Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Almost Guilty Until Proven Guilty

The chatter on Facebook/Twitter/the blogosphere has been pretty uniform today: Auburn had better enjoy their title while it lasts. There appears to be a consensus that the NCAA will eventually find additional information that will be enough to declare him to have acted improperly, and that Auburn will have to vacate their title victory from last night.

I find that unlikely. First off, an investigation was conducted and completed. Cam Newton was declared ineligible for a couple hours, then, after Auburn filled out the proper paperwork, was reinstated. The end result was that the NCAA investigated cleared Newton to play.

The reasoning I've heard is that, with regards to a parent or third party requesting illegal benefits, there are three circumstances for which a player can be suspended:
  1. The parent or third party accepts benefits.
  2. The parent or third party asks for benefits with the player's knowledge.
  3. The parent or third party asks for benefits, then the player attends the solicited school, regardless of whether or not the player knew.
Apparently the information here has indicated that none of those three situations occurred. My understanding is that Cam Newton's father and some other guy tried to get money from Mississippi State in exchange for sending Newton there to play. Mississippi State didn't pay, and Newton went to Auburn. The only circumstance under which Newton would be ineligible would be if he knew that his dad asked for this money, and proving that someone knew something is nearly impossible (see Barry Bonds).

Do I think something improper went down that actually involved Cam Newton? It's possible. I operate under the assumption that pretty much every star college athlete gets some kind of improper benefit or preferential treatment. There's too much money in college sports, and the elite players are too valuable to their schools not to get some kind of extra cheese on their pizzas. But based on everything we've heard, Newton was okay to play, and Auburn was fine to play him.

If new information comes out, then the NCAA will react to that as necessary. But right now, I don't see things going that way. So I extend my congratulations to Auburn on the national title they deserved to win in 2004.

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