Senior Writer

For Auburn fans, Newton has brought splendid chaos


AUBURN, Ala. -- Out on College Street, near the highway, there's one of those ramshackle college-town bars ready to rock in the weekend with a band only too well-suited for the Cam Newton scandal.

Splendid Chaos.

Welcome to a team, a school and a season held hostage here at the "Loveliest Village on The Plains." They want to celebrate here at Auburn, but even if the Tigers beat Georgia on Saturday, there will have to be a certain hesitation. This might be Week 11 of the college season, but the only thing on their collective mind is No. 2: Cameron Newton.

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As long as Auburn stays undefeated and in the national championship hunt, they will remain giddy. If not, well, there are other factors beyond football nagging at those who pass you on the street with the customary greeting, "War Eagle!"

"Obviously he's put life back into the university," Mike Overstreet said of Newton.

Overstreet is manager at famous Toomer's Drugs in the heart of what qualifies as a quaint downtown.

"Don't get me wrong," the 2002 Auburn grad added. "The Auburn fans are always excited. There's just a little extra excitement on the campus this year."

As Magnolia Avenue readied for a Friday night street party, three fellas from Jersey and New York took in the sights. Mike Mena, Ray Potter and Dan Gardella pick out a college football game each year. This year they've descended into the epicenter of the sport.

Their mantra is "buy the gear [souvenirs] and bet the road [team]." They've got their gear but they've decided to bet Auburn because of a line that Mena says dropped from 9 to 7 1/2 points because of the uncertainty over Newton's playing status.

"That's not good," Mena said of allegations that Cecil Newton shopped his son to Mississippi State, "a father trying to sell his son's services."

Tigers fans say QB Cam Newton has livened things up for the 'Loveliest Village on The Plains.' (Getty Images)  
Tigers fans say QB Cam Newton has livened things up for the 'Loveliest Village on The Plains.' (Getty Images)  
As of Friday night, Newton was a go. Win on Saturday and Auburn would clinch the SEC West and get to the conference title game on Dec. 4. In between, there is the small matter of the Iron Bowl against Alabama. With a bye week coming up, every day from now until then and beyond, is certain to be all-Cam, all-the-time until the matter is resolved.

The prospects are both exhilarating and frightening for Auburn fans. Overstreet was asked what his feeling would be two months from now if his team had a championship, Newton had a Heisman and the NCAA decided the quarterback had competed while ineligible.

"That's a tough question," he said. "I would be disappointed if the allegations turned out to be true. My little 7-year-old girl talks about him at school. If something happened, that would be terrible."

Meanwhile, significant questions linger:

  • The NCAA is scheduled in January to hear USC's appeal on the Reggie Bush case. The BCS is waiting for the presumed rejection of that appeal to vacate the Trojans' 2004 BCS title. Could the BCS be dealing with two cases at once? If Auburn wins the 2010 national championship, it too could be vacated if Newton is later found to have played while ineligible. BCS executive director Bill Hancock reiterated that no final decision will be made until after any case and its appeals are exhaust
  • Even before that, there is the possibility Auburn's presence in that national championship game could deny TCU and/or Boise State. There is already enough national discussion about the non-BCS schools not having a fair shot -- what about their chances being affected by a possibly ineligible Heisman Trophy winner? Imagine a month of outcry after the conclusion of the regular season on Dec. 4 about not only the unfairness of the BCS but the unfairness of Newton playing in the title game.
  • The Heisman is another touchy subject. The Heisman Trust earlier this year asked for Bush's trophy back in light of his taking extra benefits while at USC. Imagine a Heisman ceremony with Newton as a finalist with his eligibility as up in the air as it is today. By the way, a Heisman official did not respond to an e-mail Thursday asking whether Bush had returned his trophy yet.
  • The SEC's reputation is taking a hit. The nation's best football conference is dangerously close to fulfilling another aspect of its reputation: The conference that will do anything to win. Not that anybody here cares about that at the moment.

As both the street party and mood ramped up on Magnolia Avenue on Friday night, Overstreet thought about what could be glorious, for now, Saturday.

"It's going to be," he said, "a great day on The Plains."

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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