Heisman candidate Cam Newton was allowed to play in the Southeastern Conference title game on Dec. 4, and is eligible for any Bowl Championship Series game in late December or early January, the NCAA announced on Nov. 30.
The NCAA cleared the Auburn University quarterback of receiving improper benefits, according to the Associated Press, despite finding that Newton’s father, Cecil, illegally negotiated a “pay-for-play” deal with another school before his son decided to go to Auburn.
Cam Newton and Auburn are clear because the NCAA cannot prove that either was aware of Cecil’s actions.
The matter is on two tracks—reinstatement and enforcement–within the NCAA, according to USA Today. The reinstatement staff looked at whether the the father’s actions with Mississippi State warranted eligibility actions.
“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, which led to his reinstatement,” Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs, said in a statement released to the media. “From a student-athlete reinstatement perspective, Auburn University met its obligation. Under this threshold, the student-athlete has not participated while ineligible.”
According to ESPN, multiple sources said Cecil Newton shopped his son to Mississippi State University for money, but the school’s coaches and officials declined all requests.
Former Mississippi State football player Kenny Rogers, a sports agency recruiter who was reported to have represented Cecil in pay-for-play negations, told ESPN that Cecil wanted between $100,000 and $180,000 to get his son to play for Mississippi State. Another former Mississippi State player, Bill Bell, was also involved in the deal attempt. The SEC was informed of Newton, Bell and Rodger’s activities by Mississippi state officials and the SEC later passed more details on to the NCAA.
“The conduct of Cam Newton’s father and the involved individual is unacceptable and has no place in the SEC or in intercollegiate athletics,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said in a statement. “The actions taken by Auburn University and Mississippi State University make it clear this behavior will not be tolerated in the SEC.”
Auburn University had announced Cam Newton ineligible to play on Nov. 30 after the NCAA reported that Newton was tied to violations, but the school immediately requested the reinstatement of his eligibility after the release of the investigation’s findings.
“We are pleased that the NCAA has agreed with our position that Cam Newton has been and continues to be eligible to play football at Auburn University,” Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs told AP. “We appreciate the diligence and professionalism of the NCAA and its handling of this matter.”
The enforcement staff is still looking into Newton’s travels through the ranks of collegiate football. His odyssey began at the University of Florida in 2007 where he was the backup quarterback to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. In 2008 he started a game, injured an ankle in the second game and sat out the season as a medical red-shirt player.
After a brush with the law in 2008 that resulted in his participation in a court approved pre-trial diversion program in exchange for the dismissal of felony charges of burglary, larceny and obstruction of justice, Newton withdrew from the University of Florida and in January, 2009 transferred to Blinn College, a public junior/community college in Texas. In 2009, Newton lead the Blinn football team to the National Junior College Athletic Association Championship.
He joined Auburn in 2010.
The Georgia native is a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, passing for 2,254 yards and 24 touchdowns, and rushing for 1,336 yards and 18 touchdowns with a 12-0 Auburn team. On Dec. 4 Newton led his Auburn team to the Southeastern Conference Championship over South Carolina, 56 to 17. Newton was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.