It’s been a solid month since the last Director’s Cut, mainly because I’ve been traveling almost every week but partly because once you’ve been run over by the Cam Newton train, it’s hard to get back up. But the latest twist in his saga has inspired a return given the bizarre nature of everything that’s going on. The Cam Newton situation is a mess. A complete and utter disaster.
The NCAA and SEC hasn’t come down with any punishment worth mentioning on the Newton’s despite evidence of Cecil Newton, Cam’s father, putting a price on Cam’s destination to Mississippi State. Of course, Cam didn’t go to Mississippi State, which begs the obvious question: why not? The simple conclusion, which most people have jumped to, is that Auburn was able to outbid Mississippi State. Fueling this rampant speculation is the rumored call from Cam to Mississippi State stating something to the effect of, Sorry, I can’t come here because the money was just too much. The coincidental repairs made to Cecil’s church just before it was to be condemned appear to be the cherry on top.
The problem with all of this is a few key words: speculation, rumors, coincidental and jumping to conclusion. You can’t convict anyone on those words, despite what today’s journalistic standards may have you think. The facts, as they stand now, are that Cecil Newton solicited money from Miss St. There isn’t any evidence that he received it nor any evidence that he asked for money from Auburn. It’s entirely possible that Miss St. refused Cecil’s request for cash and to spite them, Cecil told Cam to sign with Auburn. To suspend Cam now would be wrong because there simply isn’t evidence that he did anything wrong. And I don’t have a problem with that.
By ruling Cam eligible, some say it opens a gaping loophole in the rules. Parents everywhere could potentially ask for money from programs “without the knowledge of the player” and get away with it. Of course, technically, as my man Jeff Schultz from the AJC points out, parents could indeed ask for money just as long as they don’t actually receive it. He’s right. Taking a brief trip down memory lane, once it was proven that Reggie Bush’s parents took benefits from USC he was declared ineligible. No harm, no foul on the NCAA’s ruling on Cam. Unfortunately, that’s not how it reads and certainly not how it’s being played out in the media. It will only encourage parents to follow in Cecil’s path and lawyers will have a field day with the wording of this release (lawyers which, ironically, could be inadvertently paid for by the universities themselves).
However, the NCAA has made an error in it’s release of Cam’s eligibility. To hand out a ruling now rings hollow. It adds to the view that the NCAA is money-grubbing organization that will do anything to protect it’s product and make money*. Why would the NCAA suspend Newton now, when his past two games have both set the highest numbers of the week for CBS? With the SEC Championship next and his BCS game in January, the NCAA must squeeze all it can out of Cam while they can. The BCS game matters especially, as it could very well be the National Championship game and the NCAA needs the highest rating possible to keep the playoff pundits at bay.
(*Recent developments that contribute to the money-grubbing view include the expansion of March Madness, suspending AJ Green for selling his jersey despite itself making countless dollars off it, and, of course, the BCS. Not helping this general skepticism to football in general is the NFL vying for an 18-game season despite the rampant health concerns that have been popping up in the past 18 months and failing to suspend Andre Johnson for throwing punches on the field who is appearing on the NFL’s own network this Thursday.)
Heavily contributing to the incompetence rendered by the SEC during this investigation is an in-depth look at the SEC rules by Sports by Brooks that reveals the Newton’s did in fact violate an SEC by-law. The SEC rule states that any family member who agrees to receive benefits shall be ruled ineligible. The “explanation” that follows from SEC Commissioner Mike Slive is laughable, unless you’re one of the teams Cam destroyed along the way. Luckily for Slive but unluckily for those teams, the NCAA came out with their own ruling saving him the need to read his own rulebook.
At the end of the day, we have to hope that the NCAA isn’t finished with it’s investigation yet, and was simply trying to remove the cloud surrounding the Heisman and upcoming Championship games. It’s entirely possible that Cecil did take money from Auburn, that Cam did make that phone call and the Cecil was able to make the repairs to his church. It’s a lot of coincidences when you factor in that Cam, Auburn, and the NCAA all agree that Cecil asked Miss. St for money. If it looks like a duck and quacks…well, you get the point.
The larger issue surrounding these escapades is how long it takes for the NCAA to actually make final rulings in these situations. It took them 5 weeks to determine that AJ Green was ineligible and all he did was sell a jersey and all it took to prove it was about two phone interviews. It took them five years to pass judgment on Reggie Bush and there were whispers of his benefits during his playing days as well. If Cam is eventually declared ineligible, how will that help South Carolina in 5 years if they lose this SEC Championship game, a first for the program? Auburn know all too well, that a championship in retrospect isn’t quite as much fun.