HOOVER, Ala. -- Let's go ahead and say Auburn is clean, or at least cleared by the NCAA. Cam Newton took nothing more than a scholarship when he stepped on campus. Let's say the four former players who alleged extra benefits on HBO's Real Sports were malcontents with an agenda.
Let's say all of it goes away. Auburn still can't celebrate. The glass football has been won but doesn't have permanency. What we, they, are enduring is the most unfulfilled title in recent history. As long the likes of Danny Sheridan roam the halls of Wynfrey Hotel during SEC media days, no true Auburn fan -- or media member -- can ever rest.
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"I have friends," said the longtime oddsmaker, "who know friends at the NCAA."
That was the first sign quiet will not descend upon The Plains for a while. Through those friends, Sheridan said to anyone who would listen Thursday, he learned that a "bag man" delivered Cam Newton and father $180,000-$200,000 to play at Auburn.
Sure, you've heard it all before but not lately and not from a guy who, according to his own website, has "renowned expertise in the sports betting industry." Welcome back to the circus. With Ohio State on the docket, North Carolina waiting in the lobby and compliance nationally in shambles, it's possible we've found someone with a rep as questionable as Auburn's to sort it all out.
How does Sheridan know this? The 36-year veteran of point spreading has sources beyond those who allegedly can pick up a phone and reach inside the NCAA.
"Agents, football coaches, basketball coaches, people I have known for 30 years," Sheridan said.
The names of those gentlemen cozy with the sports betting industry giant are not available upon request at the moment.
If you've forgotten about him -- and you probably have -- Sheridan gained some level of notoriety working for USA Today and, at one time, CBS. On Thursday, he was working radio row here because the day before, he first made the allegations on the nationally syndicated Paul Finebaum radio show.
"I asked [sources] point blank, 'What is the NCAA looking into?' and two different people told me the same thing," Sheridan told reporters on Thursday. "Roughly, let's just say $180,000-$200,000, allegedly, was given. Of that amount $20,000-$30,000 went to [Cecil Newton's] church. The rest of it would have gone to the family."
Sheridan's sources have been so good that he has been accurate on, he says, "45 of 46" NCAA-related stories in the past 20 years. If you can remember one of those, hit me up on Twitter. It is certain, in some strange way, Gene Chizik and Auburn have become sympathetic figures.
Chizik looked like he would rather sing "Rammer Jammer" with Harvey Updyke on the 50 at Bryant-Denny than face reporters on Thursday. Nine of the 22 questions posed to him in the main interview session had the words "NCAA", "Cam Newton", "code of silence" or "bag man" in them.
"Typically, I don't talk about what I thought were private meetings," the coach said.
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"You'll know when we're finished [investigating]," Roe Lach told Chizik according to the New York Times, "and we're not finished."
In other words, sit down, shut up and let us do our jobs.
In a strange way, we feel for you, Aubie. No one should have to go through the crap that has lingered since Cam was declared ineligible for a day last year. At least USC got to celebrate its 2004 national championship for a few years. One of the subplots of January's BCS title game was whether Cecil Newton was in the crowd.
It's easy to picture Auburn coaches sitting around years from now, beers in hand, reminiscing about 2010 and somebody says: "Hey, remember Danny Sheridan?"
Buzz meet kill.
This is not to say Sheridan is wrong, he's merely the latest to open his mouth. For some unknown reason, his voice mattered the past couple of days. If we want a line on Auburn-Alabama, he's a go-to guy. As an Alabama grad commenting on Auburn, well, you can almost picture the villagers lighting their torches. Frankenstein wears polyester.
What Sheridan was offering Thursday is essentially what broke in November. It's just that the NCAA isn't in the business of alerting schools it has completed investigations, which on some level is unfair. The further problem is the likelihood that this little inquiry has barely started. Auburn hasn't received so much as a letter of inquiry, which is usually followed by notice of allegations, which can lead to an infractions committee appearance. All that comes before the penalties.
So if Roe Lach/NCAA are still investigating and Sheridan is alleging, who are we to doubt a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy? Sheridan stands by his word so much that he puts the odds at "50-50" that anything ever happens to Auburn on this matter.
Maybe less than 50-50.
"The odds are against this party stepping forward and saying, 'Yes, I did this,' " Sheridan said.
That's comforting to somebody, somewhere. Just not sure who. It's good to know that this slice of surreality had some sort of closure Thursday. The two parties actually ran into each other at one point in a Wynfrey hallway.
"Oh, Danny Sheridan. There you are," Chizik said.
They shook hands. No punches -- or punchlines -- were thrown.