Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is cleared to play by NCAA
A day after Auburn declared Cam Newton ineligible for violating amateurism rules, the NCAA reinstated the star quarterback and lifted a cloud that has hovered over the program for a month.
The decision appears to remove any taint should Auburn go on to win this year's national title. Auburn needs a victory over South Carolina in Saturday's Southeastern Conference title game to advance to this year's Bowl Championship Series championship.
USC is expected to have to vacate its 2004 BCS crown after it was revealed Reggie Bush was an ineligible player for the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
The news regarding Newton should also relieve Heisman Trophy voters who were wavering over whether to cast a vote for a player whose eligibility was in question. Bush, as a result of USC's sanctions, returned his 2005 Heisman Trophy.
The NCAA and Auburn agreed that Newton's father, Cecil, and a scouting service had worked together to actively market the player in a pay-for-play scheme to Mississippi State, a clear violation of NCAA Bylaw 12.3.3.
In accordance to rules, Auburn declared Newton ineligible on Monday and petitioned the NCAA for reinstatement. The NCAA ruled there was no proof Cam Newton or Auburn were aware of the violations.
"In determining how a violation impacts a student-athlete's eligibility, we must consider the young person's responsibility," Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, said in a released statement. "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 ... Under this threshold, the student-athlete has not participated while ineligible."
The news was a huge relief for the Auburn football program.
"We are pleased that the NCAA has agreed with our position that Cam Newton has been and continues to be eligible to play football at Auburn University," Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said. "We appreciated the diligence and professionalism of the NCAA and its handling of this matter."
Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive, in a statement, condemned the actions of Newton's father and the scouting service that solicited payment for the star player.
"The conduct of Cam Newton's father and the involved individual is unacceptable and has no place in the SEC or in intercollegiate athletics," Slive said.
-- Chris Dufresne
Photo: Cam Newton. Credit: Dave Martin/Associated Press.