Auburn President Steven Leath said Thursday he is completely focused on the charges of misconduct against suspended associate head coach Chuck Person.
The University has hired the high-powered Birmingham law firm Lightfoot, Franklin & White to conduct an internal review of the basketball program after federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that Person, a former Auburn star and NBA player, had been charged in an alleged bribery scheme.
"This is a serious allegation, obviously," Leath said in an interview with The Plainsman. "The FBI is involved. We're talking about felony-level crimes. There needs to be a thorough investigation."
When asked whether he would give a vote of confidence to athletic director Jay Jacobs, who has come under fire this year for the series of scandals that have occurred under his watch, Leath said he was focused on the serious misconduct charges against the basketball program.
"I don't have the time or the bandwidth right now to speculate on what might happen in the future," Leath said. "I'm running the university, making sure the students are successful and dealing with these serious misconduct charges."
Lightfoot, Franklin & White has been a longtime go-to firm for the University and the athletics program. The University earlier this month chose the same firm to conduct an internal investigation into the women's softball program after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.
"One: We need to make sure that we have people capable of doing it, and we thought these people are best capable of doing it more so than our internal personnel," Leath said. "Two: We needed to make sure that everybody is comfortable with the result and that this is an independent investigation by an outside party. So we were able to achieve both goals by hiring Lightfoot Franklin."
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Since October 2009, Auburn has paid Lightfoot, Franklin & White more than $2.3 million — mostly in legal expenses related to the athletics department, according to University public records.
Leath is in his first year as Auburn's 19th president, having come on board in June after the retirement of former President Jay Gogue.
Q: The University has hired a third-party legal counsel to investigate. Can you explain the reasoning behind that?
SL: This is a serious allegation, obviously. The FBI is involved. We're talking about felony-level crimes. There needs to be a thorough investigation. One, we need to make sure that we have people capable of doing it, and we thought these people are best capable of doing it more so than our internal personnel. Two, we needed to make sure that everybody is comfortable with the result and that this is an independent investigation by an outside party. So we were able to achieve both goals by hiring Lightfoot Franklin.
Q: The University has had a relationship with them for a long time. Do you believe they can be neutral in this?
SL: I haven't had a
Q: There has been a lot that has come out in the last couple of months. You just got here. Are you still confident in the athletics department? Are you still confident in Jay Jacobs?
SL: Well, right now, let's put this in perspective. I'm supposed to be running the entire university. Athletics is just one component of it. And in a
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