Let me start this by declaring that I’m as cynical as the next person — OK, perhaps a little more — and I’m absolutely convinced there was a second gunman in the grassy knoll and there’s something about Area 51 that the government is not telling us.
But listen up: The NCAA got it right.
It could not suspend Cam Newton based on he whispered/he whispered.
It could not place Auburn on probation based on the fact the father of its star player admitted that he solicited money from ANOTHER school.
It could not significantly punish any athlete or institution based on what we all THINK must have happened simply because that’s what our suspicious mind tells us.
This whole saga has been one of the strangest NCAA investigations I can remember, in part because the athlete’s current school (Auburn) never was even connected to the allegations.
I know. Our head tells us: It’s Auburn. It’s the SEC. It’s big-time college football with big-time shenanigans. We’ve been exposed to so much of it in the past that we’ve come to believe that every player, coach, administrator and booster have been have been tainted. This story is even better than most because it involved a father allegedly pimping his kid . . . and he’s a minister!
At some point, you expected a Kardashian to show up on Toomers Corner.
But take a breath and, just for a moment, follow me through the levels of this thing. Then I’ll address why I don’t believe this can be compared to other recent cases, including the one at USC and A.J. Green’s suspension:
♦ Question: Did Cecil Newton, Cam’s father, solicit money from Mississippi State for his son’s services? Answer: Yes. INFRACTION.
♦ Question: Did Cam Newton know his father solicited an offer? Answer: Based on a lack of evidence, no. (If you want to assume otherwise, fine. But let’s just say I’m aware of situations where children did not know of things their parents did. Whether you consider that a longshot or not, the bottom line is that it can’t be proven.)
♦ Question: Did Cecil Newton receive money? Answer: Based on a lack of evidence, no.
♦ Question: Did Cam Newton receive money? Answer: Based on a lack of evidence, no.
♦ Question: Did Cam or Cecil Newton solicit an offer from Auburn? Answer: Based on a lack of evidence, no.
♦ Question: Did Cam or Cecil Newton receive money from Auburn. Answer: Based on a lack of evidence, no.
That’s it. There’s nothing else.
Now, should the NCAA continue to investigate this thing and discover that somebody in the Auburn athletic department or a big-bucks booster slipped a fat envelope under Cam’s door or paid for new floors and sheetrock in Cecil’s new church, then all bets are off.
But that’s not where we are right now.
Now, as for comparing Newton to other cases, I’ve been hearing from USC and Georgia fans all day and night and reading comments on line from various stunned officials, including USC athletic director Pat Haden. But this case is so not those cases. Consider:
♦ Newton vs. USC: Really? Fact: Reggie Bush’s parents received thousands of dollars in benefits from an agent. They lived in a home rent-free for one year. A USC assistant coach, Todd McNair, was tied directly to the case when the NCAA ruled he had knowledge of Bush’s dealings with agents. For whiny Trojan fans to be comparing their case to the Cam Newton case is completely nonsensical.
♦ Newton vs. A.J. Green: Really? Fact: Green sold his Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000. That’s a violation, even if he sold it to you. The fact that he sold to a person that the NCAA classified as an agent increased the suspension to four games. (Best estimate: It would’ve been two games otherwise.) It has not been found that Cam and Cecil Newton received anything (or sold his Blinn Community College jersey).
♦ Newton vs. Damon Stoudamire: This is a very similar case, as laid out by SportsByBrooks, in which the father of the former Arizona basketball star was accused by the NCAA of accepting a plane ticket from an agent in 1995. Stoudamire denied knowing about his father’s alleged transaction. The father denied taking the ticket. The NCAA suspended the player for a game, then reinstated him just before the NCAA tournament. But here’s where the cases go in different directions. The agent in question, Steve Feldman, ultimately admitted he gave airplane tickets to Stoudamire’s father. The father had to reiumburse him. The NCAA believed to other penalty was warranted. Coversely, there is no paper trail or evidence of any kind in the Newton case.
Some believe the NCAA has opened a giant loophole with this ruling — the thinking being that now every dad can go out and pimp his kid to universities, then just claim the kid knew nothing about it. The only problem with that theory is — again — Cecil Newton was not found to have taken anything.
If a father puts his son up for bidding and actually accepts a payment, effectively closing the deal, it really doesn’t matter whether the son knew or not. The athlete is ineligible. It’s like saying you want to rob a bank without ever doing it.
So enough with the NCAA bashing. They got it right. You can’t convict on conjecture.
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