Gus Malzahn, asked after Saturday’s spring scrimmage if anybody was distracted, answered reporters with one word: “Nobody.”
It’s not hard to believe that Auburn’s football inner circle can blot out external distractions. The Tigers have become quite good at it in recent years.
Google Cam Newton probe, circa 2010.
The Selena Roberts and ESPN.com stories that came out this past week — alleging everything from improper benefits to academic fraud to synthetic marijuana use — almost make spring practice a perfect simulation for an Auburn fall.
It’s not just that this Auburn team has to re-adapt to Malzahn’s fast-paced offense and new coordinator Ellis Johnson’s 4-2-5 defense. It’s not just that Malzahn must progress toward choosing his quarterback.
Malzahn must prepare his first Auburn team as head coach for everything it will face. Negative off-field headlines, usually from national sources, are the new normal for Auburn.
The latest round comes well timed. It’s perfect for spring drilling on how to practice and tune out whatever new gasps might come up this fall.
Or maybe tune out more headlines related to current stories. Or new headlines from older stories.
It all runs together.
There’s no shortage of “sources” lending themselves to the perceptions of current-day Auburn as a dirty program, no matter how unrequited the NCAA leaves such perceptions.
There’s no shortage of former players putting their names to such reports, only to clam up to NCAA investigators or claim they were misquoted. We all remember the “HBO Four” from this time two years ago. Add the “Selena Six” this year.
There always seems to be a shortage of proof, however, and that fact has to help Auburn be so good at tuning out such reports. They never lead to anything worse than an NCAA probe, if that.
So far, NCAA probes have led to NCAA spokespeople making seemingly exasperated statements like, “There’s nothing there.”
There’s an old Peggy Lee song that sums how those within Auburn football’s inner circle must feel about press-born allegations these days: “Is That All There Is?”
“If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing,” Lee sings. “Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.”
Auburn football hasn’t had much of a ball lately. The Tigers are coming off their worst season in 60 years and a coaching transition.
The on-field falloff has been dramatic since those 2010 Tigers blotted out the investigation of Newton’s recruitment all the way to a national title, and Auburn has gotten lots of blotting-out practice since.
Still, it never hurts to practice all facets of one’s game. Lest anyone in blue and orange forget how to forget, the Tigers are getting plenty of practice at it this spring.
According to Malzahn, who was around as Auburn’s offensive coordinator for those scandal-rich years of 2010-11, it seems “nobody” has shown falloff when it comes to forgetting.
Nobody should be shocked.
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.