Update- Kenny Rogers (w/ lawya) Flips- So the non-country singing Kenny Rogers changed his story and told the ESPN Radio Dallas station that he heard Cecil Newton shop Cam to two (or more) MSU coaches last year at the Starkville Hilton Garden Inn the night before the Egg Bowl. My thoughts. For now. First off how do we believe Rogers? He has told two completely different stories now. If Rogers' latest is to believed than this must be considered/ asked:
- MSU committed a serious recruiting violation. They were solicited by a recruit's representative for cash, did not report the violation and instead continued to recruit that athlete for at least three more weeks until he signed with a different school.
- Cecil Newton is a miserable salesman. He apparently got nothing for Cam when he signed with Florida. Then a year later, when Cam is damaged goods coming out of Blinn, he is suddenly worth somewhere in the low six figures. Isn't that like a car salesman giving away a Corvette one week and then trying to sell the same car a week later for $50K AFTER it has been in a serious crash? Somebody check the Camfax.
- Why did it take until, at least, Cecil's 4th shot at college football recruiting (His own, Cecil Jr.'s, and Cam's twice) to realize he could solicit (and get) $100k-200k for a signature on a letter of intent? Is there something about that notion that does not pass the logic test?
Still no idea how this ends. Auburn put out a statement a few minutes ago that Cam will still start on Saturday. Still no change to the current analysis- Auburn must win. That is the only way to make this better. That and/or a Cecil Newton press conference (with lawya, natch) denying all of these accusations. WAR EAGLE!!!
Without question, the news of the last few days, much like the 2010 football season in general, has sent waves through the Auburn Family unlike anything else in the past 25 years. There is so much flying around that from a fan's perspective, it is very difficult to adequately digest. There are many facts and there are many opinions. Here is one fan's attempt at sorting it all out:
1.) Any rational Auburn fan (yes, an oxymoron to some, I know) who does not at least take notice of this story given Auburn's, ahem, unfortunate history with NCAA, is really making a mistake. That said, I have read probably 90% of everything written thus far on the issue, and I am left with too many credibility gaps to give the story much more thought. For now.
2.) I took journalism in high school. This string of stories, when examined individually, does not appear to pass the basic tests of responsible journalism. Everything seems to point back to John Bond's claim that Kenny Rogers/ others offered Cam for cash. If Forde, Schlabach, Thamel, et al. and their independent sources all corroborate that "Yes, John Bond told ________ that Kenny Rogers offered Cam for Cash", does that equal due diligence? Or does it simply prove that Bond was a prolific rumormonger/ liar?
3.) With three and a half decades of Auburn/ SEC fanhood under my belt, it would in no way shock me if in the next weeks, months, or years, evidence came forth proving these allegations. What I see in front of me in terms of "evidence" today does not move me. Here is a sampling of the key arguments FOR "Cam for Cash" and my thoughts:
- Cecil Newton Meddled, Forced Cam to Auburn and Therefore Must Be Guilty- I have two daughters. One is a very talented young gymnast. If someday she was lucky enough to earn a scholarship to an NCAA gymnastics power (Auburn, Georgia, Florida- thoughts of the last two give me a headache but they are great programs) then after two years she was arrested for some impropriety, forced to attend a rural JUCO for a year and then offered a chance back at a major program a year later, I would be WHOLLY IRRESPONSIBLE if I did not an active take part in the "second chance" decision. We can argue degrees of involvement all day but the notion that Cecil's activity equals guilt is silly. From the standpoint of a parent, the absence of Cecil and Mrs. Newton in Cam's decision-making process should be cause for concern.
- Dan Mullen Coached Cam at UF so Picking Auburn is a Clear Sign Guilt- Spend one day in Starkville and the decision to go to Auburn becomes exceedingly clear. Plus, any other substantial comparison of the two programs- On the field success over the past 10, 20, 30 years; Number of players in the NFL; Chances of success in 2010 and 2011; TV appearances, etc. And the choice seems abundantly clear. The only thing MSU had going for it was Dan Mullen. That's it. Plus, going back to the first argument, take a peek at this statistic- Driving distance between College Park, GA (Newton's hometown) and Gainesville-341 miles. Between College Park and Starkville- 341 miles. Between College Park an Auburn- 101 miles. Wouldn't the entire Newton family feel more secure with Cam being closer to home given what happened to him at Florida?
- Cam Cheated at Florida- These allegations do not move me. They may be true but that falls under the original theory of Cam being out of control at UF and needing a reality check, which he received at Blinn and has made good on at Auburn.
- The "Cam and Cecil Directly Mentioned Cash and Auburn" Story. This is really beyond silly. Again, it may have happened BUT how can Joe Schad report that "recruiters" at MSU reported that Cecil said "blah, blah, MONEY blah, blah" and Cam said "blah blah MONEY TOO GOOD blah blah". What are "recruiters"? By NCAA rules, they better be coaches. If Schad is not confident enough in his sources to say that they are members of the MSU coaching staff, then they are seriously suspect. Just more ammo in the rhetorical firefight that is now raging, unexpectedly, between Auburn and Mississippi State. Congratulations, Bulldogs, on becoming Auburn's 4th biggest rival!?!
- "Haterism" as Motivation- This theory has been raging through the Auburn blogosphere. I do not believe in this theory. What I do believe in is human nature. In grad school I was the TA for a course called the Modern American Political Campaign. In that class, very savvy and successful political strategists taught about the phenomenon of "confirmation bias" when trying to understand and predict the electorate. I won't bother fully defining it here (it's on wikipedia) but it is pretty self explanatory. By example, c.b. really hit Auburn hard in 2004. The voters went into that season believing USC and OU were the 2 best teams in the country. As the season wore on, they cast votes based on that initial belief in spite of new evidence to the contrary. To me, that is playing out again under different circumstances. At this point, Thamel, Schad, Evans, et. al. are convinced that Cam/ Cecil/ Auburn are a cabal of cheating scumbags. Their continuing work confirms that bias. John Bond's claims have been thoroughly perforated. Schad's aforementioned lack of sourcing is evident. It all points to the fact that some members of the media have committed to the line of reasoning that indicts the Newtons and are too far down that road to turn back without risking their professional credibility.
Where will this all end? Over the long term, I have no idea. In the near term, there is no question- Cam Newton, Gene Chizik, and Auburn as a whole have to go out and win the rest of the games. Anything less will be laid on the backs of the Newtons forever and leave Auburn in a state of serious disrepair. The salve of winning will make the rest go away, even if only temporarily. I will be cheering as hard as I've ever cheered on Saturday, the Day after Thanksgiving, December 4th, and hopefully beyond.