It's open season on Cam Newton. Since his selection of Auburn has already been indicted as everything wrong with amateur sports, is there anything from Florida we can drag up? As it turns out, yes! A big old term paper cheating scandal.
The official line on Newton transferring from Gainesville was that he didn't want to ride the bench after Tim Tebow announced he would return for his senior year. I'm not sure why we all bought that, because it doesn't really scan. Really, a year at junior college is a better career path than a year backing up Tebow? Especially when he was the heir apparent to the Gator offense, and two years of that is enough to prove your draftworthiness. I guess none of us thought too much about it at the time, because college kids can do some pretty stupid things.
Well, yes they can. Since ESPN's report came out, everyone's been digging to see what other skeletons are in that closet. Thayer Evans of FOXSports found a pretty big skeleton.
Newton was arrested for the theft of a laptop from a Florida student's dorm room in November 2008. He again violated the university's honor code by putting his name on another student's paper and turning it in, according to the source. Newton was caught after the instructor asked the real author of the paper why he had not turned in his work, the source said.
According to the source, after the student said he had turned in a paper, he and the instructor went through all the submissions and discovered that Newton had put his name on the paper in question.
Newton subsequently turned in a second paper to the instructor, but it was later found to have been purchased off the Internet, according to the source. The source said Newton was to appear for a hearing in front of Florida's Student Conduct Committee during the spring semester of 2009, but instead transferred to Blinn College.
Yes, that would certainly explain the transfer, wouldn't it?
It sounds too dumb to be true. Did Newton really believe that he could take another student's paper out of the professor's mailbox, put his own name on it, and figure that would be the end of it? That the other student wouldn't notice his zero?
We expect a certain level of stupidity from our athletes. We accept that they're going to have tons of personal tutoring help, up-to-and-including people writing their papers for them. Hell, it's college; we expect kids of all kinds to cheat. But to get caught indicates a stupidity that we just can't accept. This, and nothing else, is sullying our notion of the student-athlete!
It's a joke, of course. There's an All-SEC Academic Team, and being on it doesn't tend to improve a player's draft stock. ESPN College GameDay doesn't go to Knoxville or Baton Rouge or Tuscaloosa for finals week to cover the due date for term papers. We all know these kids are there to play football, and we're there to watch them, and all we ask them is to make the slightest effort in preserving the illusion of academia mattering. We know they don't care, but we're all content to live in our giant happy Moon Bounce, oblivious to anything beyond the bizarre artificial creation that is college athletics. And we get mad when someone pops it.
Dan Wetzel makes the brutal point that if Auburn did indeed pay $200,000 for the services of one Cameron Newton, that's a great deal for them. Newton wins, because he got paid, and he's going to get paid come the NFL Draft, and nothing serious is going to happen to him even if it's proven he took money.
The only party that didn't win this round is Florida, just because they were going to enforce rules against cheating.