ESPN has the story regarding a possible pay-to-play situation involving Cameron Newton’s recruitment out of junior college.
The NCAA is investigating.
So what does this mean for Newton’s Heisman hopes?
Had this investigation not occurred just a few months after Reggie Bush was forced to vacate his Heisman and just a few weeks after the ACC and SEC were rocked by a series of agent scandals, the first intinct of the college football world would’ve been to give Newton the benefit of the doubt.
But the months of media outrage over Bush’s transgressions, plus the more recent shenanigans occurring at North Carolina and elsewhere, have created a climate in college football akin to the steroid scandals in baseball. Those caught up or associated with characters from the shady agent world are often presumed to be dirty before being given a chance to prove themselves clean.
Just the specter of a possible retroactive judgement of ineligibilty in Newton’s case following a long NCAA investigation is bound to give some Heisman voters pause when considering the Auburn quarterback for their ballots. I’m sure no one wants to go through the process of vacating another trophy. That wouldn’t be fair to the players who, as far as we know, weren’t on the take in 2010, would it?
The selective, backward-thinking persecution of Bush is to blame for much of this. It was only a matter of time before a past or present player was implicated as a follow up to the zealous targeting of the 2005 winner. Eventually, as more players are dinged and disqualified due to these problems, the trophy’s credibility is sure to take a needless hit. People just had to lift the proverbial college football rock to find out what was underneath and now they’re seeing that the underside is crawling with all kinds of unsavory characters. Well, duh. They’ve always been there and will continue to be there. What we don’t need now is a never-ending series of self-righteous investigations that selectively punish certain players while paralyzing and discrediting the sport and its traditions.
The outcome of the investigation is pending and it could still be that nothing comes of it and that Newton is clean. But Heisman ballots arrive on November 15. If the investigation continues on into December and nothing is resolved, many voters will be reluctant to risk choosing a player who could yet be deemed ineligible.
Newton will need to manage this properly and answer all questions asked. A ‘Checkers’ speech might be in order.
The longer this drags on without clarity, the bigger the blow will be to his Heisman hopes.