Cam Newton Scandal: How SEC's Constitution Also Clears the Auburn Tigers QB

Jimmy ChenContributor INovember 16, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 08:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers (L) poses for a photo with BCS Coordinator Mike Slive durinig his press conference at the Marriott Convention Center on January 8, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Disclaimer:  Jimmy Chen is not a lawyer, and does not have a law degree. He never wrote any book, does not write for any major sports network, and does not have his own radio show.  In short, Jimmy Chen is a nobody.


Nearly two weeks into the Cam Newton saga, we finally have a few professional sportswriters going through the actual rules and regulations.  While I disagree with some of the articles (I shall discuss my issues and objections in another article), I'm glad that we're no longer just parroting talking points and play relay with anonymous sources.

As a few writers brought up the SEC Constitution, I thought I should also take a stab at it.  Again, comments and suggestions are welcomed.  If you think I'm wrong, or would like for me to clarify something that I've written, feel free to point it out.  I'll try my very best to address them.

Here are a few tidbits before we begin:

1.  The relationship between NCAA and the conferences (such as the SEC) is similar to that of Federal and State governments.  They have a power that overlaps with one another, but SEC goes into more details as well as placing many more restrictions/rules compare to the NCAA bylaws.  In short, SEC Constitution is more strict than the NCAA Manual.

2. Contrary to what the SEC Spokesperson has previously stated, SEC can be an investigative body.  SEC Commissioner Mike Slive even has the authority to rule on possible violations as well as handing out appropriate penalties and sanctions.

3. There are still no specific statue with regards to the solicitation of "extra benefits".  However, a few rules are open to interpretations.

With these in mind, let's begin:

(Again, I will not be quoting everything or the entire section.  I'll quote only the relevant parts.  If you believe an omitted item to be of great value, please let me know.  I will also skip the parts that overlaps with the NCAA Manuals already addressed in "Cam Newton Scandal: How the NCAA's Own Letter of the Law Clears the Auburn Tigers QB")


Ethical Conduct (Code of Ethics)


10.6.1 Coaches and administrators shall refrain from making public statements and accusations with regard to infractions concerning member institutions and their personnel. Should questions by the media be directed to these individuals concerning published reports of infractions, appropriate responses should state that such matters, if valid, are reported and investigated in compliance with established Conference and NCAA procedures.

For those who don't believe there's a gag order in place, here it is.  Basically, coaches and AD personnel can't comment on infractions or possible infractions, of their school or any other member schools.  They can only say that NCAA and SEC are investigating this matter. So seriously, stop asking; they won't say anything since it would get them into trouble.


Eligibility: Academic and General Requirements


14.01.3 Compliance With Other NCAA and Conference Legislation. A student-athlete must comply with the applicable Bylaws and other requirements of the NCAA and the SEC in order to be eligible for athletically-related aid, for practice, and/or for competition in any intercollegiate sport. Financial Aid. If at any time before or after matriculation in a member institution a student-athlete or any member of his/her family receives or agrees to receive, directly or indirectly, any aid or assistance beyond or in addition to that permitted by the Bylaws of this Conference (except such aid or assistance as such student-athlete may receive from those persons on whom the student is naturally or legally dependent for support), such student-athlete shall be ineligible for competition in any intercollegiate sport within the Conference for the remainder of his/her college career.

Article 14 talks about eligibility. The reading of the Financial Aid section is what might get a bit confusing.  Basically, it's the same as the NCAA Manual on this matter.  My interpretation is that only if you receive or agree to an offer would you be punishable under this rule.  I do not think it should be applied to soliciting or requesting, but some might argue that I'm splitting hairs.

Disclaimer:  Jimmy Chen is not a Lawyer, though he might try to play one.

If we read the statute from a legal standpoint, it is clear that this rule describes a completed crime, as oppose to mere solicitation, an inchoate offense.  The rule would require proving the act of receiving or agreeing to receive, in order to determine violation, both of which are complete transactions.  The wording "agree", which implies agreement, needs two participating parties reaching a consensus on an offer.  In legal sense, an agreement is just another name for contract.  So the issue here is that, if we assume Cecil did ask for money, the transaction never went through, so there is no actual agreement, and thus, this statute is not applicable. Recruitment.

If it is determined that a student-athlete has been illegally recruited by a member institution in a manner that violates NCAA Bylaw 13.01.1, the student-athlete's award shall be ruled permanently invalid, and the student-athlete shall be ineligible for competition in any intercollegiate sport at the institution guilty of the infraction for the remainder of his/her college career. Said student-athlete may then be awarded a scholarship by another Southeastern Conference institution. [Revised 6/3/93]

This section clarifies the intention of the recruitment violation section in the NCAA manual.  Basically, it say that a student affected by recruitment violation can still play for another school.  So, again, it doesn't matter if MSU broke the rules during Cam's recruitment, with the involvement of boosters.  Cam would be consider ineligible at MSU, but he's eligible to play in Auburn, as long as his recruitment by Auburn follows the rules.

19.10.3 Duties and Powers of the Commissioner.The powers and duties of the Commissioner are outlined in the SEC Constitution Articles, 4.4.2 and 4.4.3. The Commissioner has the duty and power to investigate the validity of violations and impose penalties and sanctions against member institutions, their athletic staff members or student-athletes, for practices and conduct which violate the spirit, as well as the letter of NCAA and SEC rules and regulations. This shall include the ability to render prospective student-athletes or current student-athletes ineligible for competition due to their involvement in a violation of NCAA or SEC rules that occurs during the individual’s recruitment. The Commissioner also has the authority to suspend institutional staff members from participation in recruiting activities or participation in practice and/or competition due to their involvement in violations of NCAA or SEC rules. (Revised 6/4/2010; Effective 9/1/2010).

This section deals with the power of the Commissioner in terms of handing out punishment.  It allows Commissioner Slive to literally make snap judgment and declare a student-athlete ineligible.  This pretty much takes away the schools' ability to "gamble and play a possible ineligible player".  With the Commissioner not making any move at all, four months (since July) after MSU had made all their facts available to the SEC, wouldn't this mean that, in the Commissioner's mind, there hasn't been enough credible evidence to even implicate Cam's involvement in a possible recruitment violation?

So another document shows how various specific rules just don't apply to Cam Newton's situation what so ever, even if you treat every single negative information from anonymous sources as fact.  In addition, it should dispel a lot of worries about Auburn gambling.  The SEC Constitution proved that Auburn can't really make that gamble at all, as the Commissioner has the power to bring the hammer down whenever he smells a possible violation.  While it is true that Commissioner Sliver is a very cautious person, he also values the reputation of SEC above everything.  Has there been any evidence of impropriety, you can be sure that he'll be the first one to suspend Cam or even Auburn.

With so many "facts" (or, as I like to call them, unfounded allegations) out there, the mere fact that Auburn is starting Cam should be a sign of relief for everyone.  Because according to the Letters in NCAA Manual and SEC Constitution, it means the Commissioner of the SEC has yet to see anything that would even suggest a possible involvement of a rule violation.

*You might notice the "Disclaimer" at the top of my articles.  It is mainly due to the fact that, I'm a bit sick and tired of addressing this particular issue.  Granted, I could hire a lawyer and go into the "no comment" mode regarding my credentials, but it's cheaper to just put up a disclaimer on top and be done with it.