Cam Newton Scandal: How the NCAA's Own Letter of the Law Clears the Auburn Tigers QB

Jimmy ChenContributor INovember 13, 2010

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 06:  Quarterback Cam Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers leaves the field after play against the Chattanooga Mocs November 6, 2010 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

UPDATE: One of the commenters pointed out that the Unethical Conduct section is phrased in a way that the unethical conduct "is not limited to" the list of examples. This means the NCAA can still bring Cam Newton's eligibility issue up if they believe a given act is an "unethical conduct," even if the specific conduct is not listed in the bylaws. The article has been modified to reflect this fact. Thanks for pointing it out.

I have also cleaned up, updated and rephrased some of the sentences to clarify some of the points.

Upon the urging of a few people here on B/R, I figured there was no harm digging into the actual NCAA rules and bylaws and see how they apply to the Cam Newton situation. While I did not go through the whole thing word for word, I did go through all the relevant sections. If there are additional questions and/or requests to look up specific scenarios, I'll try my best to fulfill them and update this article accordingly.

Before we begin, I'd make a few clarifications here on issues that a lot of people seem to be confused about:

1. While no actual wording in the NCAA manual addressed the solicitation of extra benefits, the NCAA reserves the right to determine what might or might not constitute "unethical conduct," which would result in a violation.

However, it is important to note that the section deals specifically with the student-athlete as well as staff members of the school; it will not apply to friends/families/boosters directly. This means, even if Cecil Newton did try to solicit benefits from Mississippi State, Cam Newton is eligible to play as long as he had no knowledge of the solicitation and neither he nor his father received any actual benefits.

2. Contrary to what people believe, an agent has to be someone who entered in written or oral agreement with the student-athlete him/herself—not the parents, friends, neighbors, etc. This means Kenny Rogers is not an agent of Cam Newton since, according to Kenny Rogers himself, he never spoke to Cam up until the MSU campus visit.

3. Contrary to what people believe, recruitment violations only apply to the institution where the violation occurred, not every single NCAA member institution. This means, even if MSU violated the recruitment regulations, as long as Cam did not lose his amateur status or directly involve himself in any possible dealings, he is eligible at Auburn.

With these three points in mind, let's start going through this boring document:

(I won't be quoting everything in every single section, just the relevant parts. If you see that I jumped an item or two, it's only because it's completely irrelevant, and you can read it yourself in the actual manual if you want.)

Unethical conduct by a prospective or enrolled student-athlete or a current or former institutional staff member (e.g., coach, professor, tutor, teaching assistant, student manager, student trainer) may include, but is not limited to, the following: (Revised: 1/10/90, 1/9/96, 2/22/01)

(c) Knowing involvement in offering or providing a prospective or an enrolled student-athlete an improper inducement or extra benefit or improper financial aid; (Revised: 1/9/96)

(d) Knowingly furnishing or knowingly influencing others to furnish the NCAA or the individual’s institution false or misleading information concerning an individual’s involvement in or knowledge of matters relevant to a possible violation of an NCAA regulation; (Revised: 1/16/10)

First of all, the Unethical Conduct section stated that it is a violation if a student-athlete or a school staff engage in unethical conduct. While it provided a list of unethical conducts, the wording allows NCAA to make additional determinations.

Item "c" and "d" are specific violations that could be considered in this case. With these in mind, it's safe to say that the mere acts of Cecil Newton and Kenny Rogers soliciting extra benefits will not be violations under the unethical conduct section. However, if Cam had knowledge and/or lied to the NCAA, it would be a violation.


12.3.1 General Rule.

An individual shall be ineligible for participation in an intercollegiate sport if he or she ever has agreed (orally or in writing) to be represented by an agent for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation in that sport. Further, an agency contract not specifically limited in writing to a sport or particular sports shall be deemed applicable to all sports, and the individual shall be ineligible to participate in any sport.

It's against the rules to have an agent shopping you around, but a person cannot be your agent if you never agree to be represented by him/her. This means Rogers is not Cam Newton's agent, since Cam, as far as we know, never agreed to be represented by Rogers. Benefits from Prospective Agents.

An individual shall be ineligible per Bylaw 12.3.1 if he or she (or his or her relatives or friends) accepts transportation or other benefits from: (Revised: 1/14/97)

(a) Any person who represents any individual in the marketing of his or her athletics ability. The receipt of such expenses constitutes compensation based on athletics skill and is an extra benefit not available to the student body in general; or

(b) An agent, even if the agent has indicated that he or she has no interest in representing the student-athlete in the marketing of his or her athletics ability or reputation and does not represent individuals in the student-athlete’s sport. (Adopted: 1/14/97)

It is against the rules for ANYONE related to the student-athlete to accept benefits from agents or possible agents. This means as long as Cecil never took a penny from Rogers, Cam is eligible.

13.01.1 Eligibility Effects of Recruiting Violation.

The recruitment of a student-athlete by a member institution or any representative of its athletics interests in violation of the Association’s legislation, as acknowledged by the institution or established through the Association’s enforcement procedures, shall result in the student-athlete becoming ineligible to represent that institution in intercollegiate athletics. The Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement may restore the eligibility of a student involved in such a violation only when circumstances clearly warrant restoration. A student is responsible for his or her involvement in a violation of NCAA regulations during the student’s recruitment, and involvement in a major violation (see Bylaw may cause the student to become permanently ineligible for intercollegiate athletics competition at that institution.

If a student-athlete's recruitment violated NCAA regulations, he/she would become ineligible to compete at that institution. However, nowhere does it say he/she will become ineligible at another institution where the recruitment followed the rules. This means, even if Cam Newton's recruitment by MSU somehow violated the rules, it has zero bearing on his eligibility at AU.

13.01.3 Off-Campus Recruiting.

In-person, off-campus recruiting is limited to authorized athletics department staff members, and limitations may be placed on the number of staff members who are permitted to
recruit off campus (see Bylaws and

13.01.4 Recruiting by Representatives of Athletics Interests.

Representatives of an institution’s athletics interests (as defined in Bylaw 13.02.13) are prohibited from making in-person, on- or off-campus recruiting contacts, or written or telephonic communications with a prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s relatives or legal guardians. Specific examples of exceptions to the application of this regulation are set forth in Bylaw (see Bylaw

13.02.13 Representative of Athletics Interests. A “representative of the institution’s athletics interests”
is an individual, independent agency, corporate entity (e.g., apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization who is known (or who should have been known) by a member of the institution’s executive or athletics administration to: (Revised: 2/16/00)

(b) Have made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization of that institution;

(d) Be assisting or to have assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families; or Nonpermissible Callers. Representatives of Athletics Interests.

Representatives of an institution’s athletics interests (as defined in Bylaw 13.02.13) are prohibited from making telephonic communications with a prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s relatives or legal guardians. Prospective Student-Athlete Initiates Call. An athletics representative of a member institution may speak to a prospective student-athlete via the telephone only if the prospective student-athlete initiates the telephone conversation and the call is not for recruiting purposes. Under such circumstances, the representative must refer questions about the institution’s athletics program to the athletics department staff.

These sections deal with boosters and, coupled with the fact that Rogers is NOT Cam Newton's agent, would yield some rather unexpected results.

1. If Kenny Rogers ever donated to MSU's athletics department (which he very well could have, since he is an MSU alum), he is considered a booster for MSU.

2. Boosters cannot and should not be involved in the recruitment process in any way. The mere fact that Rogers was involved in all this is a violation by itself for MSU. Along with John Bond and Bill Bell, if any of them tried to arrange anything or even talk to Cam and/or Cecil, it's a violation by MSU.

3. You are not supposed to make or even take calls from the student-athlete and/or their relatives. If Bill Bell had any direct contact with Cecil Newton, that is a violation by MSU.

16.01.1 Eligibility Effect of Violation.

A student-athlete shall not receive any extra benefit. Receipt by a student-athlete of an award, benefit or expense allowance not authorized by NCAA legislation renders the student-athlete ineligible for athletics competition in the sport for which the improper award, benefit or expense was received. If the student-athlete receives an extra benefit not authorized by NCAA legislation, the individual is ineligible in all sports.

16.02.3 Extra Benefit.

An extra benefit is any special arrangement by an institutional employee or a representative of the institution’s athletics interests to provide a student-athlete or the student-athlete’s relative or friend a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation. Receipt of a benefit by student-athletes or their relatives or friends is not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students or their relatives or friends or to a particular segment of the student body (e.g., international students, minority students) determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability. (Revised: 1/10/91)

Again, everything about extra benefit deals with the fact that the actual benefit is provided or agreed upon—not the solicitation of such benefit. It means, as I mentioned before, that as long as no agreement was made and no benefit was received, there would be no violation on Cam's part with regards to the extra benefit section.

So, if we do follow the letter of the law, you can clearly see that NCAA has zero standing to rule Cam ineligible or sanction Auburn in any way. On the other hand, all the reports and accounts from various sources will bring trouble only to MSU. As long as Cam and Cecil didn't agree or receive any "extra benefits," he is, as was said all along by Auburn officials, eligible to play for Auburn—period.

And I am sorry to have ever doubted you, fine gentlemen at the AU Athletics Department.