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Ignorance is Bliss: NCAA Opens Huge Can of Worms by Reinstating Auburn Tigers QB Cameron Newton's Eligibility

A couple of readers already have beaten me to the punch on this one, but it bears amplification: Cameron Newton was determined by the NCAA to have been the subject of an amateurism violation, as a result of which the Auburn Tigers declared him ineligible, . . . and the reinstatement committee moved with unprecedented swiftness immediately to reinstate his eligibility.

This is ridiculous. The NCAA determined that Cecil Newton and Kenny Rogers attempted to "market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton’s commitment to attend college and play football"---in short, that the allegations we have heard in the press essentially were true (and these are the "facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff")---but, because this scheme ostensibly was orchestrated by his father (who, by all accounts, including Cam Newton’s, wielded enormous sway over his son’s choice), the younger Newton has been cleared to play without conditions, while the elder Newton has had his "access" to the Auburn program "limited." Gee, that’s a heck of a punishment for a guy whose son has two games left in his career on the Plains.

The NCAA determined on Monday that a violation had occurred. Auburn declared Newton ineligible on Tuesday. The NCAA reinstated Newton on Wednesday. How long did the sword hang over the heads of the players, coaches, and administrators in Athens, Chapel Hill, Columbia, and Tuscaloosa while the NCAA left those programs twisting in the wind earlier this year? Might the fact that there now are television ratings and BCS bowl dollars to consider have caused the NCAA’s glacial pace to be replaced with lightning swiftness?

As noted by Year2, though, this is far from an acquittal, much less an exoneration. Reports the NCAA in a carefully-worded release:

Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity. . . .

Reinstatement decisions are independent of the NCAA enforcement process and typically are made once the facts of the student-athlete's involvement are determined. The reinstatement process is likely to conclude prior to the close of an investigation.

In short, Auburn could still pay the price for this one, even though the NCAA apparently has concluded that Auburn merely being Auburn is not sufficient evidence of Auburn cheating. (This presumption is fair in a technical legal sense, although it is open to debate whether it is reasonable in reality.)

In the meantime, though, Clay Travis’s concerns suddenly seem much more important. Just think how much better the Georgia Bulldogs’ season might have been if A.J. Green had told the NCAA that his father was the one who signed onto Facebook and sold that jersey. Cam Newton’s NCAA defense basically boils down to this: "My own father appears to have shopped me around like chattel property, but it’s all right, because he was consistent enough in his treatment of me as a fungible commodity rather than as a human being not to give me any of whatever money he may have received in the deal."

As fans, our fervent hope when someone associated with our preferred sports program is accused of wrongdoing is that we’re not backing the wrong horse. At the end of the day, our strong desire is to be able to say, "Everyone involved was innocent." Given the facts as determined by the NCAA and agreed to by Auburn University, no Tiger fan can make such a claim here. There is a wide divide separating "proven innocent" from "insufficient evidence." When your history of going undefeated on the gridiron invariably coincides with seasons in which at least one of your sports programs was on probation, though, you become accustomed to having to take your successes any way you can find them.

There are no moral victories at Auburn, but, for all the sighs of relief being heard on the Plains today, we now have been given reason by the NCAA to believe that there have been a dozen immoral victories at Auburn this season . . . and counting.

Go ‘Dawgs!