Yesterday the Never to Yield Foundation shed light on the circumstances of Cam Newton’s tenure at Florida. In the second installment of a four part series, The Curious Case of Cameron Newton, we address the storm of NCAA controversy that swirled around Newton and his Auburn Tigers in October and November.
In October of 2010 stories that Newton’s father Cecil had talked with Mississippi State boosters about potential payment for Cam to sign with the Bulldogs surfaced.
The allegations set off a firestorm of media speculation.
After an SEC and NCAA review, Newton was suspended prior to Auburn’s appearance in the SEC Championship game. Auburn petitioned for and was granted his reinstatement a day later.
The crush of media fascination with the situation sparked a number of oft-repeated but inaccurate reports. There was the pervasive contention that Cecil Newton “shopped his son to the highest bidder,” whispers that the NCAA, SEC and Auburn were in collusion to keep Newton eligible, and claims that the disposition of the case hinged on what Cam Newton knew.
Chief among the commonly repeated misconceptions is the contention that Cecil Newton, father of Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, “shopped his son around to the highest bidder.” That phrase has been repeated in virtually every media venue imaginable. It’s still the drum being beaten incessantly on talk radio.
The simple fact is that there is no evidence the elder Newton did any such thing.
Did Cecil Newton admit to participating in a discussion with a former Mississippi State player regarding potential payments should his son sign with the Bulldogs? Yes. The NCAA noted in its official report that Newton and the owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market Newton as part of a pay-for-play scenario.
That’s where the story ends. There was no “bidding.” There is no evidence of any competing offers. There was no eBay auction that ended at 10:40 p.m. on January 3.
There has never been any official confirmation of who initiated the discussions between Newton and the agent or what those discussions may have entailed. That’s a critical distinction.
Whatever the content, those discussions included representatives of Mississippi State interests only.
It has been confirmed that no one from Auburn had discussions of that nature with Cecil Newton. NCAA president Mark Emmert said there was no evidence implicating Auburn University on at least three separate occasions.
Other schools that were recruiting Newton, including Tennessee and Oklahoma, reported no irregularities.
Shopping around? Highest bidder? Simply not true.
Unfortunately that hasn’t stopped every talking head from Timbuktu to Tuscaloosa from embracing the phrase as if it were the gospel.
Behind the Scenes Deal with the NCAA?
Auburn followed NCAA protocol to the letter regarding Newton’s participation. There was no undercover investigation or super secret probe. Decisions regarding Newton were made in accordance with NCAA regulations.
Although some reported the Tigers were advised to bench Newton in November (or December, depending on which version of the rumor your favorite message board guru chooses to espouse today) all credible sources who were privy to the conversations and or had knowledge of what transpired rejected that claim out of hand. If Auburn had been advised to shelve Newton by the NCAA or the SEC, Auburn would have done so.
Tiger compliance director Rich McGlynn reinforced this in an exclusive interview with Phillip Marshall of AuburnUndercover.com.
“When advice came from the NCAA, he was immediately declared ineligible,” McGlynn told Marshall.
“I knew we had a pretty good argument that Cam had very little culpability,” McGlynn said. “In fact, none. I think we put a really strong argument together that, although technically this bylaw might have been violated, it does not warrant withholding an individual from competition.
“If I’d had a concern about his eligibility, he wouldn’t have played.”
Throughout the fall, Auburn officials maintained a policy of making no public comment. McGlynn told Marshall that was for the best, noting that having Cam come out of the tunnel on game days said all that really needed to be said on the subject.
“Our actions spoke louder than our words. Anything we said was not going to change those who believed what we said versus those who did not or will not believe anything we ever say.”
What Did Cam Know?
Alabama booster Scott Moore tried to build a radio audience and eventually lost his job by making speculative claims about ‘tapes’ that allegedly indicated that Cam Newton may have been aware that his father had discussed a monetary arrangement with a scout and Mississippi State booster.
The message board underworld held on to this nugget of fool’s gold as if it were the holy grail and the key component in eventually rendering Cam ineligible and thus retroactively voiding Auburn’s 2010 season and national championship.
Bubble? Meet burst.
On May 10, NCAA Vice President for Enforcement Julie Roe Lach said whether an athlete knows of someone else taking an extra benefit has never been a violation and was “the most misunderstood issue surrounding the Cam Newton case.”
“Has never been a violation.”
That seems crystal clear.
Isn’t this just like what happened with USC and Reggie Bush?
The notion that there are any similarities at all between the Reggie Bush case at USC and the Newton allegations is simply absurd. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out either.
Bush and his family received hundreds of thousands of dollars in improper benefits from boosters and agents while at USC. There was evidence and the transgressions were proven.
The NCAA looked carefully into Newton’s situation and found no evidence that Newton or his family received any benefits for enrolling, during his recruitment or during his career at Auburn. You can rest assured no stone was left unturned.
There is no comparison between the two. They are entirely different circumstances.
In a statement on May 10, NCAA president Mark Emmert reiterated this. “There’s no evidence money ever changed hands.” Emmert said. “It was just solicitation, an unsuccessful solicitation.”
In a separate interview, Emmert noted “there was no evidence that money had changed hands and there was no evidence that Auburn University had anything to do with it.”
Evidence vs. no evidence. There’s a difference.
Where there’s smoke there’s…. nothing?
On July 8, CNN/SI college football reporter Dennis Dodd told the Paul Finebaum radio network that it’s his opinion the Newton allegations have run their course.
“I will say this. The Cam Newton thing, right now as we stand here there is absolutely no smoke that I’ve seen or heard from anyone. I don’t know why they haven’t put that thing to bed. I have no reason to believe there’s anything there right now.”
In Part III of The Curious Case of Cameron Newton, the Never to Yield Foundation will consider how Newton and Auburn weathered the storm and take a look at the real Cam Newton.