LEXINGTON, KY - OCTOBER 09: Cam Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the SEC game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
We have covered nearly every single twist and turn of the Cam Newton melodrama here at RBR the past ten days, largely because it has been such a major news story and also because his presence, or absence, will make a major impact one way or the other on the Iron Bowl twelve days from now. To the point that it was relevant to the most important game remaining on the schedule for Alabama, it was worth commenting upon and analyzing here at RBR.
With Auburn refusing to declare Newton ineligible for the Georgia game, however, it now becomes a story much less worth following from the UA perspective. The allegations are already damning, the FBI is actively investigating, and the NCAA has already warned Auburn that there may be an eligibility issue with Newton. Nevertheless, Auburn played Newton against Georgia, and there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to think that he will somehow be held out of the Iron Bowl.
And I know, someone will come out and say, "Well they just played him against Georgia to clinch a spot in Atlanta, but they might play it safe against Alabama." Absurd. I'll be blunt, I'd bet a dollar against your dime that Auburn places a much higher value on beating Alabama than they ever have on reaching Atlanta. For those unconvinced, I'd suggest re-reading the psychotic rant of David Housel, the former longtime Auburn athletics director, from eight years ago just prior to the 2002 Iron Bowl, where he found it most fitting to compare Auburn's long fight against Alabama to the British in World War II and their struggle to defeat Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany:
"Winston Churchill, he of the Auburn heart, said it best: 'Never, never, never, never give up. We will fight on the land. We will fight on the sea. We will fight in the air. We will fight until Hitler and his Nazis are driven from the face of the earth.' "Now, I'm not comparing UA to Hitler and the Nazis. Not at all. There are many good UA people, and I have many good UA friends, at least a few, and I have great respect for them and their program for what they've accomplished down through the years. But this is not about them - this is about us. Who we are, what we are, and what we are going to do. "We are going to fight them today. We are going to fight them tomorrow. We're going to fight them every day and every way. We won't win all the battles, but we're going to win the war.
That is the mindset of not just that fan base, but that institution as a whole and of several key individual members of that institution. And you really expect me to believe that they will voluntarily sit their superstar player against us with a potential Heisman Trophy and BCS National Championship Game berth squarely on the line? Anyone dumb enough to believe that should, for their own personal protection as well as the safety of others, immediately check themselves into a mental hospital.
Having established those points, moving forward we are not going to discuss the Cam Newton melodrama as frequently as we have the past ten days. For the prospects of the 2010 Iron Bowl, the particulars of this saga are largely irrelevant.
Now, rest assured that in the coming days the allegations will continue to come out on a consistent basis, one likely more damning than the last. Given the torrid pace of the allegations over the course of the previous ten days, combined with the stature of the entities actively investigating Newton's recruitment -- running all the way from the New York Times to the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- it would be mind-boggling to think that all of this will just suddenly stop now. For Auburn, the next two weeks will probably feel like an eternity.
If f I offend rival fans then so be it, but here is what I think probably happened. I believe Cecil Newton, realizing the demand for the services of his son, devised a pay-for-play scheme, and solicited money from both Auburn and Mississippi State (and probably some others as well). Either Mississippi State refused to pay him outright, or they were simply out-bid by Auburn, and in the end someone on behalf of Auburn University -- likely a booster -- paid Cecil Newton for the signature of Cam Newton. For his part, I doubt Cam Newton was actively involved in the machinations of the scheme, but he had knowledge of it and if he did object to it at any point then his objections were clearly not sufficient. Having said that, I don't get the feeling that Cecil Newton is a particularly bright individual, and to that end I think they tried to cover-up the pay-for-play scheme, but that they did a poor job of it. Simply put, I think they botched it, and I feel reasonably comfortable in saying that there is likely a plethora of damning and incriminating evidence available to any party who has the ability and the will to investigate this thoroughly. When all is said and done and the dust has settled twenty-four or thirty-six months from now, I figure that Cam Newton will eventually be ruled retroactively ineligible, Auburn will end up zero for however many games that Newton appeared in, and Auburn may very well end up on the receiving end of very harsh NCAA sanctions.
And I believe Auburn probably knows this, too. Realize that recent reports have them hiring Gene Marsh to work on this specific issue, the man who spent nine years on the NCAA Committee on Infractions and three years as chair of the COI, and who also led the defense of the school involved in arguably the single biggest pay-for-play scandal in NCAA history, representing our own beloved Crimson Tide in the Albert Means case. And oh yes, also keep in mind that by hiring Marsh, Auburn literally hired a man who has been employed by the University of Alabama since the days of Bear Bryant. It's simple, you don't hire someone like that unless you know you have to get prepared to wage war with the NCAA, and as obsessed as Auburn is with Alabama -- and paranoid of, I might add -- there is no way they hire a longtime UA employee unless they know that they desperately need his experience and expertise in the worst possible way. In an attempt to defend themselves, they have willingly gotten in bed with their personification of the devil, an act in and of itself that speaks to the magnitude of what they realize is before them. Auburn may be stupid -- my money is on that one, for the record -- but let it not be said that they are outright oblivious.
Both the NCAA and the SEC have made it clear that Auburn themselves must be the ones that rule Newton ineligible, and Auburn has made it equally clear in their response that they will do no such thing. As I wrote earlier, the allegations will continue in the coming days, and while they will likely become more damning as time goes on, it will be irrelevant for now. The allegations really cannot get all that much worse than what they already are -- nor can they be reported by more credible institutions than the ones who have reported what has already been alleged -- and unless something along the lines of videotape evidence emerges of someone directly giving Cam Newton a bundle of cash, Newton will take the field in Tuscaloosa and play against the Crimson Tide.
So be it. Newton will play and Alabama will simply have to find a way to beat him and his Tigers. Someone else said it best a few days back, watching Auburn play now with Cam Newton is tantamount to watching a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown all the while staring at a yellow flag back at the 10-yard line; it might be nice to watch depending on your perspective, but either way you all know that it's likely all for not. I figure Auburn is playing with fire here, and I figure they'll likely get burnt in due time. Nevertheless, the point of the game is to play at a high level and to find a way to defeat your opponent, not to sit around whining about how you got beaten by a bunch of cheaters, no matter how true that statement may be. The focus of Alabama has to be on simply winning in twelve days time, even if Cam Newton did get paid the rough equivalent of the NFL rookie minimum to sign with Auburn.