Cam-ibalized: Financial fallout of Newton scandal

It doesn’t take Issac Newton to deduce that trouble is a-brewin’ for the Newton family and the Auburn Tigers football program.

Cam Newton, the starting QB for the BCS No. 2 Auburn Tigers and front-runner for the 2010 Heisman Award, faces mounting pressures off the field which may have lasting repercussions on not only his financial future but that of his university.

A report by ESPN seems to suggest that the Newton family (a) attempted to receive extra benefits from Mississippi State during the recruiting process, and (b) may have successfully received extra benefits in an effort to sway his loyalties to Auburn.

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If the ongoing investigation into this matter reveals damning evidence that corroborates the aforementioned report, the Newton family and Auburn University will pay a steep price.

As it relates to Mr. Newton:

• It may cost him a chance to win the Heisman if Heisman voters (with the historic forfeiture of Reggie Bush’s Heisman still fresh on the mind in light of his wrongdoings) hedge their votes in light of not only allegations surrounding extra benefits but also academic fraud at his previous school, Florida. Such allegations would illuminate “integrity concerns, “which are part of the Heisman voting process now more than ever.

• Even if the investigation isn’t completed before the Heisman vote or the BCS National Championship game, Mr. Newton could be thrust into Reggie Bush’s shoes and face the shame/embarrassment of a Heisman forfeiture if improprieties come to light in the months and years after January 2011 and if he were to win the 2010 Heisman.

Typically speaking, Heisman Trophy winners see a spike in their future earnings either by virtue of endorsements upon turning pro and/or being able to command a higher signing bonus upon entering the NFL. But if these supposed character flaws associated with academic fraud and extra monetary benefits are corroborated, his potential endorsement cache and draft stock will sink like a stone … costing Mr. Newton millions.

As it relates to Auburn University:

• Fresh off the NCAA-imposed sanctions levied upon USC, the NCAA may be inclined to once again flex its might through scholarship reductions and postseason bans for the Auburn program IF they find evidence suggestive of wrongdoing.

If such penalties lessen the quality of the Tigers program for a 2-4 year period this could decrease short-term game-day attendances and alumni giving. Lost ticket revenue, lower conference allocations from bowl-game appearances, and lower game-day revenues from event operations would also have a multimillion-dollar impact on the program

• May cost them the 2010-11 BCS National Championship and all the financial windfall that comes with that honor.

National championships in football usually confer added merchandise sales, licensing royalties, and freshman applications for the affected university due to the added exposure, notoriety, and visibility of being the national champion.

If the added pressures on Mr. Newton and his teammates due to increased media scrutiny contribute to poor play and a subsequent loss in any of their remaining three games, the university can kiss these various streams of “championship revenue” goodbye.

Controversy will surround this program between now and Jan. 10, 2011, IF they reach the title game. Given that we are dealing with student-athletes aged 18-23 that may not be as emotionally and mentally mature as a professional athlete to deal with intensified media scrutiny, I would be shocked if Auburn runs the gamut of Georgia, Alabama, and possibly Florida in the SEC Championship game (Mr. Newton’s previous school where he has been accused of academic misgivings and theft). Each of those schools (particularly Alabama and Florida) would be highly motivated to rub salt into the wounds.

I sense that this fiasco hasn’t even reached “halftime” yet, so some restraint and perspective is required. Without evidence from bank statements showing a monetary transaction between the Newton family and Auburn University, we may be as unsuccessful running down the truth about this matter as SEC defenses have been in trying to run down Mr. Newton on the field this season.

But just as the Reggie Bush firestorm stemmed from a brewing multi-year smokestorm of allegations which were eventually legitimized, it’s hard to give the benefit of the doubt these days in college sports when recent history has hardened the least cynical among us.

Indeed, the mantra “innocent before proven guilty” seems only applicable in the courtroom. Everywhere else the accused must prove their innocence else be assumed guilty. The phrase “no comment” might as well be code for “no way in hell I’m getting out of this unscathed.”

My cynicism tells me that it will take a Herculean and not a Heisman-like effort for this scandal to not impact Mr. Newton, his family, or the Auburn football program.

My cynicism tells me that rival SEC schools may have encouraged or been directly responsible for the leaking of this information to the media to maximize the embarrassment factor.

My cynicism and awareness of recent events within the college sports industry tells me that if more evidence comes to light within the next few days and weeks which further calls into question the integrity of the Newton family or Auburn University athletics, then Mr. Newton will not win the Heisman nor will Auburn even reach the BCS National Championship game.

Costing both millions in current and future incomes, revenues, and reputational namesake.