Quick Snap: Cameron Newton Decision

The NCAA determined that Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton is eligible to play.  That is good news for the Auburn “family” and really good news for college football as Newton is the best player in the FBS and deserves to play.

Or is it a good thing?  The NCAA report notes that…

Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement. From a student-athlete reinstatement perspective, Auburn University met its obligation under NCAA bylaw 14.11.1. Under this threshold, the student-athlete has not participated while ineligible.

Um, okay.  That Newton can play is fine.  I have no problem with that.  But the wording used here is puzzling.  “At this time” is always a puzzling phrase.  Does this mean that the NCAA suspects that more information will surface?  That there is not “sufficient evidence” is certainly legalspeak, but also leaves open the possibility that Newton did know that he was being shopped and there evidence was simply weak.

But it is clear that NCAA violations occurred.  How?  The NCAA stated as much.

The NCAA concluded on Monday that a violation of amateurism rules occurred, therefore Auburn University declared the student-athlete ineligible yesterday [Tuesday] for violations of NCAA amateurism rules.

So violations did occur, but the only “punishment” that Newton received was essentially a one day penalty of being deemed “ineligible”?!  Really?

Look, I understand that once a violation by an athlete has been proven that the individual is immediately deemed ineligible.  There is then a reinstatement process that takes place.  But for that process to be completed so quickly is bizarre.  And why would Newton, who was suddenly deemed ineligible, not deemed ineligible for any games that he played?  It is a curious situation for which I only seek clarification; not damnation.

Additionally, will Auburn be punished?  Not likely as apparently the NCAA’s investigation did not find that Auburn paid anyone for Newton’s services.  That is fine, too.  But I am curious how Auburn “satisfied” NCAA Bylaw 14.01.1 (emphasis added):

Institutional Responsibility. An institution shall not permit a student-athlete to represent it in intercollegiate athletics competition unless the student-athlete meets all applicable eligibility requirements, and the institution has certified the student-athlete’s eligibility. A violation of this bylaw in which the institution fails to certify the student-athlete’s eligibility prior to allowing him or her to represent the institution in intercollegiate competition shall be considered an institutional violation per Constitution 2.8.1; however, such a violation shall not affect the student-athlete’s eligibility, provided all the necessary information to certify the student-athlete’s eligibility was available to the institution and the student-athlete otherwise would have been eligible for competition.

Well, technically he did not meet all applicable eligibility requirements — whether he knew it or not — and was allowed to represent Auburn.  Furthermore, did Auburn really certify his eligibility?  The findings of the NCAA seem to indicate that he was not eligible even if the violations were unknown to him.  Violating amateur status resulted in automatic ineligibility; thus if Auburn could not confirm 100 percent his amateur status, then how did they clear this particular bylaw?  Again…only asking…not condemning.

Cameron Newton is going to play — and he will likely play well — in the SEC title game.  At this point, that is something that cannot be question.  Maybe he did really know what was going on, but it is innoncent until proven guilty; not the other way around.  And in this case, his innocence was upheld.  He can play.  Get over it.

But the thing that worries me is not Newton or Auburn.  It is the door that these findings open.  What is to stop future shopping of high school athletes by their father or proxies and if caught the athlete claiming that he (or she) had no idea what was going on?  Remember Albert Means?  He was shopped around and the results was punishment for Alabama, not Means.  Means was still allowed to play…he just did so at Memphis rather than Alabama.

What does the case of Newton and Means show us?  Simply that the individual can get away with it while the school is the one that receives the punishment.  Neither Newton nor Means were unable to play.  They were not (directly) punished.  There are few consequences for the athlete and with this decision, will we see more cases where athletes simply “did not know” what was happening?

It is like the tragedy of the commons, where the individual benefits while the group bears the burden.  Only, it is the tragedy of the NCAA, where athletes (or their representatives) benefit at the expense of the individual team.

The NCAA will never make sense — an institution that will punish schools subjectively, where in some cases current athletes pay the price for the wrongdoings of past players and in other cases claim that they do not want to punish the current players.  This is an institution that allows some athletes to play professional baseball and then return to college to play football, but would not allow former Colorado wide receiver Jeremy Bloom to maintain his eligibility because he was a professional skier (and competing for the United States!).

Oh well.  War Cameron Eagle, i guess.


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