The conspiracy theories won’t end. But the NCAA says its investigation into Cam Newton’s recruitment by Auburn is over.
College’s football’s relative governing body announced Wednesday it was closing the book on Newton and Auburn after conducting “more than 80 interviews,” apparently none of whom claimed — and could verify — that they were offered money, took money or had a cash register receipt for somebody who did.
Go ahead and whine. But I’m not sure how you can fault the NCAA on this. There is little question the NCAA, for all of the criticism it has received over the past several months on how it has handled this, would have nailed Auburn and/or Newton if it could have. The NCAA is not above wanting to make a big show of things.
The problem: There’s simply no evidence of wrongdoing.
Here’s a copy of the NCAA’s statement:
After conducting more than 80 interviews, the NCAA has concluded its investigation into Auburn University. The NCAA enforcement staff is committed to a fair and thorough investigative process. As such, any allegations of major rules violations must meet a burden of proof, which is a higher standard than rampant public speculation online and in the media. The allegations must be based on credible and persuasive information and includes a good-faith belief that the Committee on Infractions could make a finding. As with any case, should the enforcement staff become aware of additional credible information, it will review the information to determine whether further investigation is warranted.
Yes, we know that Newton’s father, the pastor Cecil “Huggy Bear” Newton Sr. tried to pimp his son out to the highest bidder. The NCAA found back in December of 2010 that Cecil attempted to solicit a large payment, reportedly $180,000, from Mississippi State in exchange for assurances that his son would transfer there from a junior college, bringing his football talents with him.
For this NCAA violation, Newton was ruled ineligible — unbeknownst everybody at the time. He then was reinstated in time for Auburn’s SEC championship game three days later, when the whole bizarre chain of events was disclosed. The NCAA was criticized at the time for not declaring Newton ineligible for the season. But it ruled that there was insufficient evidence that Cam Newton was aware of his father’s actions.
Now, if you wish to debate the logic of that, that’s fine. But what you think you may know is not exactly considered admissible evidence in a court of law. And there certainly never has been a evidence of wrongdoing by Auburn in all of this, despite what buffoons like Danny Sheridan might claim on radio shows.
Jackie Thurns, the NCAA’s associate director of enforcement, sent an email to Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs on Tuesday that outlined its 13-month investigation into the Tigers, not just regarding Newton but allegations of impermissible inducements and extra benefits connected to four other players: Raven Gray, Stanley McGlover, Chaz Ramsey and Troy Reddick. All made allegations on HBO’s “Real Sports” show called, “Dirty Money,” but nothing could be substantiated.
If anybody committed a crime, they did an excellent job wiping away the finger prints.
College football stirs emotions here in the South, and nobody stirred them more last year than Newton during Auburn’s unexpected run to a national championship. But the contention of many that Newton should not have been eligible to win the Heisman Trophy (which he did) and Auburn should not have been allowed to play for the SEC and BCS titles (which it did, and won) were baseless.
Many will vent about this, as they have for months. There will be angry comments from fans and flaming comments from a few major media outlets that quoted double-secret sources of Newton’s guilt and Auburn’s finger prints.
But the NCAA made the right decision here. The last time I checked, we don’t convict in this country on a juicy theory.
By Jeff Schultz