Mike McNeil, the central figure in Selena Roberts's much-bruited story about the University of Auburn football program, has pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery. He will serve at least three years in prison, nothing like the 21-years-to-life sentence he'd faced on the original charges. That brings to a close the most—maybe the only—important part of Roberts's story, which is looking more and more like a giant nothinburger with every passing day.
As mentioned last week, the big problem with Roberts's story is that it wants to be two stories at once. On the one hand, it wants to be a story about an embattled and possibly falsely accused college football player struggling against a hostile criminal justice system. On the other hand, it wants to be a salacious, scandal-driven story about academic fraud and pay-for-play schemes. It succeeds at being neither, and what it has created in its wake is a shitstorm of denials and general confusion—all in regards to the scandal-mongering portions of Roberts's story.
The flaws in the investigation arise out of Roberts's inability to make any distinctions between real outrages (was Mike McNeil railroaded?), lesser outrages (academic fraud in service of football glory), and picayune, pettifogging NCAA horseshit (McNeil getting $400 under the table, courtesy Will Muschamp, which is interesting only inasmuch as it seems far below the going black-market rate). Opportunistic college-scandal-beat reporters, like some of the ones at Yahoo, know that it's the third category that ensures anyone will pay attention. After all, the first headline on ESPN.com about Roberts's story was "Report: Auburn bribed players." The gross thing is that I suspect that's exactly the headline Roberts was looking for, and that the brief story of Mike McNeil's post-football struggles was just a means to that end.