Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton was cleared to play by the NCAA last week after being declared ineligible by Auburn under allegations of pay-for-play. That’s fine. Not every allegation is true. What caused controversy and stirred debate was the NCAA’s reasoning: Cam Newton and Auburn were unaware that Cecil Newton was shopping his son.
I know it is easy to look at this situation and think that it was impossible for the younger Newton to not be, at least, suspicious that something strange was going on. I don’t know what happened, but I do think we should not dismiss so easily that Cam Newton was oblivious to what was happening. In fact, I think Cecil could have easily pressured his son to choose Auburn without his son thinking either his dad was crazy or he was working something under the table.
Every time I hear some radio talk show or read a sports columnist comment on this story, they all neglect one fact. To quote the New York Times: “Newton, 50, is the bishop overseeing five small Pentecostal churches in Georgia, including the church here, where he is also pastor…”. Cecil Newton is not only Cam’s father, but he is a very important religious figure. All the senior Newton had to do is approach his son and say something to the effect that he had been praying about where Cam should play football, and he had a revelation that Auburn was the place for him. He could have added to that any outrageous prediction of what would happen if Cam went to Auburn (i.e., a national championship, a Heisman Trophy, a huge professional contract).
Put yourself in Cam’s shoes. You are 20 years old, you got into some trouble at Florida, and you are trying to do what is right and fix your life. Your religious leader, who also happens to be your father, tells you Auburn may not be the obvious choice, but it is the right choice. He could then cite William Cowper, “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform,” or Proverbs chapter 3 verse 5, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
Add to the religious aspect that impressing and influencing parents is just as important in the recruiting process as the player himself. Just ask that struggling team in Las Vegas. Parents don’t have to be overbearing about it, but even if they are, there are so many reasonable excuses for parents that the child could be clueless that a pay-for-play deal was being brokered.
Yes, the NCAA sounds like they have been knocked off their rocker, and they have opened up a loophole the size of a football field, but when it comes to condemning Cam Newton, I am not ready to do it.
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