Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What is Auburn Doing?

Senator Bluarsky has been all over the coverage of “Cam-gate”.* His most recent post has the following thoughts

Let’s say that (1) the NCAA finds that Cecil Newton’s solicitation of money from MSU representatives is a violation of NCAA regs such that Cam is declared ineligible; (2) that ruling from the NCAA doesn’t come until after the Iron Bowl but before the SECCG; (3) Auburn elects to play Newton in the Iron Bowl (if they let him play against Georgia, he’s playing against Alabama, right?) and wins; and (4) Auburn’s knowledge of rules violations is limited to what it was warned about this past week by the NCAA. So, if the final decision made is to vacate Auburn’s last two regular season wins – vacate as opposed to forfeit, that is - which team represents the SEC West in the SECCG? After all, Auburn would stay undefeated in SEC play. And if the Newton-less Tigers were to win the SEC championship and remain undefeated, would they play in the BCS title game?

Needless to say, this thing has many tentacles.

Despite the outcome as it affects the SEC and the BCS, it seems to come down to 2 scenarios in regard to Auburn’s handling of the matter -

1. Auburn has properly vetted the issue, and Newton is eligible, or,

2. Auburn is acting in manner that, if not in complete violation of NCAA regulations, is reckless in the utmost.

If it’s number 1, “we” all owe Auburn (and Newton) an apology. But what if it’s number 2?

What if Auburn has decided, as some have alleged, that there is essentially no downside to continuing to play Newton? Under this scenario, Auburn either knows Newton is ineligible, or simply doesn’t want to know. They have decided they have already come this far, and that the possible penalties ahead don’t outweigh what they have to gain (Heisman, BCS title game, Championship(s)).

If THAT is Auburn’s calculation, where does that leave the NCAA?

In the most recent incident of an ineligible player we have the USC / Reggie Bush example. In that case, the penalties included the USC athletic department being placed on four years of probation, the football program being given a two-year postseason ban and a loss of 30 total scholarships, and the vacating of victories starting in December 2004 and running through the 2005 season, including a BCS championship victory over Oklahoma.

These penalties assessed against USC are “the toughest penalties since levying Southern Methodist with the "death penalty" in 1986.”

The question remains however, was it worth it for USC? Do their fans think the two years without a postseason game are a fair trade for the glory year of 2005? And how much money did those glory years bring in?

In Auburn’s case, what if they have decided to play Newton figuring their worst case scenario is something akin to what USC suffered, and that the aforementioned benefits outweigh the penalties, especially at this point? Seasons like the current one are very few and far in between.

If that is Auburn’s calculation, there is a serious distinction here. In the case of USC, the Bush allegations came to public attention well after he was done playing for USC. Auburn is continuing to play Newton in the face of national scrutiny, including NCAA and FBI investigations.

For Auburn, the NCAA would almost have to come down harder on the Tigers, or risk essentially losing control of the sport. In the modern era of college football, with all the money at stake, what message would the NCAA be sending if it is seen to be more rewarding to utilize ineligible players? If the culture becomes “win now, pay later”? We know players of Bush’s or Newton’s caliber have personally very little to lose, as the NFL awaits. What message would the NCAA have to send a school that so recklessly flaunted the association’s rules, based apparently on a calculation that the upside outweighed the downside?

Auburn has been in trouble before. If they have decided to play on, damned be the consequences, the NCAA must make USC’s penalty look minor by comparison. And, in the case they actually paid for Newton, nothing less than the NCAA “death penalty” will do.

Does Auburn know what's its doing? My concern would be that the answer is a calculated "yes".

*(I prefer Cash Cam – the “gate” thing is overdone).


Anonymous said...

One question, which certailnly affect a school's decision-making process: Since the SEC (and I'm presuming all the major conferences) "pools" bowl revenue, if a school is on probation, and therefore cannot play in a bowl game itself, does it still receive its share of the CONFERENCE's bowl revenue?
If they do, since ALL of the SEC's bowl-eligible teams will play in a bowl game somewhere, and hence each school's piece of the pie will be quite substantial, there seems to be little financial incentive to 'play by the rules.' In fact, the ever-increasing windfall from the post-season almost incentivizes cheating. On the surface, Auburn seems to have little to lose...UNLESS they get "SMU"-d.
And what are the chances that Mike Slive would allow that to happen on HIS watch?

Anonymous said...

One more question: did U$C have to give back any of the $$$ it received for its BcS CG appearance?

I'm thinking 'No'...

So much for the power of "vacating."

Pete Carroll 'vacating' La-La Land will have a more lingering effect on the Trojan program.

(Especially since it'll take them YEARS to undo the damage that Lame Kitten can cause to a program.)

Mergz said...

USC gave nothing back dollar-wise.

As for the lasting effects on the Trojans, could Lane recruit like he has at a school with less marquee?

No way.

2 year bowl ban. Big deal.