Auburn's Cam Newton cleared by NCAA

Cam Newton has received the NCAA's approval.

His father, however, faces a different fate.

On Wednesday, the NCAA acknowledged that Newton, Auburn's star quarterback from Westlake High, broke amateurism rules with a pay-for-play scheme perpetrated by his father, Cecil, and a former Mississippi State player. However, the NCAA declared him eligible to play after determining he had no knowledge of the plot.

"That's the best thing since sliced bread," said Douglass High coach Dallas Allen, who coached Newton at Westlake.

Newton will line up at quarterback for the undefeated and top-ranked Tigers on Saturday against South Carolina in the SEC championship game at the Georgia Dome. He has been under considerable scrutiny since the beginning of November, when reports of the scheme surfaced. Newton has not spoken with news media since Nov. 9.

"We are pleased that the NCAA has agreed with our position that Cam Newton has been and continues to be eligible to play football at Auburn University," Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said in a statement.

However, the school has limited Newton's father's access to the Tigers team and athletic program as a result of reportedly seeking a six-figure payment from Mississippi State. Mississippi State also disassociated itself from the former player, Kenny Rogers. SEC commissioner Mike Slive called unacceptable the conduct of Rogers and Newton, a pastor of a Newnan church who had previously denied involvement.

The conditions of Cecil Newton's access to the Auburn team are a private matter between him and Jacobs, Auburn spokesman Kirk Sampson said.

Auburn declared Newton ineligible Tuesday after the NCAA determined he had violated bylaw 12.3.3, which prohibits prospects or their representatives from seeking compensation for an athletic scholarship. The school then sought reinstatement for Newton, arguing that Newton had no knowledge of the plan. The NCAA's reinstatement staff cleared him on the basis that it did not have sufficient evidence that he or Auburn were aware of the activity.

The speed of the judgment is not unusual. The NCAA can prioritize reinstatement requests for athletes with upcoming competitions, said Michael Buckner, a Florida attorney who advises schools on NCAA investigations.

The reinstatement does not necessarily mean the investigation is over. The NCAA's enforcement staff, separate from the reinstatement staff, could decide to look further into the matter, according to Buckner.

"But at least Auburn has him for the [SEC] title game," he said. "For Auburn fans, that's the most important thing."

It should clear Newton of lingering concerns among voters for the Heisman Trophy, for which Newton is the runaway favorite.

"I think now that this is cleared up, I think this might be one of the widest margins we're going to see in Heisman history," said Tom Luicci, a college-football writer for the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger and a Heisman voter since 1980.

The reinstatement decision seems to open a loophole for parents or other representatives who would seek payment for their influence over an athlete's college choice without his or her knowledge.

Said Buckner, "I think that if that's the NCAA's position on this reinstatement matter, then the reinstatement-basis rationale is a little inconsistent with the committee on infractions."

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