Posted on: December 1, 2010 4:44 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2010 5:20 pm

Inside Cam's eligibility

Did the NCAA do Mike Slive a favor?

Certainly, tacitly.

Start with the timing of Wednesday's announcement that Cam Newton had been reinstated by the NCAA and was eligible to play. Curiously, it came three days before the SEC championship putting a nice, neat bow on a slimy case that had been ongoing for a month. It helps everyone -- Auburn, the NCAA and the SEC -- that this case is "resolved" before the biggest TV show on the SEC calendar.

The obvious attempt at a publicity grab helps everyone who was in line to be helped. The NCAA was being criticized for dragging its feet. There was a perception that Auburn was a rogue operation. The SEC and Slive, the commissioner, was taking heat for what it knew and when in the Cam case. Mississippi State is the whistle blower. Folks were starting to write how they would not vote Newton for Heisman. CBS couldn't help but mentioning the case on its telecasts.

"Honestly, it is a major story in college football and has to be covered fully," Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports, said this week.

There was, then, lingering embarrassment all around. That's why this was a bit of a grandstand move and, to me, still an unresolved case. 

"There are hundreds of cases each year where schools go to the NCAA an self-report a violation," said a source with intimate knowledge of the NCAA process. "If nobody knows about it, the NCAA reinstates the athlete and they don't make announcements. It's obviously because this was high profile and they want to try and put this thing to rest."

"It is interesting," said Doug Zeit, attorney for former Mississippi State player Kenny Rogers who was part of Wednesday's NCAA statement, "[this happened] three days before the championship."

We got our Cam back. We got our villain, his father Cecil. We got our co-conspirator. The NCAA said Cecil collaborated Rogers in a "pay-for-play scenario." The NCAA doesn't actually use names but when Slive added his own admonishment we knew who everyone was talking about.

"The conduct of Cam Newton's father and the involved individual is unacceptable and has no place in the SEC or in intercollegiate athletics," Slive said.

The NCAA cited a bylaw that applied to the case (12.3.3). It states that, "Any individual, agency or organization that represents a prospective student-athlete for compensation in placing the prospective student-athlete in a collegiate institution [getting] financial aid shall be considered an agent ..."

That seems to label Cecil who now will have limited access to Auburn athletics. What that means no one seems to know. Maybe Cecil can't become a financial advisor within 100 feet of Jordan-Hare Stadium. But what about Cam reportedly telling a Mississippi State recruiter that "the money was too much" at Auburn? Wednesday's release seems to let Auburn off the hook, but you have to read between the lines. Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs said, " ... at this time we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity ..." (Emphasis added).

That should tell you the case is not over, but for the purposes of Saturday's SEC championship game it's game on. As for the bowl game? Check back with the NCAA later. This story isn't going to die after Saturday.

The bylaw (12.3.3) seems to clears up the NCAA interpretation of this case. A couple of weeks ago a lot of us were breathless over the apparent NCAA bylaw that applied to this case. It turns out the case probably revealed a gap in NCAA legislation. In essence, the NCAA had to find a bylaw that best fit the "crime," -- a parent soliciting money for his son's services without the son's knowledge.

However, the NCAA concluded that neither "Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to this reinstatement."

"I think the NCAA is trying to say, 'We found a violation so we're going to put this on the father and Kenny Rogers because they were acting as agents," the source said. "The violation occurs when the prospect agrees to be represented by them. [Cam] didn't know anything about it. My argument would be there hasn't been a violation here."

On that confusing basis, Newton was allowed to regain his eligibility. It also gives the deniability excuse to any kid who is ever shopped by his parents, uncle or handler. That's why the NCAA is working hard as I type on a new bylaw to close this loophole.

This story started with Rogers who apparently will not go quietly. Rogers, who runs a scouting service in Chicago, was reported to have sought $180,000-$200,000 from Mississippi State for Cam's services. The school on Wednesday "disassociated" Rogers. However, Rogers was not found to have been a representative of the university's athletic interests in the letter sent to him by the school. So what exactly did Rogers do wrong? 

"This is like a knife in his heart," Zeit said. "This is his alma mater. For them to suggest this is beyond the pale but not surprising ... He never solicited any money. That is patently false."

Zeit said Rogers will consider his legal options including defamation suits against "media outlets" and "people from Mississippi State."

Another reason to believe this isn't over: Check this second-to-the-last sentence in Wednesday's release -- The reinstatement process is likely to conclude prior to the close of an investigation.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 1, 2010 1:11 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2010 4:20 pm

Cam ruled eligible

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was reinstated by the NCAA Wednesday and is eligible to compete a day after being ruled ineligible for a violation of NCAA amateurism rules.

The NCAA in a statement concluded that Newton's father indeed did solicit money from Mississippi State in exchange for the quarterback going to the school. The NCAA said that Cecil Newton and a person believed to be former Mississippi State player Kenny Rogers did "actively market" Newton in a pay-for-play scenario.

However, the NCAA concluded that neither "Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to this reinstatement."

On that basis, Newton was allowed to regain his eligibility. Typically, in these cases a school must rule an athlete ineligible until the NCAA can determine the facts in the case. This does not seem to establish precedent. NCAA rules generally state that if a parent solicits money from a school for a child's commitment, that athlete is ineligible wherever he attends.

In this case, the NCAA stated it reviews "each case on its own merits based on specific facts."

Cecil Newton now has limited access to Auburn athletics. Mississippi State has disassociated Rogers.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 30, 2010 5:51 pm

Either Cam is available or Auburn will be fined

One or the other is going to happen Saturday at the SEC championship game.

Cam Newton has not been available to the media for the past two games against Georgia and Alabama. That will be an issue this week in the SEC championship game. As you can see from the language below, all players and coaches must be made available to the media in an open lockerroom after the game or a school risks being fined.

I believe Auburn will take the hit. Why change now when the punishment is, say, $10,000? Joe Paterno absorbed a $15,000 fine a couple of years ago in the Rose Bowl when he didn't open his lockerroom.

I was at the Georgia game. I don't believe this is Auburn's decision. I think the school has been told by the NCAA and/or the FBI to clam up. They don't want the media to have the opportunity to ask Cam pointed questions.

If Auburn wins, the next issue will be with the Fiesta Bowl and BCS. There are similar rules for the BCS title game that require coaches and players to show up for scheduled interviews. This time it won't be just game night, it will be 10 or so days leading up to the game. That's a long time to keep a guy silent, and only adds to the doubt over Cam's innocence.

Anyway, here's the postgame language from the SEC:

 “All coaches and student athletes from each team shall be available for interviews after a 10 minute cooling off period. The timetable for the cooling off period begins when the head coach enters the dressing room immediately after the game. Following the cooling off period, each locker room will be open to the media for approximately 30 minutes. The head coach must proceed directly to the dressing room after the game unless requested to remain for a short interview (not to exceed four minutes) by CBS TV. The players must be available to the media for at least 30 minutes after the 10 minute cooling off period has expired. No more than four players will be brought outside of their respective locker rooms for easier media access. Equal access for all reporters, regardless of gender, must be provided.

                The post game media conference format shall specify that the losing coach shall be scheduled in the interview room first, followed by the winning coach. The interview with the losing coach should not exceed 10 minutes. The game’s MVP will also be on the podium with his coach during the post-game media conference time.  Regardless of any personal regular season radio or television contracts, the coach is first obligated to the entire media staffing the championship game and must report to the interview room immediately after the 10 minute cooling off period. The coach cannot delay a post game interview with the covering media to conduct a program for a single radio, newspaper, or television reporter unless requested to grant a short interview (not to exceed four minutes) by the television network that has purchased the rights to the championship game. After fulfilling the commitment to the entire media covering the game, the coach and players may participate in special interviews.

                Failure to comply with these rules and regulations may subject the coach and/or the institution to a fine by the Commissioner.”
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 26, 2010 6:32 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2010 8:03 pm

Auburn's season: The Movie

Even The Great Saban had to admit it.

In the middle of Friday's post-game handshake, Alabama's coach moved close to Gene Chizik and uttered the obvious: "Great comeback."

The two words are beginning to define Auburn's season. After Saturday's stirring 28-27 win in the Iron Bowl, it's becoming a lot easier to concentrate on the football portion of the Tigers. Off the field, they are a mystery until the NCAA gets through with them. On the field, they are playing with the resolve known only to crooked politicians.

While the world is collapsing around them, they continue to smile and do their jobs. That job is now down to beating South Carolina next week. Do that and Auburn is in the national championship game.

"God," Chizik said, "is good."

Fitting that the Auburn coach brought religion into the equation. That's what the Iron Bowl is the folks of Alabama. What they saw Friday is one of the all-time Auburn-Alabama games. The Tide obviously used iup their emotional ammo in the first quarter going up 24-0. From there, Auburn regrouped and outscored the Tide 28-3. Auburn's Comeback Kids are now 4-0 when trailing by 10-plus this season. The win was their eighth this season when trailing at any point in the game.

Comeback? Two years ago Chizik's hire was a joke, Cam Newton was transferring from Florida and Alabama was ramping up to win a national championship. Now it all seems so long ago.

What we've witnessed to date is as much a movie as it is a season. Don't laugh. Saban already has one.  Auburn's close up is getting, well, closer.


Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 23, 2010 6:14 pm

BCS releases list of at-large candidates

The BCS exclusionary?

Not today with 22.5 percent of Division I-A still eligible for BCS bowls. That's the conclusion after reading a BCS press release Tuesday afternoon. The BCS released its list of teams still under consideration for the five elite bowls. In addition to the 19 teams contending for automatic berths by winning their conference there are still eight teams being considered for at-large berths.

Those are:

No. 11 (in the BCS) Alabama, 9-2. Eliminated from the SEC, the Tide could get in the conversation by beating Auburn.

No. 21 Arizona, 7-3. A longshot even if the Wildcats beat Oregon this week.

No. 12 Arkansas, 9-2. The LSU game is a playoff to stay alive in the BCS.

No. 4 Boise, 10-0. Let's be honest, if the Broncos don't win out they're not going to a BCS bowl.

No. 5 LSU, 10-1. The highest-ranked one-loss team would seem to be in if it beats Arkansas.

No. 19 Nevada, 10-1. Another longshot even with a win over Boise on Friday.

No. 20 Utah, 9-2. Consecutive losses to TCU and Notre Dame doomed the Utes.

No. 3 TCU, 11-0. The Frogs are nervous. If they are passed by Boise for the No. 3 spot, their BCS bowl chances are in jeopardy.

To be eligible for an at-large berth, a team must finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings. For a non-A.Q. (automatic qualifier) conference champion to get into a BCS bowl it must finish in the top 12. (Top 16 if it is ranked higher than a champion from a power conference.) Only the highest-ranked non-A.Q. meeting those parameters is guaranteed a spot in the BCS. 

What's amazing is that there are 19 teams still alive for automatic berths:

ACC: Florida State, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech
Big East: UConn, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia
Big Ten: Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Big 12: Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M
Pac-10: Oregon, Stanford
SEC: Auburn, South Carolina

Posted on: November 21, 2010 8:28 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2010 11:14 pm

Why TCU's chances for a BCS bowl just improved

TCU's chances of making a BCS bowl just improved with Sunday's release of the latest BCS standings.

The Horned Frogs are teetering on the brink of being excluded from a BCS bowl and coach Gary Patterson knows it. That's the reason he went through the ESPN "car wash" over the weekend, flying to Bristol, Conn. for appearances on various ESPN platforms. Patterson was low key and stated his case to the point that he even made it to Chicago Saturday to be on the set of GameDay.

What even Patterson probably doesn't know is, as of Sunday night, that a spot looks like it is opening up for his team in the Orange Bowl. TCU's case was helped by the Nebraska's loss to Texas A&M. The Huskers could have been a potential at-large team. That possibility probably no longer exists with Nebraska having dropped to 9-2.

TCU's plight is affected by a BCS rule that allows a berth to only one automatically qualifying non-BCS school. After that, it's up to the bowls' discretion. That was the scenario last season when Boise and TCU played in the Fiesta Bowl. This year it's likely they both get in again if you assume that the top eight in the BCS win out. Here's why:

1. An Oregon-Auburn championship game creates an opening in the Rose Bowl that this year, per BCS rules, allows for the highest-ranked qualifying non-A.Q. (automatic BCS qualifier) to go to Pasadena. Given the numbers posted Sunday that is most likely Boise State. The Broncos -- fourth in the BCS -- moved within .0135 of No. 3 TCU. With two games remaining, Boise State seems destined to move into that No. 3 position.

2. Assuming Boise is in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin (winner in a three-team Big Ten tie), then it's easy to slot these teams:

Oklahoma/Oklahoma State/Nebraska or Missouri vs. the Big East champ in the Fiesta.

LSU (SEC at-large) vs. Ohio State (Big Ten at-large) in the Sugar.

3. This is where it gets interesting in the Orange Bowl. There simply isn't that large of an eligible pool to match against the ACC champion (Virginia Tech, Florida State or NC State). At that point only Oklahoma State (11-2 coming off a Big 12 title game loss), Missouri (10-2 if it beats Kansas), Stanford (11-1 if it wins out) and TCU  (12-0 if it beats New Mexico) would likely be eligible for a BCS berth. Every other team would have at least three losses or, like Michigan State, be shut out because its conference already had the limit of two BCS teams.

Remember that the Orange is very sensitive to attendance. It needs two teams who can guarantee a sellout (or come close to guaranteeing) a sellout. That seemingly eliminates Stanford and Missouri. Stanford would be traveling across the country. Only one Pac-10 team (USC in 2003) has played in the Orange Bowl in a non-championship BCS year since 1985. Missouri has a notoriously mediocre fan following in bowls.

That leaves only TCU, not exactly an attendance draw but a better team than any of the other candidates. Virginia Tech-TCU doesn't quite stir the blood the same way that, say, LSU-TCU does but in my scenario the Sugar is not going to pass up a chance for a rematch of the 2008 BCS title game (LSU-Ohio State).

In my scenario, everyone is happy -- TCU, the BCS -- which doesn't have to take a load of ---- for leaving out the Horned Frogs -- and my man Patterson. Once again, the biggest development of Saturday was Nebraska being eliminated. If the Huskers had won that created the unsavory scenario involving the Orange Bowl. The bowl possibly would have had to choose between a two-loss Nebraska and an undefeated TCU. Isn't it great how things work out?

Once again, recapping why TCU fans should be happy if the top four win out:

BCS championship game: Oregon-Auburn

Rose: Boise State-Wisconsin (assuming Badgers win three-way tiebreaker)

Fiesta: Big 12 (Oklahoma/Oklahoma State/Nebraska/Missouri) vs. Big East (too many possibilities even to post on the Internet)

Sugar: LSU-Ohio State

Orange: ACC (Virginia Tech/Florida State/NC State)-TCU

Top eight in the BCS as of Sunday:

1. Oregon, 10-0
2. Auburn, 11-0
3. TCU, 11-0
4. Boise State, 10-0
5. LSU, 10-1
6. Stanford, 10-1
7. Wisconsin, 10-1
8. Ohio State, 10-1

Posted on: November 17, 2010 11:47 pm

Tipping point coming for Cam Newton

The only question left seems to be, will Cam Newton's eligibility status remain unchanged through the end of the season?

It seems now that the NCAA or Auburn has to re-address the quarterback's status in the near future. Eligible? Ineligible? The walls are closing in.

There are now two persons close to Mississippi State at least intimating that Newton's father demanded money from the school for his son's services. ESPN.com reported Wednesday that a Mississippi State booster received a text outlining a payment plan for Cam Newton. Bill Bell, a former Bulldogs player, told the website that the now infamous Kenny Rogers sent the text detailing three installments to Newton's father totaling $180,000.

Rogers, another former Mississippi State player, changed his story last week telling a Dallas radio station that Cecil Newton told him it would take between $100,000 and $180,000 for his son to attend Mississippi State. Rogers, another former Bulldog player, has been interviewed by the NCAA his lawyer said. John Bond, who originally reported that Rogers had been seeking money for Cecil Newton, has been interviewed by the FBI.

This case seems to be coming to head as accusations and revelations fly. TMZ reported Wednesday that the FBI was looking into Auburn booster Milton McGregor. Technically, a solicitation of money by a parent is an NCAA violation that follows the player wherever he enrolls rendering that player ineligible -- "generally speaking" according to an NCAA spokesman. 

It's not clear what the situation is with Newton at Auburn but his future is getting increasingly cloudy. Cecil Newton reportedly told Auburn officials last week that he approached Mississippi State for money but that Auburn was not aware of it. Auburn seems confident that it is OK playing Newton.

This story isn't going away soon especially with several news cycles to go before the Iron Bowl on Nov. 26. 


Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 17, 2010 4:11 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2010 4:21 pm

TMZ: FBI interested in Auburn booster

The name of Milton McGregor, reportedly an Auburn booster, has come up in the FBI investigation surrounding Cam Newton.

TMZ says McGregor is a dog track owner who contributed $1 million toward Auburn's new arena.

Here is more in-depth information on Auburn's power elite, and its, um, history.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Auburn
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