According to the NCAA, the actions of Cam Newton’s dad, Cecil, in shopping his son’s services did not impair Cam’s amateur standing rendering him ineligible to play for the Auburn Tigers. In doing so, the NCAA revealed its nature as an utter fraud that perpetuates the myth of the student athlete in order that its member schools can fill their coffers on the backs of athletes that are amateur only according to the organization’s contorted view of the idea.
The simple truth is that big-time college football is nothing more or less than the NFL’s version of Major League Baseball’s minor leagues. That the kids playing it can’t be openly remunerated for their efforts and for the vast sums of money they bring in for the college doesn’t make it any less a minor league of football. It just makes it a fraud.
Faced with the prospect of a BCS championship game with not one, but two relatively unknown and little-followed football programs (Oregon and TCU), the NCAA revealed its true character (follow the money) and decided that it didn’t have any, or at least not enough, evidence that Cam knew his dad was shopping his services. Of course, their assertion flies in the face of what Mississippi State’s recruiters have told them regarding what Cam said when he decided on Auburn.
Cam Newton is the best player in college football this year. He is also possibly the most exciting to watch. His absence from Auburn’s team, even if they were able to beat South Carolina without him, and advance to the BCS championship game (not at all likely) would have made an expected Auburn v. Oregon matchup less than compelling, meaning less profitable for the NCAA. The NCAA knows exactly what it is doing in ruling Cam eligible. It is enhancing its profit potential.
Once the games have been played and the NCAA till has been restocked, assuming Auburn beats South Carolina again (unless Cam gets run over by a bus, they will), and goes to the BCS championship game, watch for the revelations to start pouring out about what really went on, and watch for Cam to be ruled retroactively ineligible. This will be Cam’s only season as an Auburn Tiger, no matter what happens, so retroactive ineligibility will affect him very little, if at all. Auburn will ultimately lose out, but then it should if it turns out to be complicit in the affair, even if nobody really cares when already-played games are forfeited. Retroactively ruling a player ineligible and causing games in which he played to be forfeited is the NCAA’s means of turning a blind eye to rules violations today that might hurt its bottom line: They let the kid play now, knowing full well he’d be ineligible if even a little bit of investigating were done, and then, when all the green has been scraped off the kid’s back and he’s off in the NFL, rule him retroactively ineligible and smack the school hard for rules violations.
Auburn’s claim that they knew nothing of Cecil Newton’s designs rings hollow. They may, for now, have culpable deniability, but truth just hates darkness. The truth will eventually be revealed. It just won’t happen until after the BCS championship game. And the truth is that someone either directly involved with Auburn football, or someone on the periphery like the Rogers guy at Mississippi State, had to know what Cam’s dad was up to.*
Collegiate and professional football could easily get together and alleviate the problems presented by pretending a kid that’s worth millions to a school’s coffers is an amateur athlete. They could overtly allow pay for play, with the colleges and their minor league pro teams retaining their geographical and historical ties, but dispensing with the idea that a good player on a popular team that brings millions of eyeballs with dollars to match is an amateur. The NFL would also have to end its policy of promoting indentured servitude by not allowing eligibility for its draft until after the junior year of college. If a kid is good enough to play in the major pro league after high school, then draft him (very few would likely qualify, but still, there ought to be the opportunity, instead of the restriction in trade such as things are, which would amount to an illegal monopolistic practice were any regular business to do it).
I know none of this will ever happen. And because of it, I know that college football’s best players will continually suffer scandal after scandal–as if it’s scandalous that a kid, or his parents, might want a few draughts from the river of money that players like Cam bring to the school.
*I have personal knowledge that another SEC school was well aware of Cecil Newton’s shopping of Cam’s services. It seems to have been fairly common knowledge to everyone but Auburn and the NCAA.
The latest article on Cam from ESPN can be found here: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=5876716