AU officials will investigate former players' HBO charges; Chizik calls claims "garbage"

by Tom Ensey, Web news producer

AUBURN, AL – Auburn officials say they have hired attorneys to investigate charges by four former football players that they received thousands of dollars while being recruited and playing for the Tigers. Head football coach Gene Chizik called the claims "pure garbage."

Stanley McClover, Troy Reddick, Chaz Ramsey and Raven Gray made the accusations on Wednesday night's edition of HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble," which focused on inequities in college athletics. Ramsey played at AU most recently, in the 2007 season.

McClover, who was one of the most highly recruited defensive ends in the country after his high school career, said he received so much cash in a bookbag from Auburn that he felt obligated to attend the school. He wasn't sure how much money was in the bag, but it stunned him, he said.

"I almost passed out. I literally almost passed out," he told HBO. "I couldn't believe it was true. I felt like I owed them."

He also claimed  that he received cash during recruiting trips to LSU and Michigan State and sexual favors when he visited Ohio State.

Michigan State spokesman John Lewandowski said "Our compliance office was never alerted to this alleged handshake," and Ohio State spokeswoman Shelley Poe said the school had no comment because "the report is so far back and so many years ago and he's just coming forward with it."

McClover also claimed that was given $7,000 to buy a 1973 Chevy Impala while he was at Auburn, and that he received cash after games in "money handshakes" from boosters, which usually amounted to several hundred dollars. He said he got $4,000 for his four sacks against Alabama in the 2005 Iron Bowl because it's such a big rivalry game.

McClover left Auburn to turn pro in 2005. His NFL career fizzled after a couple of years.

Athletic director Jay Jacobs emphasized that HBO has no proof of any of the claims.

"We are aware that four former football players have made allegations against Auburn," Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs said. "While HBO confirmed to us they have no proof that any of these claims are true, we contacted both the NCAA and Southeastern Conference as soon as these allegations surfaced. We have engaged outside counsel to investigate this matter and will spare no resources to find the truth."

President Jay Gogue said the school will investigate thoroughly.

"As a university president, there are several things you want from the athletics department," said Auburn University President Jay Gogue. "One of them is playing by the rules, and Jay Jacobs and the athletics department are committed to that priority. They will investigate these allegations thoroughly and completely."

Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik, who was the school's defensive coordinator from 2002-2004 during the careers of McClvoer and Reddick, called the accusations "pure garbage." He said he didn't know about the alleged payments while he was an assistant and "I don't have my head in the sand.

He said HBO did not attempt to contact him for comment.

Copyright 2011 WTVM, WSFA 12 News, and the Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.