SEC, NCAA Issue Auburn Unmistakable Warnings

As Auburn ponders whether to play Cam Newton Saturday against Georgia, the NCAA and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive unfurled two not-so-subtle caution flags on Friday.

Mike Slive SEC Commissioner

(SEC Commissioner Mike Slive)

Most notably, Brandon Marcello of the JACKSON (MS) CLARION-LEDGER had this as part of an interview with the SEC Commissioner:

Slive said the SEC made Auburn aware of information it had collected from MSU in July, and gave Auburn five weeks to decide how to proceed. Cam Newton has since led Auburn to a 10-0 record and No. 2 national ranking

The information Auburn received from the SEC in July may not have changed the past four months, but the school can add a statement made this week by Kenny Rogers that accused Cecil Newton of seeking money for son Cam’s services to its possible evidence of impropriety.

The Rogers statement was subsequently corroborated by Mississippi State booster Bill Bell, who this week also turned over a voicemail from Rogers to the NCAA as it pertained to the Newton case.

In an additional statement to Jon Solomon of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS Friday, Slive was also careful to clarify that if Auburn plays Newton, it will be the school’s decision alone.

“The only thing we made clear is a decision about his eligibility is a decision that has to be made by the institution.”

Then there’s this ominous Tweet released by Charles Robinson on Twitter regarding the NCAA’s posture on Auburn’s dilemma.

Latest w/ Cam Newton: NCAA has made Auburn aware of potential eligibility issue. Now Auburn decides whether to risk playing him. Their risk.

Who is Charles Robinson? He’s the reporter for Yahoo who brought down the USC football program by first breaking the news about the impropriety involving Reggie Bush and his family.

I recognize that, at the very least with his statement to the Birmingham News, Slive is clarifying conference protocol as it pertains to Newton’s eligibility status.

But if Auburn was in the clear, and the allegations against Newton were, as Tigers Coach Gene Chizik called them this week, “garbage“, I don’t think we’d be seeing this level of rhetoric from the two governing bodies.

As I’ve often stated, the NCAA is not a court of law. The burden of proof in order to determine a student-athlete ineligible is often extremely fuzzy and considerably lower than a legal proceeding. Witness SEC Commissioner Slive’s confusing comments about just that on Friday to the Birmingham News:

Asked what risks Auburn has faced by playing Newton so far or playing him again tomorrow, Slive responded: “First of all, we don’t have an established set of facts. The only people who can answer that is the NCAA. They have rules and then they have interpretations. Personally, I don’t know how the rule applies and what the interpretations might be.”

Slive said until there are established facts “you could have four or five hypotheses. We’re not in that role. I think our role is to wait out the investigation.”

Slive declined to comment on the specifics of the allegations being made.

“There’s been a lot of things said,” he said. “There’s been some inconsistencies. There’s been some credibility issues. But we’re not in the place where we judge those.”

Nor is Auburn. But if history is our guide, with the recent USC and Alabama NCAA sanctions, it’s fairly obvious at this point that smoking gun proof against Cam Newton or father Cecil is not needed for a major NCAA violation to have occurred.

With that in the mind, and the fact that Auburn could face even harsher penalties if it knowingly plays Newton while ineligible, let’s hope school leadership has a clear head when examining the evidence, circumstantial and otherwise, in this case.

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