Sprints Would Like to Have Less Cameron Newton News to Write About // 11.10.10

I don't want it to be true, but I'm not sure we can expect that any more.

CAMERON NEWTON STORIES

Maybe it's not fair to ask good stories to last forever. Not in real life, not in a world where too much of a good thing usually turns out to be too little. At the very least, maybe it's naive.

See, I want to believe in Cameron Newton. I want to believe in the story of a guy whose life went careening off the tracks, who almost lost his opportunity to play on the biggest stage in college sports, and who found a way back. I want to hear about his detour through Blinn Community College, where he had to help paint the stadium and get his own Gatorade on the sidelines. There are so few true redemption stories now, because either the person going for redemption never shows true remorse or there's no way for an athletic triumph to crowd out the noise from the off-the-field stories. But you considered how young Newton was, and you saw that megawatt smile, and it was possible to believe for nine weeks that he was a perfect example of a redemption story.

But when it comes to stories like the ESPN report directly tying Newton to a pay-for-play scheme -- something that was missing in last week's report -- I try to be an empirical person. I know that news organizations do not take their credibility lightly, no matter what you might like to think. And I know that the overwhelming majority of reporters try to get things right. I work with these people -- I am one of them. I cover something far more divisive in American life than sports, politics, and I would not write a story I did not believe to be true even about a politician I thought was dangerous to the country. Maybe it's a strange way to look at the world, to have that much ability to sway public opinion but try to ensure that everything you write is true. I take it seriously, though, and I believe that most of the reporters on the payola side of this story take it seriously as well.

Which gets me back to why, on some level, I hate this story so much. Maybe it's not the same for a rival fan, but from my vantage point Cam Newton looked like an enormously talented and charismatic young man who was gearing up to get his team a chance at the national title and earn himself the Heisman Trophy. And while a few pundits had pegged Auburn as a dark-horse title contender, I don't remember any buzz about Newton as a Heisman candidate until about midway through the season.

Yes, Cam Newton is entitled to be presumed innocent in a court of law until proven guilty, but that isn't a burden of proof that the court of public opinion is required to follow. And yes, Newton could be cleared of any wrongdoing by the NCAA and the FBI and whoever else swoops in to investigate.

But there will now always be that doubt, that little whisper in the back of your mind that makes you wonder whether Newton broke the rules. (And like it or not, they are the rules, and not following the rules in sports is known as cheating whether they are good rules or not.)

And so the good story now will forever come with a little bit of tarnish. And maybe we shouldn't really be surprised. But that doesn't mean we don't have a right to be disappointed.

Cecil Newton doesn't confirm or deny the latest reports
I guess he could just be tired of dealing with all this stuff, but there are stronger denials than "go with it and make the decision or determination based on whatever you’ve got to say."

Gene Chizik and Newton on the academic allegations
This would be the ones that came out after the first pay-for-play stories but before the most recent one. Chizik:

 

Newton:

 

This is not really a denial of anything
You can read the whole Jay Jacobs statement for yourself, but this is the key part where a denial would probably go:

These allegations and rumors about Cam Newton are unfortunate and sad because they seem intent on tearing down the reputation of a young man who has done everything we’ve asked him to do. Cam has been and continues to be completely honest with us.

No denial. You can probably read between the lines yourself -- not that it should matter.

And they should be found
Whatever happens with the other story about Newton, I as a journalist am still ashamed of the hit piece that Fox Sports wrote. The best tradition of journalism is listening to sources who put themselves at great risk, sometimes even in legal peril, to speak truth to power and bring attention to meaningful issues. The worst part of journalism is that some reporters use that tradition to justify meaningless and trivial gossip, even when the protection of the law should apply. As the Sentinel makes clear, what was done to Newton was illegal. We can hope that the person who leaked the information faces the consequences.

Expulsion might not have happened at Florida anyway
The whole blaring alarm accompanying the story -- NEWTON REALLY LEFT BECAUSE HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED -- actually might not be true.

Still, it's no sure thing he would have been expelled. UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said UF expels between one and two students a year and suspends about 10, but both numbers are skewed by students leaving before the hammer drops.

Which just means that we don't know. But it also weakens the entire premise for the Fox Sports article. (Also, I'm not sure that the report "put[s] a big dent in the redemption tour" on its own if it was just another thing Newton needed to change, but that seems like the least of our problems right now.)

Meyer's denial
Meanwhile, we have several people running for the hills about whether they are the sources for some of hte various stories floating around out there. Meyer says it isn't him, and actually has a pretty strong denial on this one.

"Obviously, it's a joke," Meyer told The Gainesville Sun on Tuesday morning. ...

"But we had a great relationship right up until the time he left," Meyer said. "Cam and I and his family always had a great relationship. I don't know where this is all coming from. But it didn't come from me. I know nothing about nothing."

I suppose you could see the double negative as a brilliant way to tell the truth and have everyone think you mean something else, but a double negative used to be used for emphasis, so it could also be seen that way. Newton seems to believe Meyer. His current coach ...

Somethings missing here
Jay Tate makes a very interesting point about one of the statements that Gene Chizik made in defense of Newton.

Now if you really want to do your homework, go and start with his Little League coach, then go to his junior high coach, then go to his high school coach, then go to his junior college coach and then come talk to any coach at Auburn. And you’re all going to hear the same thing.

See if you can guess what isn't there before you click on the link.

Mullen's denial
I find this denial utterly unconvincing. In fact, this is almost a textbook example of a non-denial denial that you might see in the political world.

"I'm a big Cam Newton fan," said Mullen, who was Newton's position coach at Florida in 2008. "I care about Cam Newton a lot. ...

"For me to leak out," Mullen continued as he gathered his thoughts. "What do I have to gain from any of that stuff? It's absolutely ludicrous."

Unless there's a heck of a statement where the ellipsis is, Mullen doesn't actually say that he wasn't the leak. He cares about Newton, he's a big Newton fan, he doesn't have anything to gain. None of those answer the real question: Did he leak the information?

We should also note that he said this before the ESPN story broke, which pretty much points to Starkville and makes it look more and more unlikely that this is coming from anywhere else.

Attorney kinda denies FBI report
This would be about the first stories way back ... last week. John Bond's lawyer denies being the source for the information -- or maybe the "original source" -- but doesn't say the Bureau doesn't want to talk to his client.

Roll Bama Roll on why it's important
Beyond just the "FBI INVESTIGATING AUBURN" headlines, there are some practical things to consider with the feds getting involved, as RBR notes. I'll avoid the obvious joke on this one, because I think you can all figure it out by yourselves.

Remember, much of the knowledge of the Albert Means scandal came as the result of the FBI's involvement, and a good deal of the dirty info behind Reggie Bush came to light as a result of the lawsuits. If there is anything to it, the involvement of agencies like the FBI can quickly drive it out in ways unlike the NCAA can.

Which is good news for the truth but maybe not for Auburn.

OTHER NEWS

Both sides of the Mississippi State-Alabama game will honor Nick Bell
The Western Division Bulldogs are planning to wear a patch and share Nick Bell's jersey for the rest of the season. Marcell Dareus is also dedicating Saturday's game to his friend.

Masoli might not be available for Tennessee game
That could all but end Ole Miss' chances at a bowl.

Kentucky fans, please remain calm
Randall Cobb on the 2011 NFL Draft:

"I plan to put my name out there and see what's being said," Cobb said. "I'll check it out. It's a process."

Now, I know this is your entire offense if you're a Kentucky fan. But there might not be an NFL Draft in 2011 if the collective bargaining agreement isn't renegotiated. So, there's still a chance that Cobb might not even have an option.

Steve Who?
Emmanuel Moody isn't all that familiar with this Spurrier fellow.

"I don't know too much (about him),'' Moody said. "I'm from Dallas. I didn't know too much about Florida's history growing up. I heard he has a lot of trick plays. we'll be aware of that situation Saturday.''

Doubtful that this would be used as billboard material in Columbia. But if you don't think there's at least a chance that Spurrier will (a) notice it; and (b) remark upon it if the Gamecocks find some way to win this game, you don't know Spurrier very well.

A Football Baptism In Baton Rouge, Where Saban Bleauxs And LSU Geauxs
This is a great explanation of what this conference is about from an outsider.

In SEC country, they say "college football is life" and it sounds way more serious than it should.

What they forget to add is, "In SEC country, life's more fun than you've ever imagined."

I disagree with some of the stuff about the NCAA, which I will elaborate on when I have a few minutes to step back from the "AgentGate" and "NewtonGate" stories. But I still think anybody who loves SEC football will love the overall piece.

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