Unless your cable/TV/Internet provider is in the mother of all broadcast disputes, no doubt you already know there are reports that the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, Auburn’s Cam Newton, may have been a recruit for sale and may have cheated in college coursework.
And you thought you had a bad week.
While these accusations (or revelations, depending on your level of cynicism) would certainly say a lot about the Newton family’s integrity if they prove to be true, they might say more about the NCAA and its compliance system.
The SEC was alerted to a possible infraction in January by Mississippi State University, one of the schools Newton was considering, involving an unspecified issue related to his recruitment.
Unnamed sources have told ESPN that the infraction involved Newton's father's solicitation of $180,000—through a middleman named Kenny Rogers—in exchange for Newton’s commitment to play football there.
According to a press statement issued by MSU, the school did not follow up with a request for additional information from the SEC about the matter until July. Guess there’s more to do in Starkville than I thought.
That’s only the half of it.
There’s also an allegation that Newton faced expulsion from Florida, where he played in 2007 and 2008, for three instances of academic cheating. Not to mention he was arrested for the theft of another student’s laptop while enrolled in Gainesville.
The whole ugly affair raises a lot of questions about where the adults have been in all of this—and I’m not talking about Newton’s parents.
For starters, why did the SEC compliance office not demand an immediate reply from MSU instead of allowing their request to go unmet for seven months?
What has the SEC compliance office learned in its investigation? Or did they just pass the buck to the NCAA?
Why is the FBI now involved? Seriously. Shouldn’t they be looking for terrorists and mafia bosses?
What’s all this talk of Newton being represented by a guy—Rogers—with ties to a professional sports agent in Chicago, Ian Greengross? Shouldn’t that be a recruiting violation?
Finally, why has Newton not been suspended pending further investigation, like several North Carolina players were earlier this year?
Granted, it can take time to untangle a he said-he said situation. It took years to unearth the Reggie Bush scandal, which is still under appeal. But Reggie was already gone to the NFL when reports of his violations surfaced. Time was really of no consequence.
Cam Newton, on the other hand, is an active player on a national championship contender. Surely this requires the NCAA to find another gear and take swift, extensive, exhaustive action to determine whether or not a violation occurred.
If he’s ineligible to compete, the NCAA must say so as soon as possible. It’s unfair to him, his teammates, and other Heisman competitors and national championship contenders to find out after the fact.
Since the SEC found out in January and it’s already November, obviously the compliance officers aren’t equipped to do their jobs. Yeah, like I said, I know these things take time to sort out, but with proper staffing, from the university to the SEC to the NCAA, 10 months ought to be enough time to get a sense of what’s going on.
This latest compliance investigation fiasco is further evidence that the NCAA has lost institutional control over itself.
According to my count, there have been more than 110 arrests of college football players alone this year, including two of the other leading Heisman Trophy candidates (LaMichael James and Justin Blackmon). Not one player, school or conference has been punished by the NCAA as a result.
There have been agent/improper benefits investigations at Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Meanwhile, the BCS unfairly discriminates between the haves and have-nots. So much for a sense of fair play.
Not that any of this is new, but why hasn’t the NCAA adapted and reformed itself to be as current and agile as its athletes?
Technology certainly makes their jobs easier, and we know there’s no lack of money to pay for what’s needed.
It’s time for the NCAA to get its act together or forfeit the game in favor of administration by the conferences.
They have their own problems, to be sure. But an extra layer of bumbling, unfair, expensive bureaucracy contributes nothing desirable to the game.