By John Zenor/The Associated Press
NCAA President Mark Emmert responded Thursday to the backlash that the governing body is allowing Cam Newton to play in the SEC championship game even though his father sought payment for his services.
“We recognize that many people are outraged at the notion that a parent or anyone else could ‘shop around’ a student-athlete and there would possibly not be repercussions on the student-athlete’s eligibility,” Emmert said in a statement on the NCAA’s web site.
Emmert added that he’s committed to “further clarifying and strengthening our recruiting and amateurism rules so they promote appropriate behavior by students, parents, coaches and third parties.” He also said the NCAA will “work aggressively with our members to amend our bylaws so that this type of behavior is not a part of intercollegiate athletics.”
The NCAA ruled Wednesday that the Heisman favorite was unaware of the pay-for-play scheme concocted by his father, Cecil, and the owner of a scouting service. The NCAA declared Newton eligible to play for second-ranked Auburn Saturday against No. 18 South Carolina.
Cecil Newton and Kenny Rogers — the former Mississippi State player who worked for an agent — sought money for the quarterback to play for the Bulldogs.
George Lawson, the Newton family attorney, said Thursday that Cecil Newton cooperated with the NCAA.
“Cam’s father participated in the investigation truthfully and honestly in terms of what he knew and what he didn’t know, regardless of the consequences,” Lawson told WSB-TV in Atlanta.
As to whether any money changed hands, the attorney said: “Absolutely not.”
Lawson added that he “would hope” the investigation is over.
“But if it is not at an end, Cam and his family will continue to participate,” he said.
Within the span of two days, the NCAA notified Auburn of violations of amateurism rules, the school declared Newton ineligible, and then the governing body reinstated him, clearing Newton to compete without conditions.
The NCAA noted that reinstatement decisions are separate from the enforcement process and usually are “likely to conclude prior to the close of an investigation.”
On its web site Thursday NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach said her staff investigates all types of rules violations.
“Some of these investigations affect student-athlete eligibility and others do not,” Lach explained. “The investigation does not stop with a student-athlete eligibility issue, but school officials must address it as soon as they are aware of the violations.”
The NCAA also took issue with comparisons made to the case involving Reggie Bush at Southern California, which was heavily punished for extra benefits received by the Heisman Trophy winner from two aspiring sports marketers.
The NCAA said “If a student-athlete does not receive tangible benefits, that is a different situation from a student-athlete or family member who receives cash, housing or other benefits or knowingly competes and is compensated as a professional athlete.”
Mark Jones, an Indianapolis attorney who works with NCAA-related cases, said the reinstatement committee generally relies on the school’s self-report in making decisions involving eligibility issues and doesn’t investigate.
He said the swift movement on reinstatement is common during an athlete’s season.
“The student-athlete reinstatement staff’s job is to evaluate things from the student-athlete’s perspective,” said Jones, the chair of collegiate sports practice for Ice Miller. “That’s very important in analyzing what they’re going to do in terms of whether any sanctions might be necessary for the student-athlete.”
Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, said on the web site that when the reinstatement staff reviews eligibility cases they review each case based on its own merits and specific facts.
“During the decision, we must examine a number of factors, including guidelines established by our membership for what conditions should be applied based on the nature and scope of the violation,” Lennon said. “We also carefully consider any mitigating factors presented by the university to determine if relief from the guidelines should be provided.”
Lennon said Wednesday of the Newton case:
“Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement.”
The recruiting scandal, pay-for-play investigation may not be over as the NCAA has not closed the case on the Newtons, leaving the door open for future discipline.