Friday, November 05, 2010

New at Rivals: Cam Kerfuffle

Sorry for the delay in getting anything up about last night's ESPN meltdown over allegations about the recruiting of Cam Newton. picked up my column on the subject, and I had to wait for them to publish it before posting here.

Here's a preview; the rest is on the free side, so you can click through and read the whole thing whether you have a Rivals subscription or not:

Unless you've coming out of a coma this morning (watch out for the zombies), you know by now that ESPN and the New York Times went public last night with allegations that an "street agent" runner had solicited Mississippi State for $200,000 (minus a $20,000 "hometown discount") as the purported terms for Cam Newton's signature on a national letter of intent. The story was floated by former MSU quarterback John Bond; the runner is an old teammate of Bond's, a character named Kenny Rogers, who despite his handle, apparently doesn't have much of a grasp of when to hold and/or fold them.

That's really it. ESPN's Pat Forde, Chris Lowe and Mark Schablach, along with the Times' Pete Thamel, don't make any overt accusations against either Auburn or the Newtons, although both sling around innuendo suggesting that Cecil Newton, a minister and bishop, came into some extra cash he needed to repair an Atlanta-area church he's responsible for. The senior Newton firmly denied all the allegations when contacted, and says he willingly turned over his personal and church financial records to the NCAA when asked earlier this year. A local news report published in September 2009, months before Auburn ever contacted or began recruiting Newton, indicates the money for the church renovation was already "in-hand" at that time.

By halftime of last night's Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech game, ESPN was already backtracking on the innuendo; Forde himself eventually admitted that he knew of no evidence implicating Auburn in wrongdoing. For Auburn's part, the athletic department and Gene Chizik both released brief statements declaring that Newton has been and remains eligible to play at AU.

Those statements, while short, are significant. Auburn's current compliance department isn't known for either leniency or looking the other way-just ask new basketball coach Tony Barbee, who nearly walked away from his job entirely last month because of the onerous terms that department had added to his contract.

Multiple reports since the story broke indicate that Auburn has been fully aware of the Kenny Rogers allegations since early last summer, and I feel very safe in saying that if there were any chance of Auburn being implicated in any rule-breaking in this case, Cam Newton would never have put on a Tiger uniform this year. The guys in that office just would not take that kind of a chance-and not because they have any particular love for Auburn University. Sheer careerism on their parts would move them to declare Newton ineligible at the first sign of any potential violations.

Institutionally, Auburn obviously wants to win football games, but the idea that the entire AU administrative apparatus would play Newton with foreknowledge of serious violations-remember, this stuff was known to AU, the SEC and NCAA as far back as July-doesn't stand up to the smell test. You couldn't get that many people to burn their careers over one guy, not matter how many yards he might gain one day.


War Eagle AC-47 said...

I wonder what iut will take to vindicate Cam Newton? Already some Florida bootlickers have said they will not vote him for Heisman. The young man's reputation has taken some mighty hits. He's weathered the storm so far, I just wonder how much he will suffer because of this last, seemingly groundless, accusation.

Auburn certainly investigated this last thing because of the far-reaching impact on the season and the institution's integrity. The parties involved have known about this for at least five months or longer. The NCAA did not move to hold Newton out pending an investigation, meaning there wasn't even a whiff of evidence.

Why then is this story breaking now? The ribbon at the bottom of the screen during the Va Tech-Ga Tech game attempted to justify credibility with the caveat "...ESPN has learned..."

If brevity is the soul of wit, accuracy should be the soul of journalism. Snippets of this sort do not pass the smell test. I just hope young Mr. Newton does not suffer at the hands of these hidden "sources."

The Englands said...

Will- Regarding the Rivals column.

I know you probably don't care, but I take exception to your "imagining" how and why Meyer supposedly orchestrated making the story public.

I completely agree with the notion that there was never any reason for this to be made public as the investigation was already ongoing and apparently turned up nothing, and that nothing good will come out of it.

You rightfully so didn't appreciate ESPN's speculating on the source of Cecil Newton's church's funds without really having any of the facts, but you turn around and do the same thing by "imagining" that Meyer contacted Thamel in some attempt to defect criticism from his "failure". That's a bit much, and quite frankly irresponsible.

Will Collier said...

Englands, that account is backed up by reporting from two different organizations, with the second (just released) written by Phillip Marshall, the dean of sportswriters in the state of Alabama. Here's the link, although it's to a subscription-only page:

AubTigerman said...

Thanks Will for bringing some perspective to the situation. It's a sad fact that a story does not have to have any truth to it for people to believe it and for it to do much harm to an individual or an institution.

This is the fourth time in my memory that the NY Times has been involved in lies, distoration, and slander about Auburn. I do not think they are involved in any conspiracy just their typical yellow journalism.

I would believe the National Enquirer before anything that comes out of that garbage dispenser known as the NY Times. I wouldn't even line my trash cans with the rag.