Auburn the champ, but for how long?
The toilet paper streamed down from the upper deck, “Family All In” signs waved in the crowd and the "War Eagle" fight song played on.
But in the midst of top-ranked Auburn celebrating a national title for the first time in more than five decades after defeating Oregon 22-19 in Monday night’s BCS Championship Game, its star quarterback Cameron Newton made his way to the University of Phoenix Stadium’s east side and climbed in to the first row of the stands.
Frenzied Tigers fans crowded him as they slapped his shoulder pads, snapped his photograph and yelled, “We love you Cam!” During it all, he was oblivious.
Instead, Newton carefully scanned the crowd higher up in the stands before finally motioning passionately for someone to come to him. When that didn’t happen, he walked along a row of seats to the aisle.
And after charging up several more rows, Newton finally found what he was looking for — his controversial father, Cecil Newton Sr.
Auburn had supposedly distanced itself from the elder Newton for trying to sell his son to Mississippi State for $180,000 without Cameron Newton’s knowledge in a pay-for-play scheme. But there he was with a hand wrapped around his son’s head as he hugged him and whispered in his ear.
“Who’s knows what went on or what happened?” said Auburn center Ryan Pugh, who witnessed the embrace. “But at the end of the day, that’s Cam’s father.”
And it’s because of Cecil Newton Sr. that you have to wonder whether Auburn will keep its national championship or eventually be stripped of it due to NCAA violations.
That was the last thing on Auburn’s mind after Monday night’s victory, but the first question for the rest of college football.
“We know everything is right,” defensive tackle Mike Blanc said. “We know everything that’s going on.”
But the reality is something different. The NCAA’s enforcement investigation into Newton’s recruitment is ongoing.
The FBI has interviewed the person who reported Cecil Newton Sr.’s pay-for-play scheme to Mississippi State. The Mississippi secretary of state’s office has also interviewed people involved in it.
Those are just all the more reasons to wonder about the legitimacy of Auburn’s national championship.
Not that Cecil Newton Sr. apparently cares. For someone who the NCAA found tried to sell his son, he’s never admitted any wrongdoing, at least publicly.
If anything, his appearance at Monday night’s BCS Championship Game spoke plenty about him. It was an act of blatant defiance.
One that once again raises questions about Auburn’s commitment to adhering to NCAA rules. Before the game, Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs told reporters that Cecil Newton Sr. would not be in attendance by mutual agreement.
But by being here, Cecil Newton Sr. was once again right in the middle of everything, as he’s seemingly been all season. It’s a stigma that Auburn’s tried to rid itself of, but one that was reinforced forever Monday night.
Following X-rays on his back after the game, an aching Cameron Newton climbed on the back of a golf cart with an Auburn official. Asked what it was like to embrace his father after the game, the official told him not to answer the question.
With a smirk, Newton shook his head and was driven away. Expected to enter the NFL draft, the Heisman Trophy winner likely played his last game for Auburn.
Newton’s silence Monday night was just as telling as his father’s. It’s yet another reason why much of college football is asking whether Auburn will keep its national championship.
“Yeah,” defensive tackle Zach Clayton said. “I think so.”
But only time will truly tell.