Some suggest that the recent decision to allow Cam Newton to continue to play NCAA football while an investigation was ongoing, then ruling that he was not found to be directly involved in his father’s alleged pay-for-play scheme with Mississippi State, was an unfair splitting of hairs on a ruling that earlier in 2010 saw 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush return his trophy, and his alma mater, USC, penalized 36 scholarships, two years of bowl eligibility, and a vacating of their last two wins of the 2005 season. Could there be some truth to all the insinuation of unfairness?
The NCAA declared on Wednesday, December 1, that Cam Newton would be eligible to play in the SouthEast Conference Championship Game against South Carolina. The NCAA ruled that they found that the Auburn senior was unaware that his father, Cecil, and the owner of a scouting service, Kenny Rogers, had conspired to exact money for Newton’s time on the field. Cecil Newton cooperated with the NCAA investigators, according to ESPN, and admitted his part in the scandal, saying his son was not involved and that, ultimately, no money had changed hands.
Still, the NCAA notified Auburn of amateurism violation rules in November. Auburn immediately declared Cam Newton ineligible. Two days later, the NCAA reinstated Newton’s eligibility.
“Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement.”
Several entities voiced opposition to the decision, including the Big Ten Conference and the PAC 10, which is the conference of aforementioned penalized USC.
The NCAA “missed an opportunity to stand up,” Jim Delany, commissioner of the Big Ten and a former NCAA investigator, told The New York Times. He noted that there should be “accountability,” and that there “ought to be consequences.”
Pat Haden, USC’s athletic director, told the Los Angeles Times, “In the Reggie Bush case, when the parent [did] something inappropriate the kid and the school suffered.”
Reggie Bush returned his Heisman Trophy and USC was penalized when an NCAA investigation found Bush and his parents had accepted “extra benefits” from sports marketers and agents while he was still playing for the Trojans.
But the NCAA says that the two cases (read: scandals) are dissimilar. They note that, according to their investigation, Cam Newton did not receive a “tangible benefit” from the activity of those acting in his name. They added that a number of factors were involved in their decision.
ESPN reported that Mark Jones, an Indianapolis lawyer who is acquainted with NCAA cases, said that the NCAA often relies on the school’s in-house investigation or self-report to make their decision. He said the NCAA would rarely conduct an investigation of their own.
Auburn found that there had been no wrongdoing on the part of Cam Newton and any member of their athletic department, nor had anyone had any financial dealings or negotiations with Cam Newton’s father or the agent, Kenny Rogers.
Would anyone expect Auburn University to actually out their star player, the outstanding quarterback that had helped them build an undefeated season and a chance at the national championship, not to mention being the guy who had given the Tigers increased national recognition and — at the time — a candidate for the coveted Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award in college football?
Somewhere in all the allegations there were claims made by Mississippi State recruiters that Cam Newton allegedly knew about his father and Rogers’ dealings. It has been alleged that Cam Newton spoke about it as well. These allegations supposedly were reported to the SouthEast Conference. So what happened to that part of the investigation?
The NCAA apparently made a ruling on the testimony of the father, a man who admittedly committed a violation of NCAA rules and lied about his involvement, having denied it all earlier in the scandal, which should make anything he says suspect. They seem to have also relied on the in-house investigation of an all-star player that could potentially make Auburn University millions of dollars.
Now Cam Newton could possibly go on to lead the Auburn Tigers to a national championship. And if the NCAA should later find out that there was more to the story and Cam Newton was actually involved? That is, after the BCS National Championship Game and Cam Newton is well on his way to an NFL career? What then?
Of course, if it is later determined that Cam Newton violated amateur rules, he could give back the Heisman Trophy. After all, after the NCAA findings and the subsequent scandal, Reggie Bush did.
But what about the teams that lost to a guy who violated the rules and gamed the system, teams that would have benefited from a decision of ineligibility before or during the season (vacating the games later, even if there was no wrongdoing on the part of Auburn, would be of no consequence to these teams), perhaps even affected certain standings and even bowl assignations? What about the players that lost the Heisman Trophy (and other awards) to Cam Newton who might have won had he been ruled ineligible? How about the team that could have played Oregon for the national championship (perhaps TCU?)?
The NCAA has known about the allegations for nearly a year. They knew about Reggie Bush’s potential rules violations in April 2006. They finally found him and his parents in violation of NCAA amateurism rules in 2010.
Will Cam Newton be forfeiting his Heisman Trophy in 2014?
More from this Contributor:
Cam Newton Under NCAA Investigation? Another Heisman Trophy Scandal?
Cam Newton Suspension — And Why Not?
Cam Newton NCAA Investigation: Two More Sources Talk Pay-For-Play