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The Questions And Possibilities Are Endless In Newton Case

With every new tweet and every new radio report, the Cam Newton situation seems to spin in a new direction.  For a site that’s trying to keep you up to date on every angle of the story, that makes life pretty crummy for us right now. 

That said, we thought an overview of the many questions that remain unanswered was in order.  So below, you’ll find that overview of what’s at stake… for all of the different parties involved in this nightmare.


The NCAA

1.  We have never before seen anything like the Newton saga.  A team currently on pace to reach the BCS title game is in danger of having 10 games vacated if it’s found that Newton’s camp received cash or — according to some NCAA sources — even asked for cash. 

2.  Could the NCAA speed up their usual “we have no timetable” investigators in order to fend off an incredible embarrassment for the sport?  It’s a certainty that the folks in the NCAA offices do not want the bowl season and lead-up to the BCS title game to be a month-long expose into the cheatin’ side of college football. 

3.  If the NCAA allows Newton to keep playing — and to date we don’t know that it has any evidence against him — six months from now Auburn could be forced to hand back the crystal football.  But if the NCAA decides to err on the side of caution and asks Auburn to sit Newton, the body then opens itself up to potential lawsuits from everyone from the Newton family to crazed Auburn boosters… if no evidence of wrongdoing is ever found.


The SEC

1.  Like the NCAA, the SEC does not want an Auburn team under a cloud of suspicion to reach the SEC Championship Game.  It can’t.  The bad press surrounding the Newton saga would damage the reputation of a league that’s been fighting to clear its name for the past few years.

2.  Mississippi State initially turned over dirt on Newton’s recruitment to the league in January.  The SEC then requested sit-down interviews with MSU representatives, but those interviews were never conducted.  The league instead allowed MSU to turn over more detailed information in July.  Why did the SEC not act quicker in this matter?  It’s not a far drive from Birmingham to Starkville.  I’m guessing now that Mike Slive wishes he’d just put someone in a rental car and sent them over to MSU to get to the bottom of this back in January.

3.  The SEC won’t go into details regarding the information MSU turned over to the league, but it did come out and say that no information about phone calls — uncovered in ESPN.com’s story by Joe Schad — was included in the reports.  Why explain what isn’t in the reports when you won’t explain what is in them?

4.  This question could fall under the NCAA banner, too.  If the MSU coaches who Kenny Rogers claims heard Cecil Newton’s request for cash haven’t been interviewed yet… why not?  It seems likely at this point that if those two MSU coaches/recruiters say, “Yes, he asked for money,” then the Newton camp will be guilty of breaking an NCAA rule.  It remains to be seen how big a violation it is to ask for money — if none changes hands — but the verdict would be in on the Newtons.  If the coaches confirm the claims of Rogers (and MSU booster Bill Bell), then the Newtons will be viewed as guilty of having had their hands out.  So have the coaches already talked to the SEC/NCAA?  If so, what did they say?  If not, why haven’t they been talked to?

5.  The SEC and its member institutions stand to lose monetarily in all of this.  If Auburn reaches the BCS title game, then it’s likely that the league will once again get two teams into BCS bowls.  If Auburn’s season is scuttled, then the league will likely receive just one BCS bid.  That’s a loss of $17+ million. 

6.  Slive also must deal with a league that looks to be hurting itself from the inside.  If Newton’s camp asked for money, it was the duty of MSU to report that violation to the SEC office.  However, the leaks to the media that have occurred in the last week are a no-no.  Expect the commissioner to lay down some possible penalties for coaches and athletic department personnel who leak dirt on other institutions to the press.


Cam Newton

1.  As the stories pile higher and higher, the more likely it becomes that Newton will be ruled ineligible at some point. 

2.  Newton will most definitely go pro after this season.  But what effect — if any — will all of this bad press have on his draft stock?  To date, there are stories about a stolen laptop, academic cheating and now the possibility that he and/or his father had their hands out for a big pay day.  Will character questions cause Newton’s draft stock to drop?


Cecil Newton

1.  The elder Newton is at the center of a number of rumors regarding this scandal.  Having your hand out — if those accusations are true — isn’t illegal.  But funneling money into a church or churches might be.  I’m not an attorney and I have no proof of the rumors that are swirling around the church angle, but I will point to the FBI’s interest in this mess as evidence that something more serious than boosters-buying-players might have gone on here.


Auburn

1.  The Tigers have stood behind Newton throughout this ordeal and they have continued to play him.  To date, there have been no accusations that Auburn paid Newton.  But that is certainly the great “unsaid” in all of this.

2.  At this point, Auburn might as well continue to play Newton.  If it’s found that he violated an NCAA rule by asking for cash (and by “he” I mean Camp Newton), the Tigers will likely have to vacate all of their victories so far.  What good would it do to bench the player now?

3.  I understand the argument that Auburn University’s reputation is at stake, but I’m not buying it.  Schools’ football teams have cheated in the past.  Those  schools are still open for business.

4.  If evidence emerges that the Newtons did receive — or ask for cash — then Auburn will be guilty on one of two fronts.  Either we’ll find that a) someone associated with AU paid Newton or b) AU officials were naive in believing/trusting the Newtons.

5.  As we said on the day this story broke, AU officials had better hope that some rogue booster of former Tiger player was not behind any payments to Newton.  The school’s athletic administration could be completely innocent and still get hammered by the NCAA for the actions of boosters and fans.

6.  If — and we’re covering all the really big ifs here — any of this traces back to Gene Chizik and his staff, it could spell curtains for the coach.  This has become the biggest sports scandal since Spygate and it would be difficult for any coach involved in this kind of pay-for-play scandal to survive.  Auburn fans better hope nothing ever traces back to the men on the AU sidelines.  They have not been accused of anything yet.  Tiger fans need to pray it stays that way.

7.  How frustrating it must be for Auburn fans.  In 1993, Terry Bowden led the Tigers to an undefeated season, but AU was on probation and could not grab the national title.  In 2004, Tommy Tuberville led the Tigers to a perfect record only to see the BCS lock his team out of the national title game.  Now this.  My condolences to Tiger fans.  This mess isn’t a result of anything they did.  They deserve better.


Mississippi State

1.  The Bulldogs turned over information to the SEC as is league policy.  But according to the league office, MSU did not say anything about the phone calls that two “recruiters” for State mentioned to an ESPN reporter.  Why not?

2.  Dan Mullen and crew could still wind up experiencing what the CIA refers to as blowback in all of this.  By trying to turn in Auburn, they might have hurt their own cause.  Had the coaches/administrators simply handed over everything they knew to the SEC when they knew it, MSU coaches would be out of the spotlight right now.  But they didn’t.  And then someone leaked information to the press.  Now we’re left with the following questions:

—– Why did MSU continue to recruit Newton after the alleged “we want money” discussion took place last November?

—– Why did MSU wait until January to turn over info to the SEC offices?

—– Were MSU coaches upset with the speed of the SEC’s investigation to the point that they wanted to leak info to ESPN and other outlets?

—– Did any money ever change hands between MSU representatives and Newton?  Seriously, would you rule anything out at this point?

—– Did Mullen (or any other ex-Florida members of his support staff) have any hand in leaking Newton’s academic information to Thayer Evans of FoxSports.com?  Mullen has denied having anything to do with it, but if MSU folks are leaking info about phone calls and hand outs, what’s to say they wouldn’t leak info about a player’s academic issues?

—– Why was Bulldog booster Bell speaking with Newton’s father?  And will that be viewed as a violation of NCAA rules?

3.  If it’s found the Mullen or anyone on his crew leaked the information regarding Newton’s alleged cheating in Gainesville, that person could face some serious consequences in a courtroom.  Those records were supposed to be protected by federal privacy laws.

4.  At this point, it certainly looks like Mullen and/or someone on his staff has been talking to the press about Newton.  Commissioner Slive will likely give the MSU staff a stern talking to when the smoke from this saga finally clears.

5.  The two MSU coaches who supposedly heard Newton’s request for cash must be taken before SEC and NCAA investigators immediately.  If they confirm Rogers’ claims, then this whole pickle could come to a quick end.  If they deny Rogers’ claims, then we’re right back at Square One.  Either way, the coaches must be made to tell the truth.  Their jobs should depend on the veracity of their stories.  Meaning: If it’s later determined that they lied, they should be fired.

6.  As is the case with Chizik, Mullen’s job is very much tied to this jam.  If it’s found he or his staff were involved in any shady dealings from payments to leaked academic records, the coach could lose his job.  We’re looking five steps down the road there, to be sure, but we’re putting all possibilities on the table.  And Mullen and MSU still have a lot of questions to answer.


Florida


1.  The Gators got some good news yesterday when Rogers claimed that Newton’s father said, “It’s not gonna be free this time” regarding to his son’s recruitment last fall.  So anyone wanting to write, “What did Florida pay him out of high school?”… you can hold off on that one for now.

2.  It’s looking more and more like MSU’s Mullen and his staff are behind various leaks regarding Newton and his recruitment.  But it’s still hard to believe that FoxSports.com’s Evans didn’t contact someone on the Florida campus to verify claims that Newton had cheated in Gainesville.  Also, via a series of messageboard posts, it’s clear that at least one person inside the Florida football program knew that Evans’ story was coming out prior to its posting.

3.  It’s doubtful that Urban Meyer would be behind the leaking of Newton’s academic info, but — as we’re covering all the possibilities here — until we know who did leak that info, Meyer will remain a suspect in many people’s minds.  Fair or not.  And if it turns out he had anything to do with that information coming out, he’ll possibly face some very serious questions from law enforcement officials.


The Leaks (John Bond, Bill Bell, Kenny Rogers and the unnamed sources)

1.  The FBI wants to speak with John Bond.  At some point they’ll likely talk to Bell and Rogers as well.  Are those men in trouble?  I’m not sure what they could be in trouble for… but I do know that no one wants to be interviewed by the FBI.

2.  It’s interesting that Rogers changed his tune regarding the Newton story shortly after word filtered out that the FBI was interested in this case.  Bell also spoke for the first time yesterday.  It could be that the FBI’s involvement is causing some of the players in this mess to take things much more seriously.  Boosters can dodge, duck and lie to the NCAA.  The FBI is a different beast entirely.

3.  Auburn blogs have been quick to question the trustworthiness of Rogers.  And rightfully so, the man has a shady reputation.  But those same blogs weren’t tearing him apart last week when he denied reports of the pay-for-play scheme.  Funny how he goes from credible to not credible based upon what he’s saying.

4.  If the Justice Department decides to look into the leak of Newton’s academic records, then the unnamed source used by Evans for his FoxSports.com piece could face some headaches of his/her own.


Alabama, Arkansas and LSU

1.  Don’t look know, but Les Miles could be leading his Tigers toward Atlanta after all.  If the SEC/NCAA put a rush job on the Newton investigation, it’s possible that the Tigers’ wins will be nixed prior to the SEC title game.  If that happens then LSU and Alabama will still be eyeing a possible trip to Atlanta as the West Division’s default champion.

2.  Arkansas fans are paying close attention to the Auburn situation, too.  If Auburn reaches the BCS title game, it’s likely that the SEC will get a second BCS bowl bid.  That bid could go to the Razorbacks if they win out.  But if the Hogs win out and Auburn is banned from Atlanta (and Glendale), it’s likely the SEC title game winner will receive the league’s only BCS bid. 


Things could change by the time Auburn and Georgia kick off tomorrow.  This story has taken turn after turn over the past eight days and it would almost be surprising if another bombshell doesn’t drop in the next 24 hours.

But the bottom line is clear: There are still a lot of unanswered questions for a whole lot of different people.  And depending on the answers there could be a whole lot of bad consequences, too.

 




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