Disclaimer: Jimmy Chen is not a lawyer, and does not have a law degree. He never wrote a book, does not write for any major sports network and does not have his own radio show. In short, Jimmy Chen is a nobody.
Finally! Vindication for Cam Newton and all the Auburn fans/supporters, as well as the neutral crowd who kept their heads cool in this whole mess! Also, for those who wrote that the hammer was about to come down on Cam and Auburn...
Well, it's a bit harsh, but I think a "Ha! In your face!" is in order.
Now, back to business. How to make heads and tails about this NCAA ruling. I know you guys are sick and tired of reading these long and boring law/decision analyses, and I've promised my fellow War Eagle writer, Nathan Deals, that I won't be writing novel length stuff anymore...but I can't help it!
Here's a few things ahead:
1. There are phrases in the decision that indicate hints of "more to come," but in reality, it's pretty much over.
2. This decision is basically a plea bargain (for NCAA, not Auburn). While I do believe Auburn could try to fight to be completely cleared, it's rather a pointless thing to do, as the end result would be exactly the same.
3. By using the "Agent Clause" as the violation in this decision, NCAA showed the deficiency in its rules, as mentioned in my NCAA article.
So let's get started!
Auburn University football student-athlete Cam Newton is immediately eligible to compete, according to a decision today by the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff. The NCAA concluded on Monday that a violation of amateurism rules occurred, therefore Auburn University declared the student-athlete ineligible yesterday for violations of NCAA amateurism rules.
When a school discovers an NCAA rules violation has occurred, it must declare the student-athlete ineligible and may request the student-athlete's eligibility be reinstated. Reinstatement decisions are made by the NCAA national office staff and can include conditions such as withholding from competition and repayment of extra benefits. Newton was reinstated without any conditions.
According to facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff, the student-athlete's father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton's commitment to attend college and play football. NCAA rules (Bylaw 12.3.3) do not allow individuals or entities to represent a prospective student-athlete for compensation to a school for an athletic scholarship.
From all the evidences gathered, the NCAA determined that Cecil and Kenny Rogers did try to ask MSU/MSU boosters for money. Instead of invoking the extra benefit rules that many have said Cam has broken, NCAA basically says that the only violation, in this case, is the fact that Cam was represented by Kenny Rogers.
Except, of course, he wasn't. Cam Newton himself never agreed to be represented by Kenny Rogers. The only way this bylaw can be used is to treat Cecil as Cam's agent, even though it wasn't specifically spelled out in this case.
In conjunction with the case, Auburn University has limited the access Newton's father has to the athletics program and Mississippi State has disassociated the involved individual.
As it's been proven that Cecil and Kenny Rogers did ask for money, and it is pretty clear that no matter the outcome of the case, Auburn and MSU is going to cut ties/limit access for them.
During the reinstatement process, NCAA staff review each case on its own merits based on the specific facts. Staff decisions are made based on a number of factors including guidelines established by the Division I NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement, as well as any mitigating factors presented by the university.
Reinstatement decisions are independent of the NCAA enforcement process and typically are made once the facts of the student-athlete's involvement are determined. The reinstatement process is likely to conclude prior to the close of an investigation. It is NCAA policy not to comment on current, pending or potential investigations.
These last two paragraphs are mainly just a threat, in my opinion. The threat being, if either school tries to stir this up again (MSU mainly), they could dig deeper because this investigation is not closed, yet.
However, as far as Cam Newton's involvement goes, this is it. Making a student ineligible and then reinstating him means, as the decision explained, the student's part in this is over.
So what did we learn from all this?
1. No. 2 Winner from all this: Commissioner Slive and the SEC
Now he's going to be praised for staying calm, and followed the rules instead of making snap judgements. He also got the best outcome of this whole thing: both schools are fine, and one of the star players of SEC is cleared. What better outcome can you ask for?
2. Disaster averted: Auburn and Cam
I know this might sound a bit contradictory to what I've been saying, but the fact is, Cecil did something he wasn't supposed to do during the MSU recruitment. I'm not sure if he had some kind of wake of conscience or what, but having his son coming over to Auburn (via a clean recruitment) might've saved his son's career.
If MSU and/or MSU boosters had agreed on a payment, Cam would've been ruined whether Cecil decided to back out or not.
If NCAA had more stringent rules that specifically prohibit the solicitation of extra benefits, Cam would've been ruined as soon as Cecil and Kenny Rogers sought out Bill Bell.
And Auburn would've tasted a nasty sanction, or even the dreaded death penalty, from all this.
Call it luck, or looking for loopholes, or whatever, the fact is if something is a little different than what it is now, Auburn and Cam could be looking at a world of pain.
3. The NCAA is watching you: Mississippi State
The case is not completely closed, but Cam Newton's been cleared. So what does it mean? Well, it means that NCAA will be watching MSU, the other focus of this investigation.
While I do believe MSU will receive no punishment in the end, the fact that three MSU boosters were involved in talking to a recruit's parent is enough to raise a few eyebrows for the NCAA purists. Until this is closed, MSU needs to stay clean, and they need to tell their boosters to get the hell away from recruits and/or their parents.
4. Face-Saving, Checked: NCAA
As I've said all along, every single rule that the anti-Auburn partisans thought the NCAA might have used are just not applicable in this case. It takes the NCAA to make an interpretation that's never been done before—defining a parent soliciting extra benefits as an agent and saying that a violation did occur because the student was represented by an agent.
In the end, the NCAA did find a way, within its existing rules, to get their way. While their grounds are so thin that they couldn't hand out more punishment than having Cam ineligible for one day, they were still able to set a precedent, and have the schools and conference agree on this.
Of course, now NCAA is in Auburn and SEC's debt, given how this whole decision basically showed that the two gave NCAA a chance to save its face. The benefit of this? Who knows, but it's good to have the NCAA owe you one.
5. Pants on fire: Anti-Auburn Media aka the Witch-Hunters
At least for the next... Erm... However many days/weeks/months, we can expect Auburn fans to say "I told you so" to some of the worst journalists and sportswriters in this whole ordeal. Not only were they one-sided with their reportings, but the constant jabbing and hinting about what things may or may not have happened is astounding.
Not to mention a few (or, quite a few) that just flat out say that Auburn is cheating, that Cam is scum, Auburn fans have their heads in the sand and so on. The countless "I know something you don't" insinuations were just unbearable.
And not one of them bothered to check the actual rules and figure out exactly what rules were broken.
In the end, these self-proclaimed "messengers" were exposed as what they are: frauds and lazy bums.
Expect them getting jabbed in their blog's comment area for years to come.
6. The No. 1 real winners: College Football Fans
Now that this whole thing is over, we can go back and enjoy what we had before this whole fiasco started: Football.
Not just any Football.
Auburn Football! SEC Football! College Football!
Lastly, I would like to say to Mr. Kelly Scaletta, that you were right, and I was wrong.
In the end, the NCAA did indeed do what you proposed, by defining Cecil's action as that of an agent, and determined that Cam had a violation in being represented by his dad.
While, granted, the outcome was resolved more quickly and punishment isn't really what you've stated in the comments, you still got it right, and I still got it wrong. I tip my hat to you, sir, and a sincere apology for doubting your interpretation.