The NCAA's investigation of Cameron Newton is just the latest example of a hypocritical full court press from the NCAA and drama-starved media when it comes to college players' status as "amateurs."
Hopefully this incident does not end in a similarly rash and puerile way as the whole Reggie Bush debacle concluded: With the best player in college football robbed of something that rightfully should be his.
For those who have their head in the sand, let's briefly recap the story.
Now that Newton has the Auburn Tigers on the verge of an SEC Championship and a spot in the BCS National Championship game, suddenly stories abound about Newton's past at Florida and possible illegal payments Newton and his family were set to take from Mississippi State in return for his commitment to the Bulldogs.
Naturally, Newton and his family have not confirmed the reports, with Newton's father, Cecil Newton, denying the reports. Also getting Cam Newton's back is his Head Coach at Auburn, Gene Chizik; Chizik recently called the allegations "garbage" and adamantly stated that Newton has always been and still is eligible to play at Auburn.
On top of the supposed payment Newton arranged with Mississippi State before deciding to attend Auburn, allegations about Newton's past at Florida indicate that the Heisman hopeful was embroiled in a cheating scandal for which he was to be expelled.
Now that all of the gossip is out of the way, let's get one undeniable fact straight: Cameron Newton cannot be raked over the coals for past indiscretions. This does not mean he cannot be punished for violations of whatever NCAA rules he broke, though we'll get to them, in all their absurdity, in a moment. It means that as long as Cameron Newton is playing football for Auburn and does not do anything wrong, Heisman voters, fans and members of the sport's media cannot hold incidents such as cheating on an exam or paper or stealing a laptop while at Florida against Newton.
We love redemption stories. Cameron Newton is a redemption story. And furthermore, who has not made mistakes in their past? Is it necessary to hold events in the past against an individual?
The whole situation is fishy, almost as if Mississippi State and Florida have sour grapes and want to rain on Auburn's parade. But it would be hypocritical to launch around allegations like that when defending Newton, so let's not dwell on this aspect of the story.
Instead, let's focus on what should be another instance of the NCAA's 'holier than thou' approach when it comes to their student-athletes.
Sure the argument can be made that the NCAA rakes in a lot of profit off of athletes they refuse to allow compensation to. But, to be honest, you'll have a hard time selling that complaint to any college student who is in debt from their years at school. Tuition, room and board, on top of probably money to cover some expenses, is a lot. These athletes really don't need to be paid much more than that. So the NCAA gets a pass on that, even though it adds to their hypocrisy.
What is really annoying is the 'holier than thou' attitude the NCAA takes when dealing with these instances of corruption, hiding behind what they'd like everybody to believe is concern for their student athletes, when they allow programs to be overrun by criminals.
Revoke Reggie Bush's Heisman and negate things that happened in the past at USC, but don't do anything about the dozens of players that have been arrested at Florida during the program's recent run of success.
Apparently, limits to the integrity of the organization and the sport of college football stop at the minor infraction of allowing underprivileged kids from accepting money and doesn't extend to trying to keep them out of jail and from committing crimes.
So Reggie Bush's Heisman Trophy was, for all intents and purposes, revoked. And now the question is whether or not Cameron Newton's Heisman candidacy will be affected by these allegations.
Just reading reports on the Internet and watching interviews among members of the media with a vote for the Heisman, that does not seem to be the case.
Which is a great thing.
At the very least the media is not going to be ridiculously puritanical in this matter. Cameron Newton is still playing, and as long as he is still playing at a Heisman level the award should be his.
Nonetheless, this story is not likely to die for a long time. Chances are Newton will win the award, but the investigation will go on. When Newton is making millions in the NFL, much like Reggie Bush, it is likely the NCAA could come to some sort of retroactive decision that revokes Auburn's success and forces Newton to do as Reggie Bush did not too long ago, hand over his Heisman Trophy.
But they shouldn't. And while they're at it, they should give Bush back his trophy too. Because when everybody that doesn't have their head planted in their posterior looks back at 2005 they won't consider the trophy vacant, they'll consider Reggie Bush the greatest player in college football.
The same will hold true for Cameron Newton in 2010.
In all likelihood the Heisman voters will do the right thing, but the chances of the NCAA doing a similar thing at the end of their investigation are slim. If the allegations prove true, Newton will see the same thing that happened to Bush happen to him. To the NCAA the 2010 Heisman would be vacant, but to everybody else it would belong to Cameron Newton. Nothing is ever going to change that, no matter how inane the NCAA continues to be.
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