Newton scandal shows game stays same
So the best player on what may be the best team in college football was getting shopped around as a recruit last December for the low, low price of just $180,000.
At least, that was the deal presented to Mississippi State, according to an ESPN.com report Thursday. The Bulldogs were getting a discount for quarterback Cameron Newton because he supposedly liked their coach. The true rate, according to the website, was $200,000. It was set by a recruiting middleman named Kenny Rogers.
Mississippi State didn’t bite. Newton went to Auburn, has become the Heisman Trophy favorite and turned a reeling program into a potential BCS champion. Auburn isn’t commenting other than to assert Newton is still eligible to play. Newton’s family said they neither received any money nor authorized anyone to sell out their son. So who knows what’s true about a bombshell revelation that could change the complexion of the entire season.
The real issue though is this: if Auburn did pay someone $200,000 for the signature of Cam Newton they got an absolute steal.
He’s worth millions and that’s before they’re done counting the receipts on all the No. 2 jerseys sold or add up the extra donations from old men who get loose with a checkbook when they see a young man such as Newton carry the ball.
This is the real business of college football and only the most naive inside the sport even pretend that it is not.
It’s happening nearly everywhere with nearly everyone because no amount of NCAA legislation can stop the wheels of capitalism. The market will determine the value of a product and 29 touchdowns, nine victories and zero losses is worth a great deal more than tuition, room and board. It’s been that way for nearly a century.
As recruiting stories go, this is exactly how coaches quietly say it works – except for the 10 percent discount for Mississippi State. That was probably just a ploy to up the bidding. If Auburn did pay, then they paid $175,000 and Mississippi State was just getting played.
Recruiting agents don’t do double-coupon day. Nor should they, because coaches, athletic directors and the rest don’t agree to 10 percent pay cuts either.
In the end this is the same old story. College football’s power brokers write a bunch of lip-service rules in an effort to maintain the sports’ “amateurism” so they can continue to beat federal, state and local taxes.
When you pay neither taxes nor the players there’s a lot more cash laying around to line your pockets.
So the economy gets driven underground, where this bizarre open marketplace for players operates with everyone’s either tacit understanding or blind ignorance.
You know why Kenny Rogers could, according to ESPN.com, brazenly tell Mississippi State they needed to come up with 180 large for a junior college quarterback? Because any number of schools had already driven the number up that high. For all we know, it went even higher after the Bulldogs said no.
College football sure is fun to watch. The hangover begins once you realize how it actually operates and how the men in charge maintain their cushy status quo.
It’s a foolproof system. When a scandal finally breaks, the guys in the suits can blame the player and his family and the middle man. They’ll all be vilified. Hands will be wrung. Heads will be shaken. Someone might even get prosecuted.
The machine will just churn on.
Every NCAA scandal is blamed on one of three characters: 1. the greedy kid and/or his family, 2. the dirty agent, 3. the bumbling assistant coach. Over and over and over. Decade after decade. They know the fans will buy it every time.
About the authors
Dan Wetzel and Jeff Passan write for Yahoo! Sports, the most-read sports site on the Web. Josh Peter, a former Yahoo! Sports reporter, is a freelance writer. Wetzel has coauthored four books, including the New York Times bestseller “Resilience: Faith, Focus, Triumph” with Alonzo Mourning, and lives in Michigan. Peter is an award-winning investigative journalist who has earned national attention for his reporting on the Bowl Championship Series. In 2005, he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for a series on race and high school football in the South. He lives in Los Angeles. Passan has won multiple Associated Press Sports Editors awards and lives in Kansas.
Meanwhile they keep building fancier offices for the athletic directors. They keep rewriting the coaches’ multimillion dollar deals. They keep chartering more private planes for the conference commissioners. They keep taking care of their crony bowl directors to the tune of $600,000-plus salaries.
Cam Newton? He might as well call Reggie Bush for some advice. He’s the one who’s going to get hung out to dry here.
There is no telling if he even knew, in this specific case, what was going on. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t know, in general, what does go on. You can say this for certain: a player of his ability had every opportunity in the world to take as much money as he wanted from agents and boosters. Whether he did or not was up to him.
It was all around him though and this is the confusing world the players operate in. Everyone’s making money but them. Everyone’s offering money to them. Yet if word breaks that anyone anywhere near them took any money, it’s their reputation that gets trampled.
Auburn has known about the allegations for months and continued to play Newton. The SEC became aware almost a year ago, according to ESPN.com. The NCAA has been investigating at least a month according to multiple reports.
So if Newton is told to sit now, it’s just a PR ploy to focus the negative spotlight on the player and away from the system that wasn’t too concerned when they could still sell the purity of the student-athlete.
And if Newton does continue to play, how awkward will it be if he wins the Heisman and Auburn wins the BCS and everyone will wonder if it’s all coming back?
At least Reggie Bush and USC got to uncork the champagne before the fairy tale broke bad.
Cam Newton does everything fast. This scandal even got here ahead of schedule. Expect the same old head-in-the-sand, blame-game excuses from the suits to follow just as quickly.