Seriously, how can you not be a little sympathetic about the plight of Auburn fans? They’re sitting on the brink of a dream season, an unexpected dream season, yet their excitement over that has been marred over the past three weeks by national attention to a recruiting scandal involving the team’s best player which (at least based on what’s been alleged to date) doesn’t directly involve the school.
What’s a mother to do? Well, if nothing else, you can always try to spin away the angst.
You could blame the NCAA for being a bunch of petty, inconsistent bastards.
… As for the risk of extra sanctions here is where I’ll show some of my true colors and ultimately my disdain for the NCAA as a group. They wield absolute power and unlike an actual court of law – where there are maximum and minimum penalties – the NCAA sets standards but then gets to decide if they wish to adhere to them or not.
So technically the risk of playing Newton should be the same today as it was in September but because of the NCAA’s personal sensitivity, as we’ve seen in the Reggie Bush and Dez Bryant cases, they might get more than they deserve. That pettiness is what Auburn should worry about although this case is quite an interesting and unprecedented one, given the evidence we have.
I’ll use the standard Al Means example where the young man was ruled ineligible at Alabama because of the money changing hands with that particular institution. No evidence implicates Newton took money from Auburn, shady evidence points to Newton’s father soliciting Mississippi State for cash. If the Al Means example holds true Newton would be ineligible at Mississippi State but not at Auburn, just like Means was eligible at Memphis.
Aside from the emotional satisfaction of railing against the NCAA for its, um, flexible approach, that’s a defense which also has the virtue of accuracy. Where I think Michael Felder’s argument falls short is that the game for Auburn changed when it was informed by the NCAA of the potential for Newton to be declared ineligible as a result of his father’s (alleged) actions. From that point on, Auburn’s cast a bet that the Newton family will be completely vindicated. If the school has guessed wrongly on that, it’s going to pay a price for ignoring the NCAA’s notice. On that front, the organization won’t see any shades of gray.
If that fails, though, there’s one sure fire winner left for the beleaguered Tiger fan: absolve your school because of the season of 2004.
… I’m sure Nebraska fans feel that way about their so-called national championship in 1994. And I’m sure USC fans couldn’t care less about Auburn’s claim to the 2004 title. We are selfish beings. As an Auburn fan, I cannot blame you if a part of you does not really care if Cam Newton took that money or didn’t take that money, or if a part of you hopes that Newton took that cash and got away with it. I cannot blame you if, say, this Auburn team wins the national championship, and six months later you find out that Newton’s entire family was offered $700,000, a live polar bear, and the services of a fleet of hyperintelligent robots, and you still consider this team a legitimate national champion. Because the system is based on completely unobjective truths. Because the system has screwed your school, just as it screwed my alma mater a decade earlier, just as it has been screwing athletes like Cam Newton for decades. Until it changes, why shouldn’t you screw the system in return? Amid this skewed landscape, your definition of legitimacy is as rational as anything else.
That season is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it?