Well the Iron Bowl is over for the year. Auburn won. Alabama lost. In dramatic fashion, too. Make no mistake about it – Auburn played a heckuva second half of football. They should’ve won the game from that half alone. Cam Newton is a great football player. He is the best football player this season. He should win the Heisman Trophy this year. If Auburn beats South Carolina and plays for the National Championship, they have the best chance to beat Oregon, assuming Oregon gets there too.
Now that the important stuff is out of the way…
Today the NCAA reinstated Cam Newton after a one day ineligible period. This stemmed from a violation of amateurism that was a result of Cam’s father, Cecil, soliciting funds in return for Cam’s signature on a letter of intent to Mississippi. This is established fact. Cecil Newton has admitted, both to “sources” and now to the NCAA, that he solicited money for the signature of his son. Auburn suspended him for one day (yesterday), and the NCAA reinstated him today. Here is a part of the statement : ““According to facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff, the student-athlete’s father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton’s commitment to attend college and play football. NCAA rules (Bylaw 12.3.3) do not allow individuals or entities to represent a prospective student-athlete for compensation to a school for an athletic scholarship.” The NCAA also said: “In determining how a violation impacts a student-athlete’s eligibility, we must consider the young person’s responsibility. Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement. From a student-athlete reinstatement perspective, Auburn University met its obligation under NCAA bylaw 14.11.1. Under this threshold, the student-athlete has not participated while ineligible.”
This is good news for Auburn and good news for Cam Newton. Barring any new information that is so damning that the SEC and the NCAA must act, Cam Newton will play for Auburn on Saturday in the championship game.
However, this is, unfortunately for not over for Auburn. Here is the full statement that the NCAA released today in regards to his eligibility. There is language galore in the statement, as you would expect with any sort of legal document. This language is for multiple reasons, one being the ability to go back and change your mind at a later date. While it looks good on the Auburn front, the NCAA always lurks in the background, and once they start sniffing and digging, rarely do they not turn up anything.
There are a lot of questions that are raised by the “answer” that was given today. This is all predicated on the established facts that Cecil Newton did in fact solicit money for Cam’s signature, as indicated in the NCAA statement.
1. Why did the NCAA decide not to punish Newton? The most obvious explanation is their statement that Cam Newton nor Auburn had any knowledge of the activity of his father. But they obviously include the clause about a family member for a reason. They didn’t just make this up one day. It’s been there for a long time.
2. Why did players like AJ Green ($1000 issue), Marcell Dareus ($600-ish issue), Renardo Sidney, Enes Kanter and other players have to sit for their seemingly small issue while Newton a) does not sit and b) is not ruled ineligible? Once again, the most obvious explanation is that he knew nothing of his dad’s actions, and that no money actually exchanged hands. But this begins a very dangerous road that one can only hope the NCAA puts an end to by changing the rule. You can’t just have people being able to solicit money for their child’s services, knowing there won’t be any conferences. Who’s to stop a family from asking for money, taking it, abut then going to another school and not telling the new school they asked for and got money from the old school. What’s the old school going to say to the NCAA – “We paid for a player but he didn;t come to our school?” Heck no, they’d be committing suicide by saying something.
3. How can the SEC not abide by it’s own bylaw? According to an SEC bylaws, Section 14.01.3.2 , “If at any time before or after matriculation in a member institution a student-athlete or any member of his/her family receives or agrees to receive, directly or indirectly, any aid or assistance beyond or in addition to that permitted by the Bylaws of this Conference (except such aid or assistance as such student-athlete may receive from those persons on whom the student is naturally or legally dependent for support), such student- athlete shall be ineligible for competition in any intercollegiate sport within the Conference for the remainder of his/her college career.”
4. How can the NCAA not abide by its own bylaws, which, according to NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn, “the solicitation of cash or benefits by a prospective student-athlete or another individual on his or her behalf is not allowed under NCAA rules.”
5. Is this investigation over? I doubt it, and here’s why. The NCAA never works this quickly. It took a year or more (?) for the NCAA to look into textbook-gate at Alabama (I hate using the suffix -gate to describe scandals, but everybody recognizes it, so what the heck…)
My biggest question is this – How did the NCAA suspend its own rule over something that, by rule, makes a player ineligible. Why did the SEC do the same thing, with even stronger wording. Go back and read the rule and tell me how Cam Newton can be ruled anything BUT ineligible. You can argue, legitimately I might add, that the rule is bad. I don’t think that a player’s (and by extension a school and a conference) season and career ought to be hijacked by a rogue family member, especially one with an axe to grind. But Cam Newton’s father is anything but a rogue family member. First, he’s his father, only one degree of separation between he and his son. Two, he is close to his father. It’s not like his parents divorced shortly after his birth and he never talks to him. Three, and most important, he told people that he would be putting his father in charge of his decision on where to go to college after leaving junior college. When you, the athlete, put your dad in charge, you accept responsibility for his actions.
The SEC Commissioner must answer some very serious questions about this rule and his overlooking of its violation if he is to maintain any credibility. It’s not like the SEC rule allows any variance. The rule states that the player is ineligible, and what’s more, cannot participate in that sport at that school, or in ANY sport at ANY SEC school for the rest of their college career. That is not my interpretation of the rule. That is the rule.
There are some pretty substantial questions that will be asked in the next few days and, if Auburn wins on Saturday, in the next few weeks leading up to the BCS Championship.
Which all leads to the title of this montage – Why is Mike Slive going to be cheering for South Carolina on Saturday? First and foremost, a Carolina win guarantees the SEC two teams in the ridiculously ludicrous BCS games. It’s a no-brainer from a money perspective, although you would not have exposure in the championship game, something Slive has enjoyed for the past four years. Secondly, an Auburn loss would quiet A LOT of the Cam Newton chatter. It would get Auburn off the front page of ESPN (bad for good publicity, good for bad publicity), Sports Illustrated, and all of the other sites that people go to for their information. It wouldn’t make it go away, but it would make it hide for awhile. Again, while the SEC rakes in BCS bowl game money times two.
Make no mistake about it, I want the whole thing to go away too. Eligible or Ineligible, 180K or 0, I want it over with. Why would an Alabama fan want this to go away, even if it means that Auburn gets to keep all of their wins? Well, first, Alabama already lost the iron Bowl. It might make me feel a little better if Auburn forfeited the win later, but not as good as if Alabama would’ve beaten Auburn with their best player on the field. No, I want this to go away because this is a black eye – yet another one – to the SEC. The SEC is the most dominant conference in college sports. It doesn’t make quite as much currently as other conferences, but that is simply a matter of timing, in that two other conferences just re-upped their deals with TV. The SEC is the power player in major college sports. Which is why, even though I am an ardent Alabama fan and that I want Auburn to stay down like they were the last couple of years, I don’t want the SEC to suffer. As I have said on Facebook and other places, I want Auburn to be put on probation, but not from a player’s father, who is a minister, soliciting money. That makes it bad. That makes it the worst for me. Shame on you, Cecil Newton.
And lastly, all of us have secrets. All of us have things that we would want to shrivel up and die from embarrassment if it were to be made public. I have plenty of things I’m not proud of, including this uncanny knack to argue with people. (What can I say? It’s a gift :) If there is no respite from real life, where we can go and have fun with football and have fun talking trash about each other’s teams, yet never wavering in friendship with each other, then I don’t want to be a part of that life. I have many Auburn friends – my own sister has gone to the dark side – and I live in a town that hates me as much as they hate Florida fans. At the end of the day, I am a Christ-follower first, a husband second, and WAY on down the line, an Alabama fan. So have fun with football, just like I do. Don’t get uptight when someone says something about your team. Keep in mind that you’ve probably said something about their team too.
I will most likely not comment on anything said, but I do want for you to comment if you want to. I will only delete your comment if it is grossly rude or inappropriate. But I welcome your comments and thoughts on the matter, especially alternative theories as to what is going on.