My takeaway from Heisman voter reaction following the initial story about the NCAA investigation into a possible ‘pay-for-play’ scheme involving Cameron Newton was that most voters were willing, barring any further damning information, to give the Auburn quarterback the benefit of the doubt in his quest for the Heisman.
However, a couple recent developments are clouding that judgement, including new allegations of academic fraud while at Florida and further details that allege there were specific phone conversations between the Newtons and various coaches regarding cash payments.
Whether fair or not, perception morphs into reality at some point. And in Newton’s short career, we already have a stolen laptop, possible academic fraud and maybe a lot of money changing hands during recruiting. Voters could very well surmise that where there is smoke, there is fire.
Like all scandals, the accumulated drip-drip-drip of the story has a way of taking its toll. It has the potential of turning into a major frenzy. Even if Newton is somehow cleared of specific allegations, some doubt is likely to remain. And if his issues remain murky and unresolved into December, the question is: How many Heisman voters will feel comfortable voting for him? Will Heismandment No. 10 rear its ugly head and knock him out of the race? Right now, voters don’t think he’s a bad guy–at worst, they think he’s maybe a bit of a wayward knucklehead–but is that perception about to change?
Unfortunately, we may not know the answer until Dec. 11.
On a side note, SportsbyBrooks makes a great point about the NCAA’s investigation. Apparently, the SEC and the NCAA knew about these allegations 11 months ago.
So according to ESPN, the SEC had knowledge of phone conversations personally involving Cam Newton and his play-for-pay scheme and the NCAA has not only done nothing about it for 11 months, but hasn’t even sent Auburn a letter of inquiry?
Either what ESPN is reporting is not true, or the SEC and/or NCAA is involved in coverup that has allowed Newton to play this season for Auburn while eligible.
Or we’re talking abject incompetence on the part of the NCAA and/or SEC.