Declaring Cam Newton eligible was a big relief for many people. With Cam Newton eligible after all, fears of an NCAA investigation stripping a Heisman Trophy and national championship have been held off. Of course, if Auburn had actually lost to Alabama last week, it might have been less of a big deal after all. But since they had to come back and get one step away from the big prizes, the NCAA investigation remained a very big deal. Perhaps that is why they ruled earlier than expected, and declared Newton eligible for this season – although it came too late to end the controversy.
The NCAA investigation closed for the moment by concluding that Cecil Newton and Kenny Rogers made their cash offers by themselves. As for the Heisman favorite himself, they ruled that he had no knowledge of it, and was therefore not guilty.
With Newton cleared, Auburn and the NCAA hope that it brings the scandal to an end at last. All month, the investigation has thrown the legitimacy of the Heisman Trophy, and the national championship, into question. Even now, many question whether the worst really isn’t over.
Pundits argued that a major loophole has been set with this decision, along with attorneys. Alabama attorney Mike Ermert told AL.com that it could encourage parents to shop their sons around, as long as their child has no knowledge – or can plausibly claim that he doesn’t.
Meanwhile, the SEC stated that Newton was eligible, although their own rules state that athletes are ineligible if they or family members take benefits. However, spokesman Charles Bloom stated that Cecil Newton solicited benefits, but none were actually given out – and none were offered by Auburn itself.
Since Mississippi State failed to get Newton, and never actually paid his father, it provides a loophole for further punishment. But since they found this loophole before Auburn’s all-important SEC championship game – and a day after Newton was ineligible for a few hours – the timing strikes many as odd.
The NCAA investigation itself may not be completely closed, since there’s more than enough time for other details to come out. Although they’ve ruled Newton eligible now, no one will be surprised if more dirt is found later, which could retroactively strip him and Auburn of any honors. Of course, then the NCAA would be racked for not doing it before they won anything.
At the moment, South Carolina still has to face an eligible Newton and No. 1 Auburn on Saturday. They likely can’t stop their quarterback from winning the Heisman, but they still can end Auburn’s controversial championship run.
AL.com- “Newton ruling demonstrates loophole in NCAA legislation”
STL Today- “Tipsheet: Newton eligible, talent brokers get green light”