If they can remember as far back as last winter — an ice age in Internet years, I know — regular readers may recall that there were two sides to the NCAA's reaction to the Cam Newton Affair, the scandal that gripped college football over the last three months of the 2010 season, which seemed to be at direct odds with one another. Wednesday, the NCAA took a giant step toward closing the gap — or, if you prefer, to closing the barn door after the horses have escaped.
On one hand, investigators concluded that yes, in fact, Newton's father had solicited a six-figure payment from Mississippi State for his son's services through a former MSU player turned "scout," Kenny Rogers, as alleged by headlines that dominated the entire second half of that season. But because there was no evidence that any money ever changed hands, and no evidence that the elder Newton (or his alleged partner) ever solicited money from Auburn, and no evidence that the younger Newton knew anything about any of it, the most unstoppable player in college football was ultimately allowed to continue his run to the Heisman Trophy and Auburn's run to the SEC and BCS championships unabated. Last October, the NCAA officially closed its investigation with no further charges.
If that position struck you as somewhat hard to swallow at the time, you were in good company: The enforcers weren't very thrilled about it, either. Different arms of the NCAA actually declared Newton ineligible on two separate occasions, only to be outmaneuvered by Auburn compliance. Investigators dragged out the investigation in a futile search for more witnesses who wouldn't tell them to talk to the hand. Both SEC commissioner Mike Slive and NCAA president Mark Emmert called for tougher rules that would leave no doubt that the "Cecil Newton Loophole" had been closed.
Now, courtesy of the Division I Legislative Council, those rules are officially on the books (emphasis added):
…the Council approved a rule that broadens the definition of agents to include third-party influences, including family members, who market student-athletes' athletics ability or reputation for personal financial gain. The rule, sponsored by the Amateurism Cabinet, would include individuals who either directly or indirectly:
• Represent or attempt to represent a prospective or current student-athlete in the marketing of his or her athletics ability or reputation for financial gain; or
• Seek to obtain any type of financial gain or benefit from securing a prospect's enrollment at an institution or a student-athlete's potential earnings as a professional athlete.
The new definition would include certified contract advisors, financial advisors, marketing representatives, brand managers or anyone who is employed by or associated with such individuals.
[Council chair Carolyn] Campbell-McGovern said the new rule was in line with the division's principles and simply "closed a loophole."
So there you have it: A rule that, if applied retroactively, would undoubtedly have forced Cam Newton to sit out at least part of his campaign for world domination in 2010, and likely forced Auburn to forfeit games in which he participated. Unfortunately for his victims in those games, it cannot be applied retroactively, so all of those victories stand, along with Newton's records and endless list of accolades.
But next time… boy, they'd just like to see somebody else even try it.
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