According to ESPN.com, Bill Bell, the Mississippi St. Bulldogs booster named by Kenny Rogers, agrees that Cecil Newton, Auburn Tigers QB Cam Newton’s father, asked for money in exchange for Newton’s letter of intent. Bell also acknowledged speaking with an NCAA investigator earlier this week.
Every piece of the story so far has lined up, with one glaring exception: nobody has made a serious allegation that the Auburn Tigers offered or gave money to or for Newton. However, that doesn’t really matter. As the NCAA told the New York Times yesterday, “The solicitation of cash or benefits by either a potential student-athlete or another person on their behalf is not allowed under NCAA rules” and that “knowingly playing an ineligible student-athlete could make a university ‘subject to harsher penalties down the road.’”
Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson writes that the NCAA may officially recommend Auburn avoid playing Newton in case he’s ruled ineligible. Once Auburn knew about Newton’s Mississippi St. dealings, they could not continue to play him. When MSU reported Cecil Newton to the SEC in January, did the conference or NCAA notify other schools? I don’t know, so please share if you do.
But the fact is that now Auburn knows about his recruitment. Unless Auburn believes Kenny Rogers, John Bond, Bell, and MSU’s compliance department are all incorrect, playing Newton has become a significant risk -- especially with the NCAA laying out the possibility of "harsher penalties down the road." Now we're talking about multiple seasons worth of damage. Two undefeated Auburn seasons, 1957 and 1993, have ended without bowls due to sanctions. This isn't a program that needs to go through that again.
They’re not beating the Alabama Crimson Tide or SEC East champion without him, and probably not the Georgia Bulldogs either. Auburn may choose to let it ride, and if the NCAA forces Newton off the field the Tigers will have something to feel aggrieved about for decades. If they didn’t do anything wrong during Newton’s recruitment, can’t say I’d blame them for taking that stance.