Cam Newton has led Auburn University (“Auburn”) to a perfect season, but a severe case of heartburn for Tiger fans seems like only days away. Last week, Cam Newton was rightfully declared ineligible for competition by Auburn after the NCAA determined it had enough information to find that Newton’s father, a Georgia minister, shopped him to Mississippi State University (“MSU”). The employment of a scholarship agent is prohibited by NCAA Bylaw 12.3.3. As a result of the alleged employment of a MSU alum to secure $180,000.00 in exchange for Cam Newton’s signature on a National Letter of Intent, Auburn pulled Cam Newton from competition in accordance with NCAA Bylaw 14.11.1 and, subsequently, sought reinstatement of his athletic eligibility. As has been heavily reported, Cam Newton’s eligibility was quickly reinstated and he went on to lead Auburn to a SEC Championship. At this point, there is no evidence linking Cam Newton to the alleged pay for play scandal other than a report that he told a recruiter in an emotional telephone conversation that he was going to Auburn because “the money was too much.” As such, the NCAA felt that Cam Newton was not a culpable party at this stage of the investigation.
The national media has heavily criticized the NCAA’s treatment of Cam Newton and his near immediate reinstatement. Of course, the national media sometimes forgets that the NCAA will speed up the reinstatement process when a student-athlete has a pending competition. Although I am surprised the NCAA was able to process a waiver of this magnitude so quickly, I have no doubt such a waiver would have been completed by the Friday before competition. So-called media experts that indicate Cam Newton received special treatment as it pertains to the processing time are misguided.
It seems this story is long from over and the investigation is only beginning. Most likely, Cam Newton will be long gone before the investigation concludes with his reputation intact or not. Either way, the NCAA appropriately processed the appeal quickly, but may have created a slippery slope in evaluating pay for play scandals. With the media attention created by this story, you can rest assured that every uncle, AAU coach, and hanger-on with a hand out will make sure to sequester the blue chip student-athlete from their requests of institutions and boosters.