In particular, we try to avoid dealing in unsubstantiated allegations. For instance, when Todd McCorkle resigned abruptly as the Georgia women's golf coach, everyone's first thought was, "Hmmm . . . the male coach of an all-female team stepped down suddenly on the eve of the N.C.A.A. tournament. Why, whatever could be the reason?"
So it is at the present moment. Past behavior does not guarantee future conduct, nor does the mere fact of an investigation by a law enforcement official imply any wrongdoing on the part of those asked to comply with that official's efforts to gather information. Accordingly, rather than deal in allegations, speculation, and innuendo, we will stick simply to the facts, which are these:
- Auburn has a long history of N.C.A.A. infractions.
- In the course of his ongoing investigation into the student loan industry, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has issued subpoenas duces tecum to numerous collegiate athletic departments.
- One of these subpoenas reportedly was sent to Auburn University.
- S.E.C. Commissioner Mike Slive has made it his stated goal to have every school in the conference off of probation by June 11, 2008.
A subpoena, after all, is merely a legal tool for compelling the production of certain information. Auburn was one of numerous schools named in General Cuomo's press release and there are any number of possibilities on the table. General Cuomo, the son of a former New York governor, could be engaged in political grandstanding that does not lead to any finding of wrongdoing; Auburn could produce information that demonstrates that the S.E.C. institution did nothing objectionable. Based on what we now know, we not only cannot say for certain that there is fire; we don't even know for sure whether there is smoke.
Still, you have to wonder how closely the commissioner is monitoring this situation. Slive began the week believing that 2008 would mark both the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Southeastern Conference and the first time that every member institution of the league was off of probation simultaneously in more than a quarter of a century.
Slive may yet believe that and he may still be right. Had he been asked upon his arrival at the office on Monday morning what development would have been most damaging to his confidence in the achievement of his objective, however, I suspect Slive might have deemed the delivery by a state's highest-ranking law enforcement officer of a subpoena for the production of documents to the S.E.C.'s most penalized university just such an item of bad news.
I, for one, am torn between my natural desire to see deserved misfortune (if, in fact, this inquiry proves to be warranted) visited upon my alma mater's rivals and my sense of pride that the conference at long last may have cleaned up its act. Lewis Grizzard did not know which way to root when confronted with the dilemma of a sporting event pitting Georgia Tech against the Soviet Union; I am similarly of two minds when contemplating a clash between a New York politician and the Alabama Polytechnic Institute.