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Friday, January 21, 2011

NCAA Weighs In on Cam Newton Eligibility

CamDate - 1 December, 2010

NCAA addresses Cam Newton's eligibility

In a press release dated December 1st, The NCAA stated the following:

NCAA Weighs in On Newton Eligibility

“Auburn University football student-athlete Cam Newton is immediately eligible to compete, according to a decision today by the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff. The NCAA concluded on Monday that a violation of amateurism rules occurred, therefore Auburn University declared the student-athlete ineligible yesterday for violations of NCAA amateurism rules. When a school discovers an NCAA rules violation has occurred, it must declare the student-athlete ineligible and may request the student-athlete’s eligibility be reinstated. Reinstatement decisions are made by the NCAA national office staff and can include conditions such as withholding from competition and repayment of extra benefits. Newton was reinstated without any conditions. According to facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff, the student-athlete’s father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton’s commitment to attend college and play football. NCAA rules (Bylaw 12.3.3) do not allow individuals or entities to represent a prospective student-athlete for compensation to a school for an athletic scholarship.

It concludes the release with….

“Reinstatement decisions are independent of the NCAA enforcement process and typically are made once the facts of the student-athlete’s involvement are determined. The reinstatement process is likely to conclude prior to the close of an investigation. It is NCAA policy not to comment on current, pending or potential investigations.“

How does this tie in with any of the previous information provided:

1. Confirms the fact that Cecil Newton and Kenny Rodgers did in fact initiate a PFP scheme between Cecil Newton and Mississippi State University.

2. Confirms the public statements of John Bond, which were later reaffirmed by Kenny Rodgers during a Radio interview with ESPN that Cecil Newton did in fact make the request of PFP

3. Substantiates the report made my News 2 Atlanta that Cecil admitted to initiating a PFP with Miss. St.

4. Indicates that based on “established evidence” agreed to by both Auburn and the NCAA AT THE TIME THE REINSTATEMENT APPLICATION WAS MADE that Cam Newton did not knowingly have knowledge of or participate in this scheme initiated by his father. Also understand the Reinstatement Committee rules solely on information provided by the requesting institution, in this case Auburn University. The committee is also mutually exclusive from both the Investigation and Infraction Committees.

What this release does NOT do:

1. Does not absolve Auburn of any wrongdoing with respect to the possibility of paying Cam or his father.

2. Does not absolve Mississippi State of any wrongdoing with respect to the possibility of paying Cam or his father.

3. Does not absolve Cam of knowing if in fact money was paid by Auburn to Cecil Newman.

4. It does not answer the question “Why Cecil asked MSU for money and not Auburn?”

There are three key phrases contained in the release, those being” facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff “, “information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity “, and “The reinstatement process is likely to conclude prior to the close of an investigation. It is NCAA policy not to comment on current, pending or potential investigations.”

Based on these comments it is highly probable that both the NCAA and SEC were getting heat from all areas about Cam’s eligibility and it’s impact on the SEC Championship game as well as the potential impact his eligibility may have on the BCS Championship game if Auburn should advance victorious from the SEC Championship contest. “Established evidence” agreed to by Auburn and the NCAA did in fact substantiate he was in fact ineligible, so Auburn, declared him ineligible and made the immediate appeal for reinstatement. For what it’s worth, this could have been the exact same procedure employed by Miss. St. should Cam have signed with the Bulldogs, thus answering the question why MSU remained active in the recruiting of Newton even though his father made the PFP request.

It also clearly states that an investigation is still ongoing, which may or may not lead to further action. In essence, all this statement did was confirm there was a PFP scheme involving Cam’s father, and although they are still looking into the matter, Cam’s eligible to play until further notice. It also states based on the established evidence, it will not be necessary for Auburn to vacate any wins. 

How Can This Be?

In order to fully comprehend the inner-workings of the NCAA, one must understand it operates as three autonomous units: Reinstatement, Investigations, and Enforcement.  It was established in this manner as to not have a "rogue" operative wage a vendetta against any one individual or institution.  The application for reinstatement made by AU to the Reinstatement committee the day after the school declared Cam ineligible for actions taken by his father. 

1) What is student-athlete reinstatement? It is the process schools must use to restore the lost eligibility of student-athletes involved in NCAA rules violations. On average, the NCAA receives more than 1,000 reinstatement requests annually, and nearly 99 percent of these requests result in the student-athlete being reinstated.

Note that initial statistic - "nearly 99% of the requests result in the student-athlete being reinstated." As other people have noted, this is because the reinstatement committee is NOT related to the investigative arm of the NCAA. The reinstatement committee exists primarily to let universities 1) self-report violations committed by their athletes, 2) let the university suggest the method(s) by which restitution can be achieved, and 3) essentially offer a quick and (relatively) simple path to resolving issues that regularly crop up in athletic departments.

If the NCAA infractions committee later decides that important facts were purposefully left out of the university's report to the reinstatement committee, the situation changes dramatically.

2) How does it work? When a school discovers a student-athlete has been involved in a violation, it must declare the student-athlete ineligible, investigate the violation, and forward its report with a request for the student-athlete's eligibility to be reinstated to the national office staff.

This seems obvious, but is very important:

A university is obligated to report a violation to the reinstatement committee once they discover that it has occurred.

In reality, though, this allows any university to stick their heads in the sand and pretend like they know absolutely nothing about a violation. USC attempted this. They pretended to be completely ignorant about Lloyd Lake's gifts to Reggie Bush and O. J. Mayo. And USC could have gotten away with it... if they had cooperated in a transparent fashion with the NCAA, and, more importantly, the NCAA hadn't discovered that running backs coach Todd McNair knew what was happening with Bush.

So, theoretically, Auburn could blissfully ignore the entire controversy. But, as everyone knows, Kenny Rogers directly implicated Cam Newton's father on a Dallas radio station on Nov. 11. This suddenly put Kenny Rogers in a similar role to Lloyd Lake.

Auburn's decision to report the "violation" is a wise move. If the NCAA ultimately finds nothing beyond a tenuous connection between Kenny Rogers, Cam's father, and Mississippi State, Auburn is now in the clear.  Why it took Auburn 18 days to report the incident to the NCAA, however, is the most questionable aspect of this particular reinstatement procedure:

* Why didn't Auburn suspend Newton on November 12 and begin their appeal to the reinstatement committee immediately afterwards?

* Are we supposed to believe that Auburn only found out about the possible violation on Monday, November 29?

* On that one date, was Auburn really able to declare Cam Newton ineligible, avoid wikileaks, investigate the entire matter in literally minutes, and immediately send off their report to the NCAA?

It is equally troubling that the NCAA responded to this single request within 24 hours, when their stated policy is to "allow three weeks for staff review." In my original thread, Slevin suggested that if the review "is before a Championship game it gets expedited to the top of the list." If this is the case, Auburn timed this process perfectly so that Cam would not miss the Georgia or Alabama games.

3) Who makes the decisions on reinstatement cases?
In short, it's a 6 member committee of athletic directors and a "student-athlete." They claim to handle "approximately 1500 reinstatement requests and 400 waiver requests" during a single academic year (figures from 2003-2004). If that, combined with the 99% reinstatement rate quoted earlier, doesn't give you an indication of the rubber-stamp nature of this committee, I don't know what will.

4) What does the staff consider when reaching its decision? The staff considers a number of factors when deciding each case. These include the nature and seriousness of the violation; any impermissible benefits received by the student-athlete; the student-athlete!|s level of responsibility; any mitigating factors presented by the school; applicable NCAA guidelines; and any relevant case precedent. It is rare that the facts of two cases are identical.

Honestly, if Auburn presented their argument clearly, logically, and simply (without divulging any significant information tying problems to Auburn), it is easy to understand why Cam would be exonerated at this early stage of the process. Presently, there is no money trail linked with Auburn. We don't know if Cam received "impermissible benefits" as a result of his father's dealings. And, as long as Auburn selectively and carefully reported the Kenny Rogers radio incident, Cam's personal involvement is currently zero.

5) What are the possible outcomes in reinstatement decisions? Student-athlete reinstatement decisions result in one of three possible outcomes. The staff may reinstate a student-athlete's eligibility without any conditions. A student-athlete may have his or her eligibility reinstated with conditions on the student-athlete, such as sitting out a specific number of contests or donating the amount of any impermissible benefits received to a charity. Or the student athlete could lose all remaining eligibility, which is extremely rare.

Cam is eligible, but the conditions are revealing. Auburn must have gone out of their way to portray this whole situation as a "father problem." That is why, as a condition of reinstatement, "Auburn University has limited the access Newton's father has to the athletics program."

6) How is the information gathered to determine reinstatement decisions? Student-athlete reinstatement decisions are based on an evaluation of the information provided to the staff by the involved school, given the NCAA reinstatement staff's role is not investigatory in nature. While the student-athlete reinstatement staff may ask additional questions related to the reinstatement request, it is the school's responsibility to provide all necessary information for the staff to consider.

Auburn, alone, is responsible for reporting all of the facts and circumstances concerning a violation. Nothing else matters. Thus, the university has complete control over what the reinstatement committee is reading when they make their decision. If Auburn goes on record as saying that "Cam Newton had no knowledge of the pay-for-play scheme initiated by his father," the committee HAS to accept that statement as fact during their deliberation process.

Note the wording on the statement by Kevin Lennon, NCAA VP for academic and membership affairs:

"Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity."

The committee fully knows that their information may, or may not, be complete... "at this time."


1) The reinstatement committee is a tool of convenience and almost never enforces penalties.

2) Despite what's being reported in the media, this ruling by the reinstatement committee is not setting precedent, nor is it creating a massive loophole that allows parents to market their sons and daughters. The infractions committee can, and likely will, still weigh in.

3) Auburn is rightfully using the reinstatement committee so that they can isolate the statements by Kenny Rogers, tie them to Cam's father, and keep Cam eligible for the immediate future. I am impressed with how they have handled this process to their advantage.

4) Nevertheless, if people want to criticize the NCAA, they should focus on how Auburn received an answer from the committee within 24 hours. That fact understandably fuels speculation that something collusive is happening between Auburn and the NCAA.

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