Seven games into the 2010 season, Auburn appears to be the cream of the SEC, with the Tigers currently 7-0 and ranked #5 in the ASSOCIATED PRESS poll.
(Who knew it masked such sensitivity?)
But that record of success has done little to douse the anger seen on Auburn message boards and heard on Alabama sports radio this week following an offhand remark by Tiger quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Cam Newton.
Newton, who left the University of Florida two seasons ago after being brought up on felony charges stemming from his possession of a stolen laptop, told reporter Mark Schlabach this week that not only did he miss being a part of the Florida football program, he wished he was still there.
“If it was up to me, I would still want to be at Florida. My heart is still at Florida because of the long-lasting relationships I have with my teammates there. Leaving them was the hardest part.”
Understandable that someone could feel that way, but strange that Newton would make plain his preference for Gainesville during such a sensitive time in the season.
In fact, Newton’s comment was so unbelievable to Tiger fans on messages boards throughout cyberspace that
much to the delight of the rest of us many Auburn faithful disputed the War Eagle QB ever said such a thing to Schlabach.
To illustrate, Schlabach guested on Paul Finebaum’s Birmingham-based, nationally syndicated radio show today to address the veracity and context of Newton’s comment. (Audio)
Of the reax by Auburn fans to the quote he attributed to Newton, Schlabach told Finebaum, “The reaction is a knee jerk one that shows the passion of the SEC schools. I sat down with Cam face to face.” (Some AU fans had claimed that Schlabach cobbled together earlier comments made by Newton while the QB took questions from the entire assembled media.)
Schlabach clarified to Finebaum what he thought the true intent of Newton’s statement was: “He wanted to finish what he started at Florida. He’s not saying he doesn’t want to be at AU.”
Schlabach also went out of this way on Twitter to provide background:
For those asking, I didn’t get Newton’s quote about Gators from press conference. I talked to him one-on-one. Not a misquote
Never been accused of misquoting someone (except by message board fans)
Haven’t used a recorder in 10 years. Short hand.
For the record, his quote came after asking him about computer theft and if he was pushed out at Florida.
I have notes. Newton nor Auburn have called denying he said it.
On the subject of Auburn’s in-house reaction to Schlabach’s reporting, I was told by a source at the school today that athletic dept. and SID staffers do not dispute that Newton said what Schlabach reported.
While what Newton said was likely inadvisable, Auburn fans obviously overreacted. But in a state where devotion to Auburn and Alabama football is - in all seriousness - akin to religion, it’s no surprise that Tiger fans are the first (only?) people to be shocked by Newton’s real talk.