Earlier in the week, the New York Times mentioned in passing in their piece regarding Auburn academics that the NCAA investigation into the recruitment of Cam Newton was still continuing. Now, we get a glimpse into the specifics of exactly which direction they are pursuing. Per the latest from Thayer Evans of Fox Sports:
NCAA investigators have interviewed two Atlanta-area men about whether they were asked to or did deliver money to the father of Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton in connection with repairs to Cecil Newton Sr.’s church in Newnan, Ga.
Emory Wilcox and Eddie Norris were separately questioned the week before Christmas by two NCAA investigators, one of which was Jackie Thurnes, the NCAA’s associate director of enforcement.
Wilcox and Norris, listed on separate city permits for work to be done on Cecil Newton’s struggling Holy Zion Center of Deliverance, each told the NCAA investigators that they were never asked to deliver nor did they deliver money to Newton.
Very interesting article for a few reasons.
First and foremost, the NCAA investigation into Newton's recruitment is simply not over. It's ongoing, and all the claims from the Auburn homers and apologists to the contrary simply doesn't make it so. Second, and I find most interesting moving forward, you see that the focus of the investigation has shifted somewhat. This is not a narrow inquiry into the validity of the offer in the Bill Bell / Kenny Rogers allegations, it's more of a general inquiry into whether or not Cecil Newton received cash money or other impermissible benefits, with a specific focus on these two men regarding whether or not they may have been related to the repairs of his church, in connection with the recruitment of his son. That casts a much wider net than what was presumably investigated weeks earlier regarding the violations that Mississippi State reported.
Third, and finally, the fact that the NCAA, in late December, was just then getting around to interviewing people explicitly listed on city building permits for repairs to the aforementioned church tells me that this investigation is still in its relative infancy. Given the concrete connections to Newton and the church, that seems to me like easy interviews / potential sources of information that would be conducted in the initial stages of an investigation, which leads me to believe this whole inquiry is really just getting started. These do not seem to be people whose identity and relevance to the allegations could have only been revealed after an extensive, exhaustive investigation. By all accounts they seem to be people who would be interviewed at the very outset of an investigation.
Where does it go from here? Who knows, and for the record I'm not making any grand predictions on the ultimate disposition of this case. I have no real confidence in the NCAA in any specific instance, given their long history of adjudicative inconsistency among seemingly similar cases, and, well, everything else that anyone following the NCAA for any extended period of time should be well aware of. In the aggregate, though, I'm still sticking to my original story: Cam Newton or someone on his behalf was paid a large sum of money to sign with Auburn, the principal players of the pay-for-play scheme -- including, but not limited to, the Newtons -- are not particularly bright individuals, that they likely failed to adequately conceal the scheme and botched their attempts to do so, and that there is likely a plethora of damning and incriminating evidence available to any party who has the ability and the will to investigate his recruitment thoroughly, whether that be a law enforcement agency, investigative journalists, or the NCAA.
Does the NCAA have that requisite zeal necessary to find such evidence? Only time will tell.