Last Monday night we were treated to a competitive NCAA national championship football game between Oregon and Auburn. The Auburn championship has left a sour taste in the mouths of many. Auburn’s prominence this past season was not exactly expected. The Tigers were supposed to be a solid team in the Southeastern Conference this year, but nobody was touting Auburn as a 14-0 title team, but that is what they are.
How they arrived at that plateau will be debated for years to come. Football is a team game, but a junior college transfer named Cam Newton joined the Tigers last summer and changed their source. Newton is a freakishly athletic 6-5, 250 quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy in his first and only season at Auburn. It would be a stretch to even consider Auburn could have been a championship team without Newton’s services.
Therein lies the rub. Many feel Newton should not have been eligible to play at Auburn. Well, at least not after certain information regarding his recruitment came to light. About three quarters of the way through the season a former Mississippi State player, that is still close to the program made an allegation that Cecil Newton, Cam’s father and pastor of five churches near Atlanta, had solicited him to arrange a deal for his son to attend MSU for a fee reported to be $180,000.
Now, there is no legal way to do a transaction like this in college athletics, so the assumption here is the money would have been paid by a MSU booster or boosters, so the university would remain free of any knowledge of such a transaction. That deal wasn’t consummated and Newton wound up at Auburn, so when this information came to light in November a cloud over Auburn’s season formed quickly.
Keep in mind, at the time this was only allegation, and it was an allegation involving Newton’s father and MSU, not Auburn. Of course if the MSU allegation is credible, it is not much of a leap to assume if MSU did not pay the elder Newton, that Auburn must have done so. The Mississippi source seemed credible, something later established, and the NCAA and SEC quickly did some investigating.
Despite what appearances suggest, the ruling was that while there was evidence that the elder Newton was shopping his son to MSU, there was no evidence that he approached Auburn in a similar manner. Further, the NCAA believed Cam Newton and his dad when they said Cam did not know anything of his father’s actions. Based on those factors the younger Newton could resume his season.
Considering the history of the NCAA on similar matters this decision is very puzzling. Until this issue came up, it was widely thought that any solicitation like this from a friend, or family member, would be enough to cause the player to be ineligible. Even if the player had no knowledge of the solicitation. Now, it appears the NCAA is saying it is okay to shop a player as long as the player doesn’t know about it.
Cam Newton may be as innocent in this as claimed, but there is reason to be a skeptic here. Hopefully the NCAA is still looking into the matter since there wasn’t really enough time to do a full investigation into the allegation when it was made.