Let’s see if we can organize what news came out yesterday on the Cam Newton front:
- Mike Slive disclosed his unhappiness about Mississippi State failing to follow his precious reporting protocol. Not because the conference would have done anything substantive, though. “Slive maintained that it’s not the SEC’s role to influence an institution’s decision on a player’s eligibility. That decision remains with Auburn.” No, he’s complaining because developments have made his office and the conference look bad.“Any time our process is not followed, it’s a concern and a disappointment because we have an expectation based upon the rules passed by our presidents and athletic directors that the process will be followed,” Slive said. That’s what passes for leadership.
- Mississippi State officially confirmed that Cecil Newton had his hands out during his son’s recruitment. But the school was careful to limit what it disclosed to the SEC based on what it knew. That didn’t include how other schools were interacting with the Newtons.
- And then, of course, last night’s bombshell: “A source close to the situation exclusively told Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Mark Winne that the player’s father, Cecil Newton, has admitted having conversations with an ex-Mississippi State University player about the possibility of under-the-table money if Cam Newton signed to play football at Mississippi State, though he’s steadfastly maintained that no money ever changed hands and said no official at Mississippi State ever made such an offer.”
So what conclusions can we draw from those developments?
- First, everyone on the MSU side tells one consistent story about Cecil Newton’s solicitation of money in exchange for his son’s commitment. And the SEC has confirmed that it was told at least that much in January.
- It’s clear that Mike Slive wants to pass the buck for the lack of action taken between January and July to Mississippi State. Since it’s unrealistic to expect MSU to have investigated contacts between the Newtons and other schools recruiting Cam, either Slive thinks the admissions alleged to have been made by the Newtons to MSU about Auburn offering cash had some basis in reality or he’s simply hoping that enough people direct their angry attention towards Mississippi State that the conference’s lack of guidance will be overlooked.
- Unless the “source close to the situation” is Cam or Cecil, it’s prudent to take the disclosure skeptically for now. But it seems to me that if it’s true, we’re supposed to accept a huge, steaming turd purely on Cecil’s word: “Cecil Newton said his son’s hands are clean, and has made it clear that Cam Newton himself and his mother knew nothing about the money discussions, nor did Auburn University…” In other words, he was motivated to talk about money once, was turned down, and then never raised the subject with another soul throughout the rest of Cam’s recruitment. Right. If that’s the case, I sure would like to know why he was so insistent that his son reject his first choice of schools in favor of Auburn.
- Speaking of which, does anybody wonder if Jay Jacobs, in doing the due diligence that we all are assuming he’s immersed himself in the past few days, has spoken directly with Cecil Newton? Sure, Jacobs can’t force Newton to disclose what he did, but if Newton refuses to be forthcoming with Jacobs, knowing that ultimately it’s Jacobs’ call as to whether Cam plays the rest of the season, wouldn’t that confirm Jacobs’ worst suspicions about what happened? And if Jacobs didn’t include Cecil Newton in his due diligence, wouldn’t that confirm the NCAA’s suspicions about Auburn’s role?
I still think Cam plays today. Auburn’s way too invested in the “all in” mentality now to back down. (I bet Jacobs wishes Chizik had not been so demonstrative about Newton earlier this week.) But it’s hard to see how this ends well for anyone. Except for Cam, of course, who’s going to make money at the next level regardless of how the 2010 season plays out. Unless you’re Donald Jackson, it’s an incredible stretch to believe at this point that Cecil Newton didn’t ask MSU for money. That’s a flat out violation of NCAA rules. Going forward, Auburn is playing with fire with every game in which it allows Cam to participate. And when the dust settles, that’s likely to make the SEC look even worse.