One of the things I say about being a sports fan is that it is one area of human endeavor in which just when you think you have seen it all, something else comes along that completely surprises you. In this case, it is the lightning fast determination that Cam Newton is indeed eligible to play in both the SEC Conference championship game and the BCS title game should Auburn beat South Carolina next Saturday. NCAA investigations typically take forever, primarily due to the rather small enforcement staff and the lack of subpoena power. The Reggie Bush investigation took 4 years. The North Carolina investigation is still ongoing. As far as we know, any investigation the NCAA did on the Cam Newton situation took less than a year. That's unheard of.
And boy did they have to go through a circuitous route to get there. According to ESPN, here is what went down: On Monday the NCAA notified Auburn that a violation of Newton's amateur status had occurred, namely the solicitation of money from Mississippi State by an individual allegedly acting on behalf of Cecil Newton, Cam's father, as a condition of Cam's suiting up for the Bulldogs. Auburn then declared Cam ineligible and applied for reinstatement. Which the NCAA granted.
According to the statement issued by the NCAA, "Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone at Auburn was aware of this activity (on the part of the father) which led to his reinstatement (emphasis supplied)."
"The conduct of Cam Newton's father and the involved individual is unacceptable and has no place in the SEC or in intercollegiate athletics," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said today. " The actions taken by Auburn University and Mississippi State University make it clear that this behavior will not be tolerated in the SEC."
Obviously, I see the hands of the lawyers involved in this, being one myself. And, as I like to say at times like these is this: All we know is what we know.
And all we know is this. Cecil Newton tried to shake Mississippi State down and Mississippi State refused to pay. And we may infer that nobody at Auburn University was aware of the prior dealings with Mississippi State and that nobody employed by it was solicited or paid Cecil Newton based on the information the NCAA knows at this time. But did Cecil Newton approach one of Auburn's boosters? That we don't know.
I mean, come on. If Rev. Newton is willing to pimp his child out to one school is it believable that he didn't approach others? It's not like Auburn doesn't have a record in this area. Or Alabama either for that matter.
Secondly, how could Cam Newton not know about this? I mean, I suppose it is theoretically possible. But it is not very likely. And in any event, the NCAA obviously feels it doesn't have enough proof at this time-those all important words-not to reinstate him.
But what does it matter what Cam did or didn't know? According to Section 14 of the SEC By-laws, if a student athlete or any member of his family receives or agrees to receive, directly or indirectly, any aid or assistance beyond what is authorized, the student athlete is ineligible. The problem here is that Mississippi State didn't pay Cecil Newton's representative any money. And I don't think offering up Cam in exchange for money constitutes "an agreement to receive" an illegal payment.
Still, the By-laws also give Mike Slive the authority to render ineligible any student-athlete that is involved in activities that violate the rules or spirit of the rules governing the recruiting process. But the NCAA has ruled that Cam Newton had no knowledge that his father was pimping him out. So he wasn't involved based on information the NCAA has at this time. I don't think Slive can do anything to Cam without being sued.
So why did the NCAA step in at this time? I think it is because it didn't want the BCS Championship game to take place under a cloud of suspicion. Further, it knows full damn well that an Auburn team without Cam Newton is not the same one that went undefeated in the SEC. They rule Cam ineligible at this time and Auburn fans don't travel to Arizona for the title game. Sponsors bail and TV ratings go through the floor.
Everybody has got too much invested to go straight now. And so the lawyers worked it out.
But don't think this has gone away. It's just gone away for now. And by the time this shitstorm resurfaces, Cam will be in the NFL.
Have fun while it lasts Tiger fans!