So much ink has been spilled in the last 24 hours over Cam Newton, yet so little has actually happened, that we felt obligated to break it all down. Here's hoping this doesn't become a daily feature.
It was nice that the original Newton allegations emerged on a Thursday evening. It gave everyone time to formulate theories and choose sides, but the fact that it was a weekend meant no one relevant would be commenting. So when the week started, everyone hit the ground running.
Gregg Doyel firmly weighed in by savaging ESPN's sources, especially John Bond. He captured a lot of the early zeitgeist, with Auburn backers (and moony idealists) ripping big media organizations for going to print with little more than rumors or gossip. We don't think Doyel's naive, but we're fairly certain ESPN and the Times wouldn't publish without having more that they weren't able to report — yet. As it turns out, they had more. But there were clear holes in the reporting. As SportsByBrooks points out, the timeline doesn't make any sense at all. Mississippi State allegedly relayed the accusations about Newton's people asking for money to the SEC when it happened, in January. The SEC says it only learned about the allegation in July. Someone's lying, but regardless, it's clear the SEC didn't begin to seriously look into this until it hit the media. (And it's not clear whether the SEC informed the NCAA at all.) It took the muckiest of muckraking for the people in a position to investigate to actually do so.
Then, a diversion. Thayer Evans at FOXSports reported that Newton left Florida not over playing time, but over an academic cheating scandal. The information is irrelevant, and illegal to leak to the media. Yet it does an excellent job of character assassination, its likely objective. Evans took a ton of heat for relying on a single anonymous source, even as the media scrambled to figure out who that source might be. Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen both denied being the mole.
Then, shit hit the fan back over at the main event. Perhaps emboldened by the mainstream acceptance of the original story, two separate sources — recruiters for Mississippi State — told ESPN that Newton and his father, in separate conversations, said they wanted pay-for-play. This was what Doyel and others had been rightly demanding. Multiple sources, placed in a context that gives their claims plausibility ("recruiters" all but means "coaches" here.) That's bad news for Auburn and Newton, who had previously denied all allegations of soliciting money for his commitment (while remaining mum on any cheating allegations.) In a press conference yesterday, Newton did his best Mark-McGwire-pleading-the-fifth impression.
Things got weird. An Alabama radio guy Tweeted that an ESPN Dallas reporter had claimed Newton would be suspended in a matter of hours. Everyone completely lost their shit, until someone actually asked the reporter what he had said. It turned out to be "With this story, something big could happen in 3-4 hours." Everyone stepped down from DEFCON 1.
So now where are we? Gene Chizik says Newton will play this weekend, end of story. The FBI plans to meet with John Bond, to investigate "whether young men are being shopped to colleges." (They are, obviously; they have been since well before Marcus Dupree.) And sports books are rapidly taking the Auburn game off the board, after some bigtime action appeared for Georgia +8.5. That's not saying Vegas knows something we don't. They're just worried that the pro bettors know something we don't.
Which could be anything. We don't know a hell of a lot right now.
[Photo via the SI Vault]