FOX Sports Exclusive
Auburn can't just hope this goes away
Auburn, take care of this. Immediately.
This isn’t a court of law, and no, you’re not necessarily innocent until proven guilty. If the story is true and a representative for Cam Newton demanded $180,000 from Mississippi State for the star quarterback to sign on the dotted line out of junior college, then two plus two equals four when it comes to the opinion of most fans. Even though you already investigated this months ago, you need to take the lead and come up with more answers. Considering the Josh Luchs story and all the problems with agents, you can't make a mistake here.
Unless Mississippi State representatives are lying their tails off, and if that’s true then they’re dead in the water and heads will roll in Starkville, then Auburn, you need make 1,000 percent sure and check, and check, and check again to make sure that Newton doesn't become another Reggie Bush and you don't become another USC.
Of course, Auburn is going to demand that a smoking gun turn up before doing anything rash, and because it’s the SEC, and because it’s the South, and because it’s football, and because it involves the Heisman favorite, and because it involves the national championship, there’s going to be a lot of talking, perhaps a committee will be formed that talks about an investigation, and blah, blah, blah.
There’s no time for that.
Auburn, your reputation and your credibility could be on the line here. On the mere suspicion of impropriety, you have to make sure that there's nothing to this. Yes, your prize JUCO transfer, who left Florida after getting arrested and charged with three felony counts relating to a stolen laptop computer, probably shouldn't wear an Auburn uniform until more of the story is uncovered, but that's not going to happen. (And Florida, you had better get working on your story about how you got Newton to come to Gainesville in the first place.)
No, Gene Chizik shouldn’t be in trouble right now without any investigation, and Newton doesn’t have to be booted off the team yet, but this simply doesn't look good.
Auburn, you have to be proactive here to the nth degree. It’s up to you to tell us what, if anything, happened, because if it’s the NCAA that ends up doing more legwork and finds out that someone in your program (like a booster) paid to have Newton come in and play quarterback, you’re going to become very familiar with three letters. U.S.C.
Don’t worry right now about the 2010 dream season that could go up in a puff of smoke, and the Heisman race should be the furthest thing from your mind. Your football program and your national reputation are at stake here. It’s up to you to grill Chizik and the assistants, again, and put Newton under a hot lamp, and demand to know the truth, and then you get to the bottom of this and keep on looking into this. You find out how Newton ended up at your program and you connect the dots yourself and, again, make absolutely sure there's nothing wrong here. Not tomorrow, not after breakfast, now. Because if you don’t, and if you try to hem, haw, and wait for the process to play itself out, you could be completely and totally fried if there's any wrongdoing. This is that big.
If this is true, this isn’t Reggie Bush going rogue and taking some coin from a marketing company. This isn’t Marcell Dareus getting jiggy with it at a party thrown by an agent. This isn’t A.J. Green selling a jersey. This isn’t North Carolina players sticking around for an extra year, but making it worth their while by getting involved with agents. If this is true, this is someone paying a player to come play football at Auburn University. This is as bad as it gets. This hits the core of collegiate athletics, and the NCAA isn't going to take it easy in any way.
From a practical sense, Auburn doesn’t need Newton or Chizik this weekend to beat Chattanooga. They should both sit out and give this time to breathe, if for no other reason than to show that the university is on the case to do more investigating and is more than just a little concerned. The key right now is to not say or do anything that might seem like you’re going to sweep this ...
"We have been made aware of the allegation,” said Auburn media relations director Kirk Sampson. “Cam Newton is eligible to play football at Auburn."
Don't be another USC. Make sure of it.
More Stories From Pete Fiutak