgressions? Not that much. That part of the story, at least, seems like it’s a bit overplayed.

What’s not is that Auburn’s coaches had to know that little impromptu pep rally was against NCAA rules and six of them (six!) still showed up and played along. If the staff thought that it wouldn’t make any waves, that the punishments would be negligible, that they could flaunt the rules just a tiny bit and that the ends would justify the means just this once … well, I still wouldn’t be happy with it. But I’d deal. (For the record: I think Slive was fully justified in ramping up the sanctions this go-round. The way Auburn publicly thumbed its nose at the rule book, he had to come down harder than he normally would for secondary stuff.)

If something like this happens again, though, I’m going to be seriously disappointed. Silly rules or not, “secondary” violations or not, manageable punishments or not, rules are rules. And Auburn should play by them. You don’t have to know a whole lot about our program’s history to know how much Auburn has suffered for adopting a laissez-faire attitude towards NCAA compliance, and even if this doesn’t seem like such a big deal this time, the attitude shown towards the NCAA rulebook at Big Cat is already on the troubling side. I strongly suspect we’ve already seen the first and last “Big Cat Weekend,” but any more examples like this in the future will go far past “troubling.”

*Not literally.

Photo via al.com.

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