Today Auburn University made public documents
pertaining to the NCAA investigation in Cam Newton. In short, Auburn was able to successfully reinstate Cam by showing that he had no knowledge of his father's improper contact with former Bulldog Kenny Rogers. This should bring to a close the Cam-Auburn saga (although anti-Cam fans will probably never forget). But it still leaves me with a lingering question: Have we given future student-athletes a way to skirt the system?I've argued here recently
that Cam deserves to be one of the Pro-Bowl representatives from the NFC. He's talented, he's the majority of the Panthers offense right now; these facts seem undeniable and, most importantly, entirely separate from this eligibility issue. What bothers me has more to do with college football as a business and nothing to do with his obvious talent.
To quickly recap: After news broke last year of Cam Newton's father (Cecil) having met with an ex-MSU player acting as an agent, the Tigers quickly declared Cam ineligible. He was without delay reinstated by the NCAA (who then began a probe into the situation). Auburn went on the went the SEC and the national championship and Cam won the Heisman and was drafted overall number one by the Carolina Panthers.
The thirteen month investigation concluded last month and Auburn and Cam were cleared of any wrongdoing. However
, the investigation showed without dispute the following: 1) two representatives of MSU, John Bond and Bill Bell met with Kenny Rogers who 2) began to act as an agent (breaking Bylaw 12.3.3) by requesting between $120,000 and $180,000 to sign Cam Newton. He contacted Cecil Newton, Cam's father, 275
times over a 9-month period (by phone or text), to discuss signing Cam. Let that number sink in: Rogers called Cecil at least once a day, every day, for 9 months. That means business. But, let's also be clear, the trail stops there.
The findings declared that Cam had no knowledge of any of this. While I find that completely unlikely -- someone you're close to contacts a person hundreds of times to talk about your future and you never find out, it doesn't seem possible -- it doesn't matter at this point, mostly because Cam graduated. Even were he found guilty, the only punishment would be to the agent or a university. And likely MSU, not Auburn.
Instead, the crazy part of this saga is what is portends for future recruiting scandals. From this point on, the NCAA has essentially sent a message that regardless of the level of guilt of an agent or a player's family member, even if contact with the agent can be proven, the student-athlete need only claim lack of knowledge and the player will not lose eligibility. In other words, what is to stop a high school student from asking their dad (nothing in writing), Find me the highest bidder, if we don't get caught, great; if we do, I'll claim I never asked you to do it
. If this case is a guide, there will be accolades all around.
I'll be interested to see going forward if the NCAA changes this stance. They have opened a Pandora's Box for cheating, basically giving agents and players a blueprint on how to get away with it. The student walks away clean, the dad gets a slap on the wrist. The agent gets a stern talking-to. But it's the NCAA that ends up with egg on its face.