The confetti has settled in Glendale and Auburn is in possession of the crystal hardware, so what happens next now that the 2010 college football season is over and done with? Well, here goes:
◊ College football addicts will get a temporary fix when National Signing Day rolls around next month. But if you’re a fan of a Sun Belt or a MAC team, then Signing Day is mostly an exercise in trying to get excited over the scraps that were passed over by not only by the Alabamas and Oklahomas of the world, but the Vanderbilts and Wake Forests as well. Yup, the rich just get richer.
◊ The non-War Eaglers now have a whole offseason to stoke the flames of the Auburn hate they developed when the Camgate story broke. Never mind the fact that $180K worth of cash hasn’t been found stuffed into Cecil Newton’s couch cushions ($1 to “The 25th Hour”).
◊ As I write this, scores of Oregon national championship t-shirts are being boxed up and sent to Africa. Some lucky guy is about to get a nice addition to a wardrobe that includes other t-shirts such as “Arizona Cardinals - 2009 Super Bowl Champions” and “Texas Rangers - 2010 World Series Champions.” If you’re confused, the Christian Science Montior can explain it to you right here.
◊ Some fat bonuses kicked in for Auburn head coach Gene Chizik as a result of his team’s win in Glendale. That means he can upgrade his current leather jacket to the 8-ball version favored by David Puddy:
◊ Auburn fans can savor this victory but will have to endure comments such as “It’ll be sweet until it’s vacated” or “Enjoy it, you guys paid a lot for that title.” Self righteous college football fans who cheer for programs they believe to be squeaky clean…they’re the best, aren’t they? I wish I could drift through life being that oblivious.
◊ Cecil Newton’s church will continue to be a rickety old condemned shack until this April, when Cam gets drafted and pays for the needed upgrades. I actually wish Cam would just buy his dad an Arby’s franchise instead. From the looks of it, the churchin’ business hasn’t been very good to Cecil.
◊ Thayer Evans and Pete Thamel will most likely keep shoveling away until they find something, ANYTHING, that implicates Auburn football as the Legion of Doom they believe the program can be. Brace yourselves, any white collar criminal who gets arrested in 2011 and even hints at being an Auburn fan will be outed by Evans/Thamel as the school’s bag man. You know, the same way Bill Bell was revealed to be Mississippi State’s go to guy for all things pay-for-play.
◊ No team in the nation punted fewer times in 2010 than Nevada. As a result, Wolf Pack punter Brad Langley let himself go a little bit, as evidenced by the pooch below. Expect him to hit the stationary bike hard this month:
◊ After a brief flirtation, Les Miles decided not to hightail it to Michigan. So the school now appears to be down to its third choice, San Diego State coach Brady Hoke. This is the same sort of scenario that ended up putting Ron Zook in charge at Florida back in 2002. And we all remember how well that turned out.
◊ Speaking of the Gators, the eyes of the nation will turn to Gainesville in a few months when Will Muschamp conducts his first spring practice as Florida coach. Now that he’s a program’s Big Kahuna, people are hoping he gets even more amped up than he did here:
◊ I think New Mexico could also have a very entertaining spring practice as well. Why? Because if they haven’t fired Mike Locksley after he’s gone 2-22 and punched an assistant coach, then he might very well believe he can get away with anything. Carrying a gun at practice as a means of scaring his team into playing better? I don’t put it past him at this point.
◊ The conclusion of the football season means mega chill bro Teague Egan won’t be able to host USC viewing parties at his mega chill bro pad. But that won’t cramp his bro-ness one bit. In fact, I predict some sweet new additions this January to the cloth shoe rack hanging on his closet door:
◊ I’m guessing that most of the preseason #1 talk will center around Alabama and Oklahoma. But the more I think about preseason polls, the more I realize just how far away the 2011 season actually is. So let me stop right here.
Now that the NCAA has declared Auburn quarterback Cam Newton as being eligible to continue playing this season, what happens next? Well, for starters, Auburn fans can stop worrying about whether or not Newton will be announced in the starting lineup in the SEC Title Game and possibly the BCS Title Game.
However, this story is far from over because while Newton is eligible to play, the investigation into the matter is still ongoing. After all, the official release from the NCAA regarding his eligibility does state that infractions have occurred:
According to facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff, the student-athlete’s father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton’s commitment to attend college and play football. NCAA rules (Bylaw 12.3.3) do not allow individuals or entities to represent a prospective student-athlete for compensation to a school for an athletic scholarship. (NCAA)
Some people erroneously took the NCAA’s actions yesterday to mean that this thing is a done deal. Nope, this saga still has legs, much to the delight of the Pete Thamels of the world. So in light of these events, I’m left with the following questions:
Why was Newton declared eligible the week of the SEC Title Game? - My thinking is that the timing of this is due in large part to the work of SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. If you’ll recall, Slive was pretty damn silent when this Newton scandal first broke. But now he’s a lot more talkative, so much so that he’s quoted in the same release that was referenced above:
“The conduct of Cam Newton’s father and the involved individual is unacceptable and has no place in the SEC or in intercollegiate athletics,” said Mike Slive, Southeastern Conference Commissioner. “The actions taken by Auburn University and Mississippi State University make it clear this behavior will not be tolerated in the SEC.” (NCAA)
My guess is that Slive went to the NCAA and gave them a polite nudge. Why? Because his league’s showcase sporting event is coming up this weekend. And while he’s got no problem with the NCAA continuing to investigate, he did want them to at least throw him a bone. Providing clarity on Newton’s eligibility was that bone.
Does the NCAA believe that Auburn and Cam Newton had no idea what Cecil Newton was doing? - Well, kind of, but here’s the thing: they have found nothing as of yet to prove that either way. In a piece from a few weeks back, ESPN’s Joe Schad wrote the following:
After Newton committed to Auburn, another source said an emotional Cam Newton phoned another recruiter to express regret that he wouldn’t be going to Mississippi State, stating that his father, Cecil, had chosen Auburn for him because “the money was too much.” (ESPN)
At the time that seemed like pretty damning stuff for both Cam Newton and Auburn, but it appears that Schad’s source is either unreliable or has been totally and completely discredited. Why would I think that? Because if Schad’s source came clean to the NCAA and was totally believable, Newton wouldn’t be eligible right now.
There are rumors that the FBI wiretaps that led to the arrest of Auburn booster Milton McGregor contained conversations that implicated him in the improper recruitment of Newton. However, it appears those rumors are pretty much unfounded.
But like I said, a violation did occur, that’s spelled out clearly in the release. In the coming months, once Cam Newton is safely tucked away in the NFL, the investigation could very well reveal that he knew everything all along.
Have Mississippi State’s coaches been completely forthcoming with NCAA investigators? - Since this scandal broke, I’ve asserted that the people that the NCAA would deem to be the most reliable would be the coaches at Mississippi State. After all, the school did report this matter to the SEC many months ago.
But since then, things have gotten complicated for Mississippi State. The names of prominent boosters like John Bond and Bill Bell have become mixed up in this scandal. If the NCAA starts to dig deeper into the dealings of Bell and Bond with the MSU football program, might they find improprieties totally unrelated to Cam Newton?
After all, if Kenny Rogers was working on behalf of Cecil Newton and seeking money from MSU, then the people he called in regard to that solicitation might very well have a history of being mixed up in pay-for-play stuff. Think about it, if you need a hitman to get a job done, would you deal with a person who’s never rubbed anyone out? So am I to believe that Rogers was calling people who’ve never, ever been involved in pay-for-play stuff before?
So the MSU coaches who recruited Newton are in a tough spot. Every significant figure in this scandal whose last name isn’t Newton has a direct tie to the MSU football program. If the coaches are extremely forthcoming with information, who knows what that could lead to. So while the general public seems to view Auburn with a wary eye, it’s actually Mississippi State that has more to lose. Why? Because it appears their money men are out in the open, and that’s never a good thing (Logan Young would attest to that if he could).
If MSU’s coaches had spilled their guts, I have to believe that this investigation would’ve taken a very bad turn for Cam Newton. But since the NCAA seems to be okay with him playing out the season, I think they didn’t get very much in the way of damning information from MSU’s coaches. And that could be because they are are very keen on not letting any more of their dirty laundry see the light of day.
Will Kenny Rogers end up getting most of the blame for this? - That could very well be the case. In the release regarding Newton’s eligibility, there was an interesting nugget about Rogers:
In conjunction with the case, Auburn University has limited the access Newton’s father has to the athletics program and Mississippi State has disassociated the involved individual. (NCAA)
The “involved individual” is Rogers, and this disassociation comes before the investigation is even concluded. So why weren’t Bell and Bond also disassociated from the Mississippi State football program? Well, it could be the fact that Rogers is being viewed as the guy who engineered this whole thing from the beginning.
Follow my thinking here: it doesn’t appear that Cam Newton was “shopped around,” as so many people casually assert. If he was, wouldn’t reliable sources at the other schools that were recruiting Newton have come forth and provided this information by now? As of yet, no one from Oklahoma, Tennessee or Kansas State has done so.
The school where the solicitation took place was Mississippi State, which is Rogers’ alma mater and the school he knows best. And Rogers is on record as saying he’s the one who contacted the Newtons first and not the other way around. So could the scheme to get money out of his alma mater and take a piece of the action himself been planted by Rogers?
Within the NCAA’s release, it gives no indication as to who was the mastermind behind this, let me refresh your memory: …According to facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff, the student-athlete’s father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton’s commitment to attend college and play football.
That appears to contradict a previous statement by Cecil Newton given to ESPN:
“If Rogers tried to solicit money from Mississippi State, he did it on his own, without our knowledge,” Cecil Newton said. (ESPN)
In the mind of the NCAA, does it even matter who came up with this solicitation scheme? I would think that if Cecil Newton went along with it, he’s just as much a guilty party. But maybe, just maybe, it makes a difference in the eyes of the NCAA in regard to who was actually trying to orchestrate this thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to paint Cecil as an innocent patsy who was duped by Rogers. But it’s strange to me that the demand for cash wasn’t made to each and every school that was recruiting Cam Newton. Why only Mississippi State? Like I said, that’s the school that Rogers knows best.
The fact that he’s been disassociated from MSU makes me think that there’s at least a decent possibility that the NCAA views Rogers as the guy pulling all the strings in this scheme, regardless of the wording contained in the release. If so, that could very well result in some of the heat coming off of Cecil Newton.
Does the restoration of Cam Newton’s eligibility leave the NCAA with egg on its face? - I’m dumbfounded that everyone took the NCAA’s ruling on Newton’s eligibility as being some grand loophole that’s now been opened that every cheating booster will take advantage of. Here’s John Pennington’s take from the Mr. SEC blog:
By acknowledging that Newton’s father asked for cash and by taking no punitive action against the player, the NCAA has just told every family of an NCAA recruit to ask for illegal cash. (mrsec.com)
Uh, no, not exactly. This could be the NCAA saying that if you’re the family of an NCAA recruit, run like hell when a guy like Kenny Rogers shows up. What Pennington also fails to take into account is what I said at the beginning of this piece, that this investigation is still ongoing.
A good amount of outrage over this latest turn in the Cam Newton saga comes from butthurt Southern Cal fans. In their minds, they were unfairly railroaded by the NCAA during the Reggie Bush investigation. To hear them tell it, their beloved school did NOTHING wrong, and the probation that USC is on now is tantamount to the imprisonment that Nelson Mandela endured.
To USC fans, the Newton Saga and the Bush Tragedy are essentially apples to apples, and the NCAA’s seeming unwillingness to punish Auburn or Cam Newton means they got a raw deal. This is despite the fact that it appears that the Newtons didn’t actually receive any improper benefits and no coach at either Auburn or Mississippi State has a guy like Lloyd Lake on speed dial.
Come on USC fans, like I said, this investigation is still ongoing, you might very well get the pound of flesh that you’re all so hungry for. The butthurtedness of Trojan Nation was out of control on Twitter, check out tweets like this from Los Angeles-based @synrgysports, who is no doubt a USC homer:
Good lord, you couldn’t cut through that bitterness with a chainsaw. For the record, Synrgy Sports is an outfit that deals in …brace yourself… “professional agent selection counseling” for college athletes. Oh yeah, that sounds totally on the up and up. Nah, one could NEVER have a conflict of interests being involved in that racket.
Does the NCAA have egg on its face after this? Not exactly. Because as much as USC fans argue that they’re the same, the Bush and Newton sagas really aren’t.
As the Cam Newton saga nears the end of the tracks to possibly become the train wreck that people like Thayer Evans will watch with glee, I still have a lot of unanswered questions regarding how this even came about.
Specifically, I’ve wondered whether Kenny Rogers wasn’t some casual go between, but rather a guy who’s profited off of arrangements like this in the past. There are few very saints in this story, but while Cecil Newton will most certainly be painted the biggest villain (with his son not far behind) once it’s over, I think Rogers was every bit as nefarious.
Let me put this out there: if a demand for $180,000 was made, did Cecil Newton come up with that idea all on his own? Or was Kenny Rogers the architect? Keep in mind that if these allegations are proven, it won’t amount to a hill of beans regarding who came up with what idea. But it’s interesting to ponder, especially in light of some things Rogers had to say yesterday when he was interviewed by Ian Fitzsimmons of KESN-FM in Dallas. I can’t embed the entirety of the audio, but let me provide the highlights.
During the first portion of his interview, Rogers said the following: “I played at Mississippi State, I got friends there and God only knows what they’re thinking of me now.”
Well, Kenny, maybe you should of thought of that before the NFLPA started investigating you. Once that happened, your old MSU buddies probably thought that you’re a sleazeball who’ll do anything for a buck. But in regard to his standing in this Newton scandal, that fact apparently is neither here nor there to outlets like ESPN.
Rogers went on to say in the interview that he was the person who initiated contact with Cam Newton’s father Cecil and not the other way around. He said this occurred after Cam Newton left Florida under less than optimal circumstances: “And what I got in touch with him for is I help kids. I help kids get in school when a kid’s name go across the screen, uh, Brent Schaeffer from Tennessee, I helped him.”
I’m absolutely positive that Rogers performs these services for disgraced football players out of nothing more than the kindness that oozes from his gigantic heart. So anyway, all of you know how the story went, Cam Newton ends up at Blinn JC and once again becomes a hot recruit amongst FBS schools.
Fitzsimmons then asked Rogers how he became involved with Cam Newton’s recruitment to Mississippi State. “Well basically I found out Mississippi State was recruiting Cam through Mr. Newton, I didn’t know before then.” I’m wondering whether or not Cecil Newton maintained some sort of relationship with Rogers while his son was at Blinn and just picked up the phone one day and said, “Hey Kenny, your alma mater is recruiting Cam.”
To me, this is a very important point in all of this. If Rogers and Cecil Newton did in fact maintain some sort of active relationship while Cam Newton was at Blinn JC, then I can understand how Rogers ended up being some sort of intermediary in dealing with Mississippi State.
But if Rogers isn’t being truthful about the nature of that relationship, then in my mind that’s an issue that needs to be clarified. If contact wasn’t maintained, then why would Newton call Rogers specifically? Or did that even happen? If it was the other way around, I don’t find it a stretch to think that Rogers told Cecil Newton he could help extract money out of Mississippi State, which is the school he knows best.
Keep in mind that no other figure has come forward and said that Cecil Newton had an intermediary demanding money from Auburn, Oklahoma or Tennessee, which were others schools that were actively recruiting Cam Newton coming out of Blinn JC. Rogers himself has said he never had contact with Auburn, which is where Cam Newton ended up.
So you mean to tell me that Cecil Newton is demanding upwards of $180,000 for his son’s services and yet no one else can establish that a similar demand was made to other schools? Why was Mississippi State the only school that received this demand? That makes me believe that Kenny Rogers MAY have been the guy putting things in Cecil Newton’s head and not the other way around.
Also, I find it hard to believe that a Mississippi State football alum who appears to have ties to the program has to find out from Cecil Newton that his alma mater is recruiting Cam Newton. Especially in this age of bountiful internet recruiting info.
Now for the real meat of the Rogers interview, which was the following: “What I can say is on November 27 (2009), me, Mr. Newton and two coaches were sitting at the Hilton Garden Inn in Starkville and I really can’t remember how Mr. Newton stated this, but however he said it, one of the coaches was like, ‘No, no, I don’t wanna hear that.’”
Okay, the description of this meeting is very odd to me. If Cecil Newton is making the demand himself, why was Rogers even present? Think about it, if Cecil Newton’s son is being recruited by Mississippi State, wouldn’t he already have established relationships with the school’s coaches? Couldn’t he just have pulled them aside and made the demand himself?
That’s yet another thing that gives me pause about this scandal. If Rogers is a guy whose presence is commonplace in meetings between Mississippi State and recruits, that’s pretty damning stuff in my book. Was he present because he commonly orchestrates this type of meeting between Mississippi State coaches and recruits?
Rogers went on to give up another fascinating nugget concerning a conversation he allegedly had with Newton “He was like, ‘So, what do you think is gonna happen? You think it’s gonna go through?’ I said, ‘Well, I can’t answer that, I’ll just call Bill Bell.’”
Bell is owner of Bel-Mac Roofing Company in Santa Rosa Beach, FL and played for Mississippi State in the early 1980’s with Rogers. So why is he being called in a situation like this? There can only be one answer: he’s a point person for paying Mississippi State recruits and Rogers has dealt with him in similar situations in the past. What other conclusion can be drawn?
Here’s what Bell told ESPN.com yesterday:
Bell, when contacted Thursday night by ESPN.com, confirmed Cecil Newton did ask for money in exchange for Cam Newton signing with Mississippi State. Bell said he was contacted by the NCAA about the matter and spoke to an investigator earlier this week.
“That’s all I want to say about it at this point,” Bell said. (ESPN.com)
Jesus, ESPN, that was the only question you had for him? How about something along the lines of, “Why are you the guy being called in a situation like this? Have you ever paid anyone to come play football at Mississippi State? What’s the going rate for a new roof?”
I’m not trying to put an entirely new spin on this thing and imply that Cecil Newton was some poor, innocent dude who was suddenly enticed by the promise of money from Kenny Rogers. Hell, in the world of douchebag pastors, he could very well fall somewhere between Bishop Eddie Long and Jim Jones. But in a scandal where concrete evidence is hard to come by, what makes the scenario of Cecil being played by Kenny any less plausible than any other scenario?
Look at it in this brutally honest way: if you’re an elite football player, why the hell would you choose to play for Mississippi State over schools like Auburn or Oklahoma? How many times does Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen go head to head with the likes of Bob Stoops or Nick Saban and actually win those recruiting battles?
Mississippi State is a program that doesn’t have the very best facilities and has very little in the way of tradition. Compared to other SEC powerhouses, it’s a new Toyota Camry parked in a row of Ferraris.
Therefore, getting decent athletes to come play in Starkville takes some creative methods. It appears that one such method could possibly involve sending former players out in the world to buy them.