Point/Counterpoint: Justice Now For Auburn?
Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
Posted Oct 12, 2011

The NCAA closed the book on its 13-month investigation into Auburn's football program, clearing Auburn in the recruitment of Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and the notorious "HBO 4." Barrett Sallee and Pete Fiutak give their takes.

By Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

The biggest story of the 2010 college football season finally came to a close Wednesday afternoon, 13 long months after it started. The NCAA officially concluded its investigation into Auburn University, and found no major violations. Nothing on Cam Newton, Stanley McClover, Raven Gray, Troy Reddick or Chaz Ramsey.


"After conducting more than 80 interviews, the NCAA has concluded its investigation into Auburn University," the NCAA said in a statement. "The NCAA enforcement staff is committed to a fair and thorough investigative process. As such, any allegations of major rules violations must meet a burden of proof, which is a higher standard than rampant public speculation online and in the media. The allegations must be based on credible and persuasive information and includes a good-faith belief that the Committee on Infractions could make a finding. As with any case, should the enforcement staff become aware of additional credible information, it will review the information to determine whether further investigation is warranted."

2010 BCS National Championship...untainted.

When the NCAA knocks on your door to come look around, your whole house better as be clean as a whistle. The NCAA's announcement that the investigation is over is a strong statement about the state of Auburn's athletic department as a whole, and specifically the dedication of its compliance department.

You will see comparisons to O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony in regards to Auburn football getting off the hook. The NCAA wouldn't have concluded its investigation if it felt that there is anything that could implicate Auburn University or Cam Newton. It had no reason to. If the NCAA presumed guilt - or presumed that guilt is an option - the investigation would have stayed open until the four-year statute of limitations expires. It didn't, and that's BIG.

The fact that the NCAA doesn't have subpoena power should also be a strong indicator of where it feels Auburn stands in the violation pecking order. The organization doesn't have the power of the United States judicial system, but it also doesn't share the same burden of proof as the United States judicial system.

Don't believe me? Just ask USC.

In the NCAA's letter to Auburn, it referenced more than 50 interviews and documents including, but not limited to, bank records, personal IRS tax documents, telephone records and e-mail messages directly related to the Cam Newton investigation. The NCAA may not have subpoena power, but in the case of Cam Newton, it didn't need it. The Newton's and Auburn University cooperated from the get-go, a fact that was reported - and largely ignored - last fall.

In the end, will Auburn ever recover in the court of public opinion? Probably not. At this point, it doesn't matter.

The statement released by the NCAA on Wednesday is another in a long line of statements that indicates that Auburn's 2010 National Championship is clean, and will stay that way.

E-mail Pete Fiutak

Not … the … point.

First of all, I can't keep stressing this enough; you can't prove that someone got a bag of cash. You can't prove a $100 handshake. The NCAA, by saying it couldn't find any violations, basically couldn't find a paper trail, and it gave up. Remember, this wasn't a criminal investigation; just because the NCAA didn't find anything doesn't necessarily mean that nothing happened. The NCAA doesn't have subpoena power, and no, you're not committing perjury if you lie in an investigation.

The NCAA got Reggie Bush and USC because there were pieces of paper that said he was getting paid by a marketing company. Ohio State got nailed because there were e-mails that proved Jim Tressel was covering up a controversy. There wasn't anything here for the NCAA to prove that anything happened at Auburn in regards to the recruitment of Cam Newton and all the allegations surrounding the Real Sports interview, but again, that's not the point.

The Cam Newton side of this wasn't about Auburn, it was about the Newtons, and that ended a year ago when the NCAA inexplicably let Cam continue to play even though his father was the textbook definition of an agent. No, this isn't a legal issue and this wasn't a criminal investigation, but that the NCAA couldn't prove that money changed hands is irrelevant. A family member asked for money in exchange for a player. That should've been a slam-shut ruling.

Again, though, that's so 2010.

That nothing happened in this case 12 months ago, with all the facts that were already out there, is still the problem when it comes to the effectiveness and the fairness of the NCAA. Whether or not you actually believe all the allegations surrounding the Auburn program is your opinion. Whether or not you believe that Auburn is totally innocent, or if everything was kept on the down-low so well that the NCAA simply didn't find anything, is your call. Cecil Newton solicited $180,000 for his son's services, and, if you want to believe that he decided to simply stop after asking Mississippi State, that's up to you. It's opinion, because the NCAA couldn't find any new facts.

When the NCAA had a chance to act on the facts of the case last year, it didn't, and what's done was done the second the confetti started flying in Glendale. Even if the NCAA did find something, it was too late; vacated wins weren't going to change anything.

And now Auburn fans are happy, non-Auburn fans are sitting with their jaws agape, and college football rolls right along.