Auburn’s tough call

Start with this:

“The solicitation of cash or benefits by either a potential student-athlete or another person on their behalf is not allowed under N.C.A.A. rules,” Stacey Osburn, an N.C.A.A. spokeswoman, said Thursday. She was speaking about N.C.A.A. rules and not specifically about Newton.

Asked what the punishment would be in those cases, Osburn said: “That would depend on the specifics of the situation. It would be like any other rules violation. It would depend on the level of responsibility of either the student-athlete or the university as well as the scope of the violations. We look at a number of factors for all of our rules violations.”

If the N.C.A.A. provides Auburn with evidence that Newton or his father broke rules, Auburn would have to decide Newton’s fate.

… Speaking generally, Osburn said that knowingly playing an ineligible student-athlete could make a university “subject to harsher penalties down the road.”

So, if proven, the mere solicitation of cash by Cecil Newton from MSU is a NCAA rules violation.  Auburn’s immediate problem, then, arises if it receives information from the NCAA that there is fire accompanying all the smoke we’ve smelled the past two weeks.  How far fetched is that?  Put it this way – a lot less than we thought before the last three days.  Yahoo!’s Charles Robinson writes that the NCAA may recommend today that Auburn sit Newton for tomorrow’s game.

From the Tigers’ perspective, that’s rough being asked with all that’s at stake to sit the best player of the 2010 season because of something that happened on the recruiting trail at another school and which didn’t directly involve the player.  But as much as they may want to fulfill the promise of 2010, how much do Auburn’s coaches and administration want to jeopardize the future of the program by tempting the NCAA to impose more severe penalties?

The calculus that has to be weighed in making a determination isn’t pretty.  To proceed as if there’s no risk, Auburn has to be convinced that:

  • Kenny Rogers’ latest version of the facts is a complete fabrication;
  • John Bond is a liar;
  • Bill Bell is a liar;
  • The MSU coaches who reported the Newton conversations are liars; and
  • Cecil Newton isn’t a liar.

If I’m Auburn, I’m mighty uncomfortable with that list after Kenny Rogers.

*********************************************************************

UPDATE: If all else fails, maybe they can blame it on Dan Mullen.

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74 Comments

Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, The NCAA

74 responses to “Auburn’s tough call

  1. JBJ

    If I’m Auburn, then I don’t believe there is a reason to sit Newton at this point in the season. If there is a violation which requires them to forfeit games he played in, then what does it matter now? Their season is over anyway.

    • I think that’s right, as long as the NCAA doesn’t deliver a message to Auburn that there’s a problem with Newton’s recruitment. Auburn’s problem changes dramatically, though, if that word is ever received, because that would mean that more than the 2010 season would be at stake.

      Of course, if it turns out that Auburn did enter into some sort of pay for play arrangement with Cecil Newton, then that wouldn’t matter. So you may still be completely correct about it, sad to say.

      • Ronny

        So, if he plays it is either that Auburn is clean or dirty as a dog? That should put the matter to rest!

        I don’t know much but this Dad seems to be problematic. “I can’t confirm or deny” if money changed hands etc. WTF

        If he does sit, the howls from ESPN and others about this would be classic.

        • Whether Cam plays or not tomorrow, I think we’re a long way from seeing the matter put to rest.

        • Gen. Stoopnagle

          Cecil should have one comment from the start: “no comment.” Yeah, it makes him look like a dope, but what pr contest does he need to win compared to getting caught in an outright lie when the feds come snooping around?

      • JBJ

        Yea I am not clear on it. Seems to me that if an athlete is paid to play then that revokes his amateur status, similar to the Reggie Bush situation. Therefore, any games they played would be forfeit. If the NCAA does come out today and say Newton has to sit tomorrow, then I guess Auburn would have to abide by that due to additional punishments the NCAA could impose.

        Auburn fans went from elation to exasperation this week.

      • Rick

        One confounding factor is that Auburn is not just having a good season, but also a really fortunate one. Look at all those close games on their schedule (with the 3-point when v. UK at the top).

        And player/coaching talent is another issue. Malzahn’s going to be an HC very soon, and Cam is likely NFL bound. There may not be another season with this combination of talent and good fortune for 20 years. So yea, it very might well be worth jeopardizing the next 3 years.

        • The Realist

          Unless the NCAA takes it away. Then it would be the best 0*-0 team in Auburn history.

        • David

          I’d agree with that except Auburn went 14-0 and had four first-round draft picks just a few years ago. Assuming the hammer doesn’t drop too hard, they’ll be back soon enough.

          • tywebb

            That would require Alabama to go back on probation. I am NOT saying that isn’t going to happen, but Auburn’s neighborhood is a few exits down from sniffing 14-0 without external help (through cheating or Alabama’s penalties for cheating).

            • W Cobb Dawg

              That would imply all bama’s problems, poor seasons, poor recruiting, etc. resulted from probation – which is completely false. Truth is, like most programs, including awburn, bama rises and receeds as seasons go by. There have been plenty of seasons where awburn has had better recruiting and better coaching than bama. Bama was on top last year, but as all can see, they can and will get beat occaisionally, probation or no probation. Finally, who are you accusing of cheating? Awburn, who wasn’t/isn’t on probation or bama, who was on probation?

  2. NC Dawg

    Yeah, you gotta feel for Auburn, at least a little, if the facts turn out to be that AU rebuffed any talk from Cecil about pay-for-play and somehow signed Newton anyway. Hard to turn away from a player of that caliber because Daddy’s a nut job, but, in fact, Daddy may have made his son ineligible just by asking for cash.

    • Griff

      I understand what you are saying but I could never “feel for Auburn”. I have tried this week to be on Cam’s side after the witch hunt we went through with AJ…but I couldn’t do it. I just hate Auburn too much!

      • NRBQ

        As for being on Cam’s side, that’s a stretch knowing what we know.

        The recruitment details are not clear, but these facts are:

        He acquired a stolen laptop, and threw it out the window when the Man showed up.

        He cheated on assignments.

        During a year in Gainesville, he was cited for 13 traffic violations (which would warrant The Chair in Athens), including three charges of DW/OL, and several stop light/sign transgressions.

        This ain’t some angelic kid caught in a financial/political back-and-forth not of his own doing.

  3. Bill

    He’ll play tomorrow, beat our brains out and then sit.

    Just like OK St, UF, UT and every other thug school we play. They don’t just have different standards, they rub our noses in it.

  4. Spence

    You got to know when to hold em… Know when to fold em …

  5. Ward E Agle

    I hereby solicit cash from you UGA boosters for every player on the team.

    See you Saturday.

  6. Go Dawgs!

    Here’s what I don’t understand. Auburn has been aware of the situation since the summer. Clearly, they felt comfortable enough to play Newton. Even if the NCAA does come to them now and say, “hey, it’s worse than what you thought”, how does playing Cam on Saturday make it any worse than it already is? It seems to me that unless the NCAA rules him inelligible for Saturday’s game, Auburn might as well play him. They’ll already be 0-10 because they’ll have to forfeit all these games. If they took a player that they knew was being looked at and played him anyway, how does that impact future penalties for the program any less than taking a player they know is being REALLY looked at and playing him Saturday? It seems to me that the future of the program is in jeopardy either way. My call would be to play the kid and hope that it all works out.

    • Go Dawgs!

      The more I think about this story, the more it scares the hell out of me. I’m not a big conspiracy theorist at all, so I don’t necessarily believe the whole “world trying to bring Cam Newton down” angle. But apparently, all it takes is one guy saying, “yeah, they asked me to get them paid” and your season comes crashing down, certainly in the eyes of the public, and quite possibly in the eyes of NCAA investigators. I’ll leave aside for now the fact that there are all of a sudden a lot of people coming out of the woodwork to attack the Newtons. I’ll just look at the source, the Kenny Rogers guy. Well, this Rogers guy is a former MSU athlete, right? It’s likely that he doesn’t care of Auburn, right? So what if there’s no money trail? What if it comes down to his word and Newton’s?

      And what if a Tennessee booster decides he’s in a bad mood the next time Georgia is having a great season?

      • But that’s the point – it’s not going to come down to a he said, he said moment. Bond claims to have phone records. Bell confirmed that Cecil made demands. There’s a meeting that’s alleged to have taken place at at the Hilton Garden Inn in Starkville – surely the MSU coaches and Cecil Newton can prove whether they were there or not.

        And remember that, at least with regard to this point in the story, there won’t be a money trail. Cecil Newton’s infraction, if it exists, was soliciting money, not receiving it, from MSU’s representatives.

        • Mike

          I think there might be a money trail. From what I understand, due to their tax status, chuches are required to keep detailed records of their donors. For a church the size of Cecil’s, that large a donation would be hard to hide.

          Now, it may be that Auburn did not pay for Cam at all, in which case there is no money trail.

          Finally, if Auburn WAS solicited for money and EVEN IF THEY REFUSED TO PAY , then Cam is STILL ineligible. Or similarly, if Auburn knew Cecil solicited money at MSU, then they also knew is was ineligible.

          Auburn has a very, very narrow window of plausable deniability here.

          • AthensHomerDawg

            Churches and other religious groups are exempt from form 990 disclosures.

            • Kevin

              But the FBI can pull donation records. It’s too bad we can’t get the FBI involv— wait a minute

            • Mike

              I am under the impression that churches must keep accurate records of donors, given that the donors can and do claim deductions.

          • MT

            I’m not a dad so I can’t reduce some of the interactions to anything significant.

            But my take is that Newton very seriously and earnestly wanted to go to MSU from all accounts, just ignoring the money. Mullen was there, Newton was familiar with the offense, he knew he’d have success in it.

            The fact that the kid ended up at Auburn and supposedly tearfully called up a MSU coach to inform him of it directly corroborates that Auburn paid the family. I don’t think a dad would force a kid to so go against his wishes like that for $0

          • Kevin

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but he has several churches, no?

        • Go Dawgs!

          Wow. This story is spinning so fast that I didn’t know about Bond’s phone records, etc. Things develop faster than I can keep up with them. I grew up 40 minutes from Auburn, so I’ve got no great love for the Tigers, so if this takes them down, so be it.

          It just disturbs me how fast this all came about, and I definitely hope that it takes a lot of proof to get to this point with the NCAA. Then again, maybe I’m just paranoid.

      • Bryant Denny

        Well, it appears that the SEC office (in an attempt to shade the #2 ranked BCS team) kind of spat in MSU’s face with their release from Wednesday.

        It seems to me that this forced the MSU “players” to ante up again.

        • Will (the other one)

          Not surprised they’d rather try for a chance at a record 5-straight title than get this out in the open.

  7. Bryant Denny

    I’ve been through some horrible, NCAA-infested times as a Bama fan, but I just can’t (and don’t want to) imagine what Aub fans are going through related to this. I’ll bet they are suffering.

    Things are looking worse and worse (almost by the hour) for them. I think the information that came out yesterday almost forces their hand to sit him.

    If they hear all this and don’t sit him, doesn’t it kind of taunt the NCAA and make things worse?

    It’s also not fair to Uga to have to wonder how to prepare for this game. The game has serious bowl implications and, some might say, also has career implications for some.

    If Newton is innocent, I surely hope he’s not unfairly punished.

    Have a good day,

    BD

    • the Coondawg

      It really doesnt matter at this point if he’s innocent. He’s being punished right now…

      If this plays out that Cecil did wrong. It could cost his son millions and if Cecil solicited payments I can point to the source of all the legal problems Cam had at UF.

      • Nate

        Its not going to cost his son millions. No matter what happens at this point, Cam is going in the first round of the draft this Spring. His reputation is shot and he will probably suffer emotionally, but they aren’t going to have trouble paying the rent. Cecil may do a little time if there are Federal charges, but he’ll probably get a book deal when he gets out. In truth, its Auburn and its fans that will suffer and thats it.

      • NRBQ

        It won’t cost Cam million$. It will just delay if for a while. That cat could play several positions in the NFL.

    • Kevin

      Why would AU sit him? Right now they have deniability. Everything is coming out of the MSU camp and AU either had absolutely nothing to do with this, or they payed for him to come there.

      So play him either way. Because either you’re innocent and will be screwed by Cecil’s choices and you can play the victim, or you’re guilty as hell and you’re program is about to go through years of punishment. Might as well go down in flames.

      Really no reason to sit him

  8. Scorpio Jones, III

    Auburn has an amazing institutional history of breaking and stretching the rules.

    To illustrate: The last national championship team on the Plains was on probation….this in the days before that removed you from consideration.

    On that team was a running back who was a prime suspect in a murder committed in the running back’s home town.

    (Suspect….30 or so years later Bobby Hoppe was, in fact, convicted of murder. One of the “character” witnesses at Hoppe’s trial was the former Auburn assistant who recruited him. The former Auburn assistant, Buck Bradberry, went to Georgia, in a nice tweak.)

    Then there is Ole Pet falling afoul of a varmint in the person of Kevin Ramsey (no relation that I know of)
    which ultimately led to Ole Pet retarin to the banks of Saugahatchie Creek.

    There is Brent Fullwood and the classless football players.

    There is the quarterback from Cedartown who was something of a proponent of street fisticuffs.

    There are professors who conduct special classes with special requirements for special grades for special athletes.

    There is the prominent booster and then-AD who conspire to unseat the sitting coach by dabbling with one of the true Knights of the Weasel.

    With that institutional history is there any wonder if Cam Newton will play Saturday?

    Of course he will.

    At this point all Georgia can do is show and play the game, and I hope it will be to the best of their considerable abilities.

    I agree with Tony Barndoor about the critical mass, I suspect Saturday is the last time you will see Newton on the field.

    I really hate it for my Awbun buddies, I really do, but if there was ever an institution that is mentally equipped to do the time it is Awbun.

    • AthensHomerDawg

      “(Suspect….30 or so years later Bobby Hoppe was, in fact, convicted of murder.”

      FYI
      “Hoppe was defended by Bobby Lee Cook, one of the most noted defense attorneys in the United States whose clients included Jimmy Hoffa, along with Chattanooga attorney Leroy Phillips. The trial ended in a hung jury and Hoppe was not prosecuted further.”

      • Scorpio Jones, III

        Damn, AHD you are right about the hung jury….memory failed me…lets hope that is not a precursor to other things failing.

        But the point he was the prime suspect is still true.

        • AthensHomerDawg

          One America’s first cold case trials.

          • Scorpio Jones, III

            Yep. Brought about by the vic’s parents, and (I am sure this will be a surprise.) local politics.

            Hoppe pretty much admitted that he shot at the guy, but it was just as a warning.

  9. Macallanlover

    My interpretation of the NCAA’s response is Auburn may well be clean up to this point regarding Newton’s eligibility, but ignoring the “situation” from this point forward may bring sanctions. I don’t see how AU is responsible for knowing what was said in an MSU meeting that was not reported to the SEC office, but they are certainly accountable now for knowing there is a strong possibility this event took place.

    Auburn also may have a problem if the church improvements are linked to a big booster. (Is there yeller wood behind that there sheetrock?) Even if the church doesn’t have to file tax information, a corporation, or individual making the donation does. This situation is stinking more and more every day. Damn, I wish this story had not broken until after we play on Saturday. It would have been much more appropriate for the two weeks leading up to the Iron Bowl. The dynamics of our game have been significantly impacted, and I cannot tell how it will help, or hurt us. Sucks, this is my favorite “rivalry” game.

    • The Realist

      Even if the church doesn’t have to file tax information, a corporation, or individual making the donation does.

      It would only show up if they claim it as a deduction on their taxes. That, too, is the only reason churches keep records of donations… and you can make an anonymous donation to a church, so long as you don’t want to claim the deduction on your filing… but I doubt there are too many truly anonymous donations. I would think that would be a rarity of the highest order and would arouse even more suspicion… particularly if it were, say, $180,000 or so.

  10. Scorpio Jones, III

    Oops…Eric Ramsey, not Kevin…my bad…still no relation I am aware of.

  11. Brad

    So is what Auburn saying by playing Newton is that the charges are false and basically don’t care if the become true and the season is scrapped? And am I correct in understanding we didn’t play A.J. for the same reasons, not wanting to scrap the season?

    Sorry if the question is beneath this website, I am really new at posting things and (without sounding just straight up Boitano here) I just love this site and find the Senator to be the smartest man alive regarding UGA/NCAA football. In fact I would like to attend classes on making Senator-like jabs and comments. You know for parties or wakes…when appropriate.

    Also nice Bobby Lee Cook reference whoever you are, I know his granddaughter, beautiful girl and singer.

  12. Kevin

    Senator,

    I feel no one has really looked at the following scenario and I’m curious:

    Everything coming out of MSU is true. Cecil asks for money, etc.

    Auburn is, in fact, clean. They didn’t pay Cam and had no idea Cecil asked MSU for money

    (roll with me here)

    Auburn gets nervous now and benches Cam the rest of the season.

    The NCAA comes back after the season saying Cam was ineligable.

    AU vacates all wins w/ Cam as starter, but they also ran the table w/o him.

    So are they 4-0, SEC and MNChampions? How would that work?

    • Biggus Rickus

      That would be unprecedented, and it would probably be a judgement call by the the BCS powers that be. Of course, without Newton, Auburn probably loses out, so it would be moot.

    • If you carefully read what the NCAA says about sanctions, there’s some flexibility there. If Auburn can demonstrate that it had no idea what Cecil Newton was up to with MSU and then proceeded to sit Cam for the rest of the season starting tomorrow, my gut feeling is that the wins wouldn’t be vacated.

      Problem is, nobody knows what the NCAA has found.

      • The Realist

        I agree. If Auburn’s hands are clean (with regards to this situation… I’m not crazy), they won’t be forced to vacate wins. If someone knew something, then the entire program is culpable as well. Take the Bush incident at USC. Had the RB coach not known, they might have skated. Since he did, the hammer (kinda) dropped.

  13. Hairy Dawg

    Money trail will be difficult to find. Cecil Newton presides over at least 4 churches. Between all of these, I’m sure the money was spread out.

    • Scorpio Jones, III

      Nothing in a money trail is beyond the capability of our public servants in the FBI, this is what they are the absolute best at.

      And this, it appears, is what tweaked their interest in the first place.

  14. dan

    Well, as stated above. It all comes down to word from the NCAA. I imagine the process goes something like this: 1) NCAA investigation; 2) “proof” of a violation or potential violation; 3) NCAA convinced that proof meets whatever burden they set; 4) NCAA informs Auburn that player is “not cleared” to participate.

    At that point, it’s Aubie’s call. Much like ours with A.J. If A.J. did not sell the jersey, let’s say it was just rumor, and we felt confident in that fact, we could have played him and let the cards fall. In this case, we looked at the proof, agreed that a violation took place and had to petition the NCAA for his reinstatement to “cleared” status, which the NCAA granted after a 4 games suspension.

    My best guess. The NCAA will be in no rush this week to get word to Auburn. Cam will play. Next week things get interesting, and it wouldn’t surprise me that the NCAA deems him “not cleared”. Then, Auburn has a very tough call to make.

    • Auburn’s dilemma, assuming it’s innocent on its end, is that it doesn’t know what’s out there. If I’m Jay Jacobs, I’m not sitting back and waiting for the NCAA folks to get in touch. I’m getting proactively in their faces and asking – no, demanding – they they show their hole cards. There’s too much at stake here.

  15. Ausdawg85

    Can we back up a second? (/scratches head) If Cam was the 2nd coming of the GPOOE, why does he leave FL? Did Corch affirmatively dismiss him for the laptop episode? How does that square with his other punishments? I thought the story was Cam saw/heard/understood he’d be behind Brantley, etc.? So Corch missed that evaluation?

    Seems more likely that Mullen DID make a promise. So why does it get broken (and why not the immediate transfer to MSU instead of Blinn)?
    AU’s involvement sure comes late to the picture. Hard to believe it was due to a better illegal cash offer.

    But where is the outrage over Mullen and MSU? I’ve even seen some posts suggesting we should get Dandy Dan to come to UGA….really? While the intrigue seems to be swirling around Cam’s daddy, the fire seems to begin in Starkville, no?

  16. The Realist

    The article blaming all this on Dan Mullen is a riot. I would laugh if it wasn’t so sad… newspapers ,I mean.

  17. Tyson

    Here’s the problem with three of your bullet points: 1. John Bond is a liar as his recorded stories contradict themselves. 2. Kenny Rogers is a liar as his recorded stories contradict themselves 3. The SEC publicly confirmed that MSU coaches did not report the conversations.

    Obviously, I have no idea of whether Bell or Cecil Newton or lying. I do know that Cecil Newton’s story has been consistent, unlike that of MSU’s.

    • 1. Bond claims he can back his story up with phone records. He’s meeting with the FBI, so we’ll see.
      2. Kenny Rogers lied at some point in time, no doubt. Still, either there was a meeting at that Starkville hotel, or there wasn’t.
      3. Just because the MSU coaches didn’t report the conversations to the SEC doesn’t mean they didn’t occur. Again, either those guys were at the Starkville meeting, or they weren’t.

      Cecil Newton’s story at this point is that he won’t confirm or deny anything. So, yeah, he’s said that the last two or three times he’s been asked, if that’s what you mean by “consistent”.

      • Tyson

        1. Exactly. Bonds claims he can back up his story with phone records, but earlier he claimed that he hadn’t talked to Rogers in years. Obviously he has lied at some point.
        2. Agreed.
        3. Agreed. However, if they did occur, they should have been included in the information provided in either January or July.

        I’m not saying Cecil Newton isn’t lying. I’m just saying the MSU story hasn’t been consistent so it’s hard to know which of their stories is the truth. Is their story getting more honest more dishonest? No one knows.

  18. Bodda Getta

    I hope your team is obsessing about this as much as you are.

    Newton will play.

    At the end it will be Georgia who wished he hadn’t.

    • shadrach

      You better believe AU’s staff, athletic department and president are obsessing on this much more than anybody wearing red and black. If 1/2 of what is being alleged becomes fact and gets tied to anyone at AU that knew it, woe on Auburn. They’ll be crucified by the NCAA in light of their new ephasis on compliance.

    • Prov

      Well, if the Dawgs can only play as well as Kentucky did against the Tigers/Eagles they’ll have a chance.

  19. At what point do we discuss the difference between vacating/pretending they don’t exist and forfeiting/reversing the actual outcomes of games?

  20. I’m on my way to Gainesville right now or I’d comment on my blog, but your coverage of this has been excellent Senator.

    Something to remember – like Florida, Auburn was in NCAA trouble not long ago. If Auburn is in a position where they should sit Newton, but decide not to because of a calculated risk, the NCAA must hammer them, or lose all credibility. Not to mention, open the floodgates to similar activity.

    One more thing – if Newton is ineligible, AU is essentially stealing a SEC title that belongs to someone else (you can’t say he hasn’t been a major factor).

  21. damn

    I feel bad for the wareagleplainsmantigers seems everytime they cheat, they get caught. If only there was another way ……. GATA

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