Newton bombshells just the start of an uncivil war

by | CBSSports.com Columnist
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This Cameron Newton story has legs, lots and lots of legs -- and it's sprouting more every day. With any luck, it will run off and lead everyone on a merry chase that ends badly.

If you can't keep up with the things Newton is alleged to have done (or not done) on the odyssey that took him to Auburn, you'll have a fairly difficult time sorting out the suspects who are leaking all those things.

But he allegedly cheated academically at Florida, and he allegedly asked for money to sign with a university, and he allegedly broke a commitment to attend Mississippi State. He did lots of very bad things, depending on who you listen to, or nothing bad at all, if you listen to Auburn fans.

We don't know what exactly he did or didn't do. We do know what happens next, though, because in the SEC, messing with players means war, and this is war.

You're going to see more and more leaks about more and more players from more and more schools in the next few weeks and months. Recruiting rumors are their own cottage industry, and if there's anything more fun that trying to figure out where 18-year-olds are going, it's in finding out who did what to get them to go there.

In other words, the Cameron Newton story, wherever it leads, is going to take a lot of people with it -- coaches, players, athletic directors, fans. Chaos will reign. Let the fun bloom unconfined.

Right now, the Newton leaks seem to be a Mississippi State-based initiative, although that is connecting dots that have not yet manifested themselves. You know, sort of like the information in the leaks themselves.

But true or not, this is a declaration of war in SEC country, and declarations of war quickly become reciprocal. Even if the schools themselves don't engage in it, enterprising young camera-spies, co-conspirators, entourage members and former entourage members will, and before long, the stories that emanate from this story will not be easily controlled by SEC commissioner Mike Slive, or any of the schools that will eventually become involved.

Recruiting, you see (and of course you do, because you're smart folks who pay attention), is no longer the secret society it once was. Too many folks with too many gadgets, too many tales to tell and the wherewithal to get them published. And since any good recruiting story begs telling and retelling and embellishing and re-embellishing, the industry is in danger of being exposed as never before.

And when you throw in the added prod of revenge, you see the problem as we are all going to see it in the near future. Omerta has been broken, and there will be retribution.

There will be some resentment of those who broke the stories, the pesky media folks who enjoy a good provable leak. But eventually the trail will lead back to the leakers, and that is when the war will truly be fought.

And it will go on until someone (Slive, perhaps, or coaches and administrators who have the clout) exerts the force and persuasion needed to make everyone play nice again.

Whether Cameron Newton will escape the collateral damage from this impending bloodbath remains to be seen. What is provable is often different than what has been alleged, and there are plenty of potential scenarios for him and for Auburn.

But if he goes down, if Auburn goes down, then Auburn will not go down alone if its fan base has anything to say about it.

And frankly, we'll bet that it will.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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