Cavalcade of Whimsy - Cam, Rich, & The NCAA
Mark Emmert, Cam Newton & Rich Rodriguez
Mark Emmert, Cam Newton & Rich Rodriguez
Posted Dec 7, 2010

Beyond the BCS and the bowl announcements, it was a wild week with the Rich Rodriguez performance at the Michigan banquet and, of course, the NCAA ruling on the Cam Newton situation. No one outside of Auburn appears satisfied, but why? With everything that happened should Cam still win the Heisman? Check out all this and a lot more in the latest Cavalcade of Whimsy.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Dec. 6 - Week Fourteen

Past Cavalcades
- 2008 Season | 2009 Season 
- Jan 19, Part 1 - Oh those wacky coaches 
- Jan 19, Part 2 - The sucky 2009 season 
- Sept. 7,  The Marcell Dareus Issue
- Sept. 14, The Boise State Issue
- Sept. 21,  MSU's Wild Weekend
- Sept. 28,  Is Boise State the new Florida State or Miami?
- Oct 5, Oh, that wacky Les Miles
- Oct. 12, Why the Brett Favre situation matters
- Oct. 19, Is Oklahoma REALLY No. 1?
- Oct. 26,  What if all the underclassmen come back?
- Nov. 2, The Notre Dame Tragedy
- Nov. 9, The Hosing of Boise State
- Nov. 16, Cleaning up college football
Nov. 23 The BCS Games We Want To See
Nov. 30 The BCS Championship ground rules

E-mail Pete Fiutak

- Week 13 Part 2 - College Football Has A Playoff? 

Sorry if this column sucks, it's not my fault … "We went through some battles and some things that happened in the last three years when I came here three years ago, leaving my comfort zone, because I thought this was a great opportunity. My name is Pete Fiutak. I'm honored to be the head coach at the University of Michigan. I hope you realize I truly want to be a Michigan man."

"Everything is different, but the same... things are more moderner than before... bigger, and yet smaller... it's computers... San Dimas High School football rules!" … Unfortunately for Rich Rodriguez, triggered by his tear-soaked speech at the Michigan football banquet, there's a clause in his deal that allows the school to fire him for being a dork.

A study at M.I.T. found a connection between bad college football defenses and the amount of Josh Groban a head coach listened to. East Carolina's Ruffin McNeill is allegedly the president of the Grobaniacs, while Jim Tressel, head man of the No. 2 ranked Ohio State defense, prefers to go Gwar, codpiece and all, right up until he gets off the team bus.

Just do me a solid when it comes to the royalties … No, I don't agree with the sentiment, but if you're looking to make a million dollars right now from Alabama fans, print up t-shirts that say Auburn 2010 SEC Champion* or (vacated), 2010 SEC Champion.

"You too, man. Take care. Hey Peter! Watch out for the corn hole, ok?" … If you're going just by what happened on the field, there's absolutely no reasonable or rational explanation to cast a Heisman vote for anyone but Cam Newton. None. If there wasn't any controversy, this would be the single greatest landslide in the history of the Heisman and anyone voting for anyone else would be dragged into the streets and mocked for his pretentious ineptitude (which, by the way, is the working definition of this column). However, I'm not going to lie; I needed a moment.

Ever since the Heisman went to on-line voting, I've always waited until the final snap of the last game, usually following a Hawaii offensive show, before filling out my ballot, and then it would take all of 14 seconds.

Reggie Bush … submit. Troy Smith … submit. Tim Tebow … submit. Tim Tebow … submit. Ndamukong Suh … submit. Cam Newton … Cam Newton … Cam Newton … ate some peanut butter … made a coffee drink … updated my fantasy lineup … submit, and then I pulled a Peter Gibbons-like dive after sticking the envelope under Lumbergh's door.

For one year, Newton might be the greatest college football player I've ever seen, and while I don't agree with the NCAA's inconsistencies when it came to its ruling on Newton's eligibility, I'm always happy when a player triumphs over the evil corporation. Even so, I can't help but feel like the entire Newton family is giving me and the rest of the college football world the finger, dressed up in a million-dollar, mega-watt smile.

"I've got this thing and it's f***ing golden, and, uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for f***in' nothing. I'm not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there." … Cecil Newton, meet Rod Blagojevich, another guy who got in hot water for a failed business transaction.

According to the NCAA offices, "The solicitation of cash or benefits by either a potential student-athlete or another person on their behalf is not allowed under NCAA rules." And, "an agent is any individual who markets or promotes a student-athlete."

The NCAA has used those two sentences to suspend player after player, and if it believed that Cecil solicited money from Mississippi State in attempt to market Cam, then it shouldn't have mattered who knew what. That's it. Even if there was no smoking gun, there didn't need to be. It might not have been fair or just to Cam, but if the NCAA was going by its own rules, regulations, and interpretations, then the "I didn't know" defense shouldn't have worked. It almost never has before and now, legally, it can be used by any player to get out of any potential jam.

The fact that money never changed hands doesn't matter. You can't solicit on behalf of your son, period, and when you allegedly market your son in an attempt to get money for a signature, you're acting as the textbook definition of an agent.

The government in the Blago trial put it best: "You don't have to be a successful criminal to be a criminal." Obviously, Cecil Newton isn't a criminal, but he didn't need to receive $180,000 to break the rules.

"The only thing you can do is go dead, shut everything down, and make like a hole in the water." … Brilliant PR move, Auburn, going dead silent on Newton's ineligibility. Rule No. 1 in any controversy is to not hide anything when you haven't done anything wrong; always be out in front of the story. Newton being declared ineligible was mostly a technicality and part of the overall procedure, and it should've been explained that way before the NCAA had its turn.

"Why is Private Pyle out of his bunk after lights out?! Why is Private Pyle holding that weapon? Why aren't you stomping Private Pyle's guts out?" … What were the two big stories in the college sports world over the last 12 months? Actually, what were the two biggest college storylines of the last decade? 1) The expansion/realignment dance, kicked off by the Big Ten, and 2) the NCAA's jihad against anyone who dared to flirt with the rulebook.

The NCAA, historically, doesn't give a damn what you think you are entitled to. It hasn't mattered what the consequences might have been to a team, a player, or a particular game; when there was a point to be made, the kids in Indianapolis made very, very sure everyone knew their name was the Lord when they laid their vengeance upon thee.

The NCAA was done kidding around. Fun time was over. It was time to take control.

Want to do that little somersault, flippy thing over the goal line? Next year, that's not only an unsportsmanlike penalty, but the touchdown won't count. Want to go to a party with an agent? Four games. Want to sell a piece of your property? If it's a game jersey, four games. Want to lie to the NCAA when you thought you did something wrong, even when you didn't do anything wrong? Career. Want to take money from a marketing company? Career, stripped Heisman, asterisk, two-year crippling blow to the program.

The cries from Nick Saban to stop the pimps, and the screams from Urban Meyer about an agent issue being out of control, prompted an even more vigilant watchdog/enforcement effort than ever before. With billions of dollars of TV money flying around, and with all the realignment and expansion deals in the works, the NCAA wanted and needed to purify college athletics, and it wasn't going to take any prisoners. Whether or not you agree with the heavy-handed judgments (which I didn't), and whether or not you believed that the rules of the game were fair (which I don't), at least the NCAA was relatively consistent. Time after time after time, the NCAA could've been lenient and could've cut a player or a team some slack, and didn't. The goal was to make a statement with each ruling and to set a precedent.

It didn't matter that North Carolina's potential all-timer of a defense was never able to show what it could do. It didn't matter that A.J. Green was forthcoming and contrite; Georgia's season wasn't the same without him over the first quarter of the year. It didn't matter that the preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year, quarterback Dwight Dasher, had to wait week after week to find out whether or not he was eligible after accepting a $1,500 loan, and it didn't matter that Middle Tennessee, the most talented team in the conference, was never right because of the lingering will-he-play-or-won't-he issue.

It didn't matter if you took a ride across campus in a golf cart with the wrong person. It didn't matter if you went to see Deion Sanders. It didn't matter if you happened to go to the right party at the wrong time; there were going to be repercussions from the NCAA if you blurred the line even a little bit.

And that's why the Cecil Newton/Cam Newton situation is such a big deal.

Why is everyone outside of the greater Auburn metropolitan area still up in arms over this? It's because the NCAA, in this one particular case, chose to go with a loophole rather than use some of its own rules and regulations. For fans of North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Middle Tennessee, Oklahoma (Rhett Bomar, anyone?), Florida State (the academic scandal), Alabama, and especially USC, this 180-degree, completely out of character ruling went beyond merely being puzzling. The one time, THE ONE TIME, the NCAA decides to go soft, when there's a chance to lay down the law for a violation that makes selling a jersey or going to an agent party look like taking a grape from the produce stand, and it happens to involve the best player in college football on the biggest stage. Talking to an agent is a business matter, but soliciting money to play college football goes to the very heart of the sport.

We get it, Auburn fans. You don't want anyone to ruin your buzz, but as I keep reiterating, if this exact same situation happened at Alabama, you'd be hitting the streets with pitchforks and torches. Just like San Francisco Giant fans during Barry Bonds' home run chases, and just like St. Louis and Chicago Cub die-hards during the summer of 1998, fans always bunker down when there's a controversy surrounding their star and their fleeting moment of sportsgasm. But if this makes any sense, this story affects Auburn, but it isn't about Auburn, and it's not even really about Cam. It's about the process and about the precedent the NCAA just set.

After acknowledging that Cecil Newton shopped his son to Mississippi State, the NCAA heard it from the college community. From Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany to Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo, jaws were dropped at the possible can of worms just opened. And how do we know the NCAA wasn't so sure it got it right? It came out and made a statement.

The NCAA doesn't do damage control … ever. It might clarify a decision or it might answer questions about an interpretation, but it doesn't spin. When it rules, that's it, and it might as well be coming down from the mountain on stone tablets. But it's telling that the NCAA President, Mark Emmert, felt the need to defend the ruling before going on to say, basically, that the loophole had to be closed. If there's a need for the rulebook to be tightened up, then the NCAA is all but admitting that there was a problem with the situation in the first place.

The NCAA has always been able to expand its rule book to punish when it needs to come up with a key ruling, and here, instead of going with any one of several possible interpretations to make a statement that nothing like this should ever happen again, the NCAA decided to go the other way. Now, because of this, USC and Pat Haden should be able to go in guns blazing when the school's probation goes under review in a few weeks.

USC: "We didn't know. How the heck were we supposed to monitor every minute of Bush's day and every outside deal that he made?"

NCAA: "Oh, okay. Two-year bowl ban, 12 vacated wins, four years probation, and a reduction in scholarships."

Cam Newton: "I didn't know."

NCAA: "Oh, okay. Good luck against South Carolina, and congratulations on your Heisman."

USC is currently in a holding pattern for the next few years looking for a place to land; North Carolina is playing in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl instead of being a BCS contender; Georgia started the season 1-3; and Dwight Dasher didn't get any warm up games before the Sun Belt game of the year against Troy, a Blue Raiders loss.

Cam Newton was ineligible on a Monday and he didn't miss a snap.

"I'm about to bust that beach wide open. I don't need some penny-ante Woodward and Bernstein to get in the way of my men." … The NCAA, FBI, and everyone outside of Julian Assange are still looking to see if there's any wrongdoing by Auburn, and nothing is coming up. There's not even a hint of impropriety right now, however, it's still an extremely fair question to ask: Why did Cam Newton end up going to Auburn?

If Cecil Newton is the type of guy who's going to ask for money from one school, did he just stop soliciting from other schools when it didn't work out with Mississippi State? Why did the Newtons choose Florida to begin with? The answer might simply be that the Newtons thought those schools were the right fit, and maybe Cecil saw an opportunity with MSU. I'm certainly not accusing anyone of anything considering there's so much manpower on the case, but no one from the Newton camp has been on the record outside of Cam saying his family thought that going to Auburn was the best "business decision."

- "We're not lost! … it's only the biggest g**damn hole in the world!"
- "Clark! Watch your language!"
- "Make that the second largest."
… The Newtons can't take $180,000, even though Cam is bringing Auburn University tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of millions in value when you factor in the jersey money, the football revenue, the PR, the name drops, and the prestige, but some dopey kid can win $123,000 from Dr. Pepper for throwing a football through a hole. Got it.

"It needn't be a little penguin. It can be the biggest penguin you've ever seen. An electric penguin, twenty feet high, with long green tentacles that sting people, and you can stab it in the wings and the blood can go spurting psssssshhhh in slow motion." … With the way Oregon changes uniforms and styles for every game (big fan of the Civil War look), I demand something extra special for the BCS Championship. I want actual wings attached to the shoulder pads, fireworks shooting out of the helmet, bubbles coming out of the back, or maybe a visible vapor trail left behind LaMichael James when he gets into the clear. This is it, Nike; bring out your A material.

Martin Prince. Yes, Martin Prince" … No, I'm not making this up. From something called the Football Bowl Association, a new ad campaign is about to be launched with the slogan, "America's Bowl Tradition … It's Worth Keeping."

Who's trying to take it away? Even the most hawkish of playoff advocates aren't suggesting that the bowls whither up and die. Instead of the top teams playing in the BCS games, they'd play in a playoff. The same people who care about the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman now aren't going stop watching just because there's a playoff system in place.

Rejected slogans …
- "America's Bowl Tradition … Decades Of Forced Ticket Purchases!"
- "America's Bowl Tradition … SEX!!! Now That We've Got Your Attention, Watch The Advocare V100 Independence Bowl."
- "America's Bowl Tradition … Because Mediocre Teams Need Love Too."
- "America's Bowl Tradition … If There's A Playoff, The Terrorists Win."
- "America's Bowl Tradition … Watch The BBVA Compass Bowl Or This Puppy Dies."
- "America's Bowl Tradition … Let's Take Our Country Back."
- "America's Bowl Tradition … You Can Bet On It."
- "America's Bowl Tradition … What Else Are You Going To Do? The NBA?"

And I'm pushing for GameDay to come broadcast from my breakfast nook, but I'll feel like a wuss in my parka and moon boots while Herbstreit goes without a coat. … It's Year Two, Week Fourteen of my open lobbying of the ESPN College Football Final show guys to give me a helmet sticker and the signed T-shirt, suitable for framing. Why do I deserve one this week? I'm about to give every father with young daughters the ultimate holiday gift.

Sick of watching princess movies? Can't handle sitting through another Barbie video? Putting off having to go see Tangled? Well then do I have the solution for you … the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. (It has to be On Demand or on-line somewhere.)

It's CBS, so the wife won't go DCFS on you (at least not for this), and it's models in wild and crazy outfits parading around like princesses and living Barbie dolls; you're daughters will go batspit and you'll be a happier person inside. Unfortunately, you'll have Katy Perry pulsating through your brain even more than you do now, but at least she's not Bieber and at least you'll have visions of dancing women in lingerie gyrating around in your head instead of detailed plans for the death and dismemberment of any potential boyfriend who'll end up being on the other end of your daughter's eventual teenage dream.

- Week 14 Part 2 - The Other Heisman Candidates