SEC commissioner Mike Slive told a meeting of sports editors Monday he has received no word from the NCAA that it has closed its investigation of Cam Newton. This news — or non-news, depending on your slant — comes only days after Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News reported that Auburn admits the NCAA is investigating the (since-discontinued) Tiger Prowl.
A bit of background: The Tiger Prowl was initiated when Gene Chizik arrived in 2009 and involved Auburn coaches touring Alabama — and showing up at some of its high schools — in white stretch limousines. The NCAA has since passed legislation limiting the number of coaches who could visit a high school on the same day.
Another bit of background: The Tiger Prowl isn’t to be confused with Big Cat Weekend, an event staged at Toomer’s Corner involving fans and recruits that, in its 2009 manifestation, wound up being the source of five secondary NCAA violations.
The point being: When it comes to the NCAA and Auburn, you can’t tell the investigations without a scorecard. Solomon of the Birmingham News also reported last week that former Auburn player Chaz Ramsey — not to be confused with former Auburn player Eric Ramsey, whose tape-recorded conversations led to the fall of Pat Dye and deep-dish NCAA probation back in the ’90s — will meet with the NCAA regarding his allegations, made on HBO’s Real Sports, that he received money to play for the Tigers.
Oh, and there’s one more: It was reported by Thayer Evans of FoxSports in February that the NCAA has looked into Auburn’s recruiting of two players from Thibodaux, La.
And now you’re thinking: With all these probes ongoing, the NCAA has to be able to find something with which to hammer Auburn. Doesn’t it?
I’m not so sure. The Tiger Prowl thing could be another of those secondary-violation-spawners, and the Louisiana thing could amount to nothing. Auburn’s defense against the HBO-aired allegations was that none of the four ex-players has offered any proof, which isn’t the world’s worst defense. Which brings us back to Cam Newton, and here’s what I think will happen to Auburn regarding his recruitment:
At last check, men with ties to Mississippi State have admitted taking part in discussions with Cecil Newton, Cam’s father, about money. But the only suggestion that Auburn paid Cam/Cecil has taken the form of leaping logic: If the dad wanted $180,000 to sign with Mississippi State, does it make sense that the son would enroll at another school for free? But a logical leap is not proof.
As I read it, the SEC school that should be worried isn’t the one that landed Cam but the one that didn’t. I say again: Men with ties to Mississippi State have admitted taking part in discussions regarding money and a recruit. This could well have been a case of boosters talking through their hats — meaning nobody actually intended to pay Cecil Newton a dime — but can the NCAA and the SEC let such an admission slide?
Many among us insist it’s only a matter of time before something is found that will stick to Auburn, but I’ve come to believe any such something will not — repeat, will not — involve Cam Newton. Unless/until someone offers evidence that he (or his dad) received improper benefits from Auburn, the Tigers will keep their BCS title. And I’m not sure such evidence exists.
By Mark Bradley