In the last three months, Reggie Bush, the former USC Trojan running back, returned his Heisman, but said it was not an admission of guilt. A former agent came out in a highly publicized article in Sports Illustrated and admitted to offering money to college players to sign with him as an agent while still in school. There have been major conference realignments, that, in the end, were all about money and had nothing to do with travel, education or anything of the sort. And now we have Cam Newton, a player who is considered by most college football experts as the frontrunner for the Heisman, tied to stories of a "pay to play" plan reportedly hatched by his father.
Still not convinced that college athletics and primarily football is a Fortune 500 business?
While Cam Newton prepares or at least attempts to prepare to face the Georgia Bulldogs this weekend, the questions swirl and mount about his past and the involvement of his father in his eventual arrival at the University of Auburn. Adding to these current issues surrounding Newton, there were more stories that surfaced in the last week about his brief stay at the University of Florida where he was caught having purchased a stolen computer and there were also reports of cheating in the classroom. Newton departed in November of 2008 and went to Blinn Junior College before landing at Auburn.
It was the months leading up to his arrival at Auburn, though, that are now in question. A former player turned agent rep who played at Mississippi State is now at the center of the story. Kenny Rogers has claimed that he had Newton lined up to go to Mississippi State, but it would take between $100,000 and $180,000 dollars in order to secure his services. This figure reportedly came from Newton's father, Cecil Newton, who also happens to be a pastor.
The list of questions surrounding these reports are growing by the day. Did Mississippi State refuse to pay the figure requested by Rogers and the elder Newton? Why, when the younger Newton had his heart set on Mississippi State, did he reverse field and wind up at Auburn? Is Auburn under the microscope now with the hint of money being requested for Newton's services at Mississippi State?
Perhaps the biggest question right now is, why is this just now surfacing? There have been reports that the SEC had information back in January and that the NCAA had information in July and now here it is, November, with the SEC and National Title hunt heating up -- not to mention a Heisman race -- all involving Auburn and the player in question.
At the present time, you now have the FBI and IRS involved in the investigation, along with the NCAA. The only thing we're missing here is the CIA, Congress and DEA!
Through all of this, Newton has maintained his innocence and says he's not distracted by all the negative press. We'll only know for sure on Saturday when he takes the field. His current coach, Gene Chizk, says he's a great young man who has done nothing wrong. You want to believe him, but there's that little voice in your head that's asking, "Is that just a coach who doesn't want to lose his meal ticket speaking or is he truly convinced there's no foul play here?"
As college football has continued to grow, it's beginning to take on the same look of the investment houses and banks on Wall Street. The coffers are overflowing and, while you have a handful of individuals who want to do the right thing, their voices are dimmed by the sounds of the money printing machines at the NCAA offices. You have networks lining up to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the BCS bowl game rights. Those same networks are falling all over themselves to help construct conference networks that will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Here's another question to ask. Does the NCAA view college football like the US government did those same banks and investment houses -- too big to fail? As I stated in a previous article, the NCAA could make a major dent in the unemployment ranks if they were to hire compliance officers for all of the major players in Division I sports to try and stay on top of the issues confronting college athletics. But we all know that is not going to happen.
The critics are always asking, how do you fix the problem? There is no easy, set answer. How do you fix the drug problem in the United States? We've been asking that for more than 30 years and still there has been no real improvement in that area.
In many ways, college athletics, like the drug trade, has grown because of supply and demand. As long as there is a supply of Cam Newtons and agents, their reps and money hungry coaches, parents and institutions, this problem will continue to exist. Until the NCAA gets truly serious about dealing with anyone found guilty of having a hand in these kinds of matters, it won't go away.