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.
As mentioned in my SEC Constitution article, I am very glad that the actual rules and bylaws are finally being discussed by various professional sportswriters. Of course, that doesn't mean I would agree with their reading of the rules, but it's a start in the right debate, for a change.
Those who bothered to read through the comment sections would know that one of the themes that kept popping up is my lack of credentials, specifically in the matter of law. It is, of course, a completely valid point, and I respect those questioning something like this.
Let's be honest here, would a successful writer, radio show host and lawyer be writing articles on B/R? Of course they could. However, that's not what B/R is all about. It's not about trying to beat someone else in credentials to make your point valid, but beating, confronting, narrating and presenting ideas by the virtue of the idea itself. If people like your articles here, it's not because you are a successful, big time sportswriter (although it wouldn't hurt), but because they like your idea, or the way you've presented it.
One of the most quoted articles, used to debunk my interpretation, would be that of Mr. Clay Travis. His two articles, "Starting 11: Cam Newton Will Eventually Be Declared Ineligible" and "Has Cam Newton Violated SEC Bylaws, Rendering Him Ineligible?" offered a completely different way of reading the same rules and bylaws I've quoted in my own two articles, "Cam Newton Scandal: How the NCAA's Own Letter of the Law Clears the Auburn Tigers QB" and "Cam Newton Scandal: How SEC's Constitution Also Clears the Auburn Tigers QB." The differences between us are striking, in that Mr. Travis is an author of a bestseller, professional sportswriter, radio show host, and, wait for it, a real lawyer, while Jimmy Chen is just a nobody.
But, this is B/R, and I believe that while credentials matter, everyone, including me, is entitled to defend their own view and leave the judging to the readers. If the readers see having a law degree, or lack thereof, as an important factor, it is their prerogative. Still, it doesn't change the fact that the way Mr. Travis presented his view is, in my opinion, flawed. I'll try my best to address my objections. I hope that you, the readers, can agree.
So here we go:
Disclaimer: Jimmy Chen is not a Lawyer, though he might try to play one.
1. The way many, including Mr. Travis, argue their case is that they assumed everything they've heard so far from various named and anonymous sources, stems from facts. Yet, they continue to ignore anything positive (Cecil Newton's denial in the beginning) or inconsistencies of their accounts (I don't need to state how many times John Bond and Kenny Rogers have changed their stories). I can let it go, sure, which is what I've done for the two articles, but in a real investigation or a real court case, changing public statements can be used to discredit accusers/witnesses. I personally cannot bring myself to trust a person's word if it's changed so many times in the course of two weeks.
However, I'll let it go and focus simply on the merit of the possible charges/cases.
2. An item has been brought up, by not just Mr. Travis, but also endless anti-Auburn partisans as well as professional sportswriters everywhere, and used as proof of Cam Newton's guilt. It is also the perfect mouthpiece used to silence those who tried to bring up the actual NCAA rules:
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn: "The solicitation of cash or benefits by a prospective student-athlete or another individual on his or her behalf is not allowed under NCAA rules."
That's it, case closed, Cam is going down, because Cecil asked for money. Auburn is cheating for playing him. Auburn will burn. So on and so forth.
But, then I ask, which rule is it, exactly?
I'm not saying that solicitation of extra benefit is right (it is, in my opinion, morally wrong), but I'm asking, which rule are you going to use to punish Cam Newton? (To all the people who believes that student-athletes should get paid: Sorry, I'm not one of you. I don't believe student-athletes should be paid.)
Could it be that the NCAA spokeswoman is wrong? That she doesn't understand or didn't bother to read the actual rules? Or that she's simply trying to make the NCAA look good, like any professional spokesperson would do for the person or institution they represent?
Alas, no, you are not supposed to question the word of NCAA spokeswoman, because, the NCAA best knows NCAA rules!
Never mind that Ms. Osburn also said only the athlete's school can declare him ineligible and apply for reinstatement, when the SEC Commissioner does, in fact, hold the power to declare a student-athlete ineligible.
Never mind that SEC Associate Commissioner Greg Sankey said SEC is not an investigative body, when the SEC Constitution does, in fact, state that it is SEC's duty to investigate potential violations, and that the Commissioner is empowered to give out penalties and punishments as he sees fit.
Never mind that even someone like White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who works for the President of the United States, would publicly call President Obama's vetoes as pocket vetoes, when the Constitution of the United States showed that there is no way in hell they were pocket vetoes.
We are just supposed to take these people's word for it, without question.
Is that the proper behavior of a journalist? Not in my book.
As I've stressed over and over again, regardless of what the "officials" said, if something is not in the rule book or the laws, it's just not there. If a person who speaks for the President of the United States can get the Constitution wrong, what's so strange to have persons speaking for the SEC and NCAA to get their own Manual and Constitution wrong? The blind faith these arguments place on the words of the officials is just scary.
Bottom line is: if a rule or law does not exist, you cannot punish someone with it, no matter how wrong you believe their action is. You can't punish someone for streaking if there's no law against streaking. You can't punish someone for driving at 100 miles per hour if there's no speed limit.
And you just can't punish Cam Newton even if his father solicited extra benefits because there's no rule prohibiting it.
If the NCAA believes such rule is warranted, they can very well amend the NCAA manual to punish such an infraction. Even then, you still can't punish Cam Newton because such rule didn't exist when the alleged solicitation occurred.
3. Mr. Travis, as well as many people, argued that NCAA should twist the Unethical Conduct's all-encompassing clause (the "include, but not limited to" wording) and have it cover not just the student-athlete and the coaches/staffs/faculties of the school, but also student-athlete's families and friends, so that Cam Newton (and every single other student-athletes out there) is punishable for their family and friends' inappropriate behaviors. They argue that if we don't do this, we would have grannies across the country, calling up head coaches, demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars without consequences.
It is a scary prospect, yes, but it should have zero bearing to the investigation here. You can't twist a rule or law to fit your need. If we are to consider every possible consequence of what might or might not happen should something be ruled one way or the other, our judicial court will never be able to make a single ruling. The NCAA should consider whether any existing rules and bylaws apply in this case, and deal with it accordingly. If it exposed a flaw in the Manual, then it would be the best time to fix it.
4. Scary scenarios? Two can play this game:
Now, consider this: If we punished Newton today without any direct evidence while letting MSU go scot-free, what's to say that in the future, when a team led by a Heisman front runner is on track to a perfect season, they would not suffer, even if nothing was proven in the end? All it takes is several boosters from a school who lost the recruitment war, making allegations that might or might not have a thread of proof to force that team to suspend the player in question. The press would be more than happy to join the witch hunt and hound the school officials to the end, even though they are specifically forbidden to comment, including defending themselves in public.
What's to say that some boosters from Texas wouldn't try to go public and declare LaMichael James' high school coach tried to ask for money, and Oregon would be forced to make him ineligible to protect themselves? What's to say that some boosters from Eastern Washington wouldn't come out and make similar claims about Kellen Moore, and Boise would be forced to make him ineligible to protect themselves? And guess what, the schools these boosters belong to don't even have to answer for it, because they did the right thing and reported possible violations! Never mind that the use of boosters in any element of the recruitment is a violation. As long as we report it and give the NCAA a possible bigger fish, we're free from any consequences!
Such are the follies of the cyclic debate that would only distract the task in front of us. If you can't find any logic to support your argument other than some doomsday/can of worms scenarios, it usually means that your argument had no merit to begin with. Anyone can make up a scary story, and a good scary story can make a lot of people wet their pants; still, it doesn't mean that it's a good argument, or a good way to make your case.
5. We then moved onto the SEC Constitution, which phrased it in a way that, Mr. Travis argues, already makes Cam Newton ineligible. If Cecil Newton tried to solicit extra benefit, it would mean that he would have agreed to such benefit if presented to him. Thus, it already makes him in violation of the SEC rule, which would in turn render Cam ineligible.
I can assure you that, if you argue your case like that in the court, no judge in the country would accept that as a valid argument.
Why, you might ask? Because it's what's called "assuming facts not in evidence." You can't present a possible scenario with no supporting evidences to go with it. While I have no idea if the FBI/NCAA/SEC already have such evidence or not, neither does Mr. Travis. Assuming every single allegation told by the three MSU boosters as fact, the most you can prove is solicitation or intent to solicit. Even with these statements, you cannot prove that an agreement has been formed, because the opposing party, whether it's Bill Bell or the MSU coaches, never agreed to anything.
This would be like trying someone for murder when no one was killed, or trying someone for speeding when the car didn't actually go above the speed limit.
Am I arguing that attempted murder or not letting go of the gas pedal when you're near the speed limit are the right things to do?
What I'm arguing here is: the laws being used as basis are not applicable in these case.
And I'm arguing that "assuming facts not in evidence" is one of those basic legal concept that anyone familiar with laws would want to avoid, whenever possible. If you bring that charge/defense argument into a court, you'd have the judge throw it out before you blink.
6. Furthermore, as mentioned by myself as well as Mr. Travis, that the SEC Commissioner has the power to make snap judgements before an investigation is concluded, in terms of eligibility. Mr. Travis predicted that Commissioner Slive is going to use this and declare Cam Newton ineligible.
So my question is this: Why hasn't he?
This provision gives him the power to do pretty much what Auburn has decided not to do at the moment: suspend or make Cam Newton ineligible until the smoke is clear. Since there are so many credible evidences (it sure is to the anti-Auburn partisans, or happy media cheerleaders like Mr. Travis), there has to be at least some reasonable suspicion that would make it safer to just declare Cam Newton ineligible. After all, it's been known to him since January, and he has supposedly received everything MSU has to offer,
Is he gambling? Or playing with fire? Trying to help Auburn get to the national championship game?
Upon knowing this fact, these questions filled the comment area. Then questions become answers themselves, that somehow, the SEC Commissioner is conspiring with Auburn, is siding with Auburn, is trying to steal the Heisman, and above all, is trying to have another SEC National Champion. All of the sudden, Mike Slive has been turned into a foolish old man who is greedy, selfish, and weak.
But seriously, is he any of this?
Could it be that he sees no damning evidences, as many have claimed, that would affect Cam Newton's eligibility in any way? That there are no applicable rules and bylaws in this situation? That he believes we shouldn't let a media witch hunt to ruin a young man's life?
For those who believe that Commissioner Slive is trying to steal the NCG for the SEC (talk about counting chickens for the other side before they're hatched!), consider this:
What would happen when the NCAA finishes their investigation and ruled Cam Newton ineligible, as many of the anti-Auburn partisans suggested? What would happen to Auburn, who knowingly played Cam, an ineligible player, as many are suggesting?
And how would it make Commissioner Slive look, if everything goes the way the media narrations are suggesting? Vacated wins, Auburn on probation or worse, returning the Heisman, etc.
Basically, it will make Mike Slive look like a complete idiot, an incompetent old fool and someone that's about to lose his job. Even if Auburn, before the hammer falls, achieves every single one of the Tigers' dreams, it will all be for nothing. Nothing for Auburn, nothing for Mike Slive, and nothing for the SEC.
So I ask those people who say he's gambling: What possible gain would he have by siding with Auburn? Nothing.
And what might he lose by siding with Auburn? Everything.
Why in the world would you make such a gamble then?
Maybe because it's not a gamble, but the right thing to do? Maybe, as a man who used to practice law, and even served as judge, he reaches the same conclusion that I've previously mentioned?
Jimmy Chen might not be a lawyer, but he believes in the lawyer in Commissioner Slive.
Sure, everything might change in a few days. The NCAA could decide to issue a recommendation for Auburn to suspend Cam. The SEC or Auburn could decide to go ahead and declare Cam ineligible. Until then, I will keep supporting Cam and the Auburn Tigers, that it means there are zero ground or zero evidence to even suggest Cam is ineligible. No amount of media spinning or haters bashing can change that fact. Those who kept calling Auburn supporters as head-in-sand or blinded, are the ones blinded from the truth, which is, there's nothing that makes the NCAA, the SEC, or Auburn compliance office, to even think, that Cam Newton could be ineligible.
So until then, Auburn fans and non-partisan football lovers, brace yourself for more parroting by the media, brace yourself for more anonymous sources, brace yourself for sportswriter quoting the same reports and call it a new headline, brace yourself for more insults and name-callings.
But, above all, brace yourself for more Auburn football, because no matter what kind of distractions are out there, I'm sure the coaches and the team will focus the task at hand, and that is to win one game at a time.