I’m not sure why, but a big deal was made yesterday when Mississippi State released a statement saying that it contacted the SEC office in January 2010 with information it had about the recruiting of Cameron Newton. Some thoughts here:
No. 1: Mississippi State was following the rules established by the Southeastern Conference. Any member school with information that NCAA rules may have been broken–by its institution or another institution–has the obligation to turn that information over to the conference office. Failure to do so is in itself a violation of SEC rules. So if it had sat on the information and not turned it in, Mississippi State would have had a problem.
No. 2: When Mississippi State first contacted the SEC the information was very general and lacked specifics. My understanding is that the initial contact between Mississippi State and the SEC on this matter was a very informal one. It was along the lines of “Hey, this happened and we thought you should know about it.” It wasn’t a formal report. Logically, the SEC office wanted more information, including interviews with the staff people at Mississippi State who were involved before it could move forward. For example: The initial information presented to the SEC by Mississippi State did not include the names of John Bond and Kenny Rogers, whose alleged conversation back in December started this mess.
3. That additional information, I have been told, was not immediately forthcoming. Mississippi State confirms this in its statement: “Due to MSU dealing with ongoing and time-consuming eligibility isues in the winter and spring of 2010, the specific SEC request went unfilled. Some additional information was provided to the SEC during July of 2010.” Okay. So now we have the time line that answers the Auburn fans as to WHY this is coming out now. The SEC did not have the information it needed to move forward with the NCAA until this summer.
4. So the question now is WHY did it take until July of 2010 for the SEC to get the additional information it needed from Mississippi State? In its statement the school said it was busy with other eligibility issues not related to football. This begs for some clarification from both Mississippi State and the SEC. The SEC, I’ll remind you, is not an investigative body. It gathers facts, shares its findings with the institutions involved, and then forwards them on to the NCAA to be examined. There could be an entirely logical explanation for this timeline. Did Mississippi State drag its feet because it didn’t want to get that involved? Did the SEC not press as hard as it should have to get the information? Or is this timeline consistent with how long these things take? Mississippi State jumped out there with its version of the events on Wednesday because I’m sure it was getting hammered from a lot of different directions. Does the SEC respond? I’m not sure it can or would want to other than to say that what happened is consistent with its policies.
5. Please, spare me the conspiracy theories. I love you guys (and you know who you are) but nobody can dream up conspiracy theories like an SEC football fan. Things don’t just happen in the SEC. They are always part of a huge Master Plan to put the screws to your school–especially when it is having a good year.
They only drag the discussion of this topic down to an even lower level, which I’m not sure is possible at this point. There has been some good reporting on this story and there has been some downright lousy reporting on this story. There have been people who call themselves reporters who have taken an ounce of fact and extrapolated it into a five pounds of rampant and unfounded speculation. Conclusions have been reached from alleged facts that are not in evidence. At times it has been damned embarrassing for those of us who do this for a living.
Why? Because they know you’ll read it and react to it. It moves the needle and creates the web hits. Some of the discussion in the blogosphere has raised important questions and has been really thought provoking. But the vast majority of the discourse on the Cameron Newton case has been several notches below a cafeteria food fight.
Understand that regardless of how the Cameron Newton story is resolved, there will no winners. The biggest loser of all is those of us who love college football and still feel that, with all of its warts, it is a worthwhile enterprise that is a lot more good than bad. For the people who care about the game, this has been a very tough week.
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