SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The game barely had ended, the field still full of people wearing orange and blue, but Auburn’s first national championship since 1957 already was shaded by a tinge of controversy.
A photo by the Opelika-Auburn News showed quarterback Cam Newton hugging his father, Cecil, following the Tigers’ 22-19 BCS title game victory Monday night against Oregon.
Cecil’s presence has been a hot-button issue since the NCAA concluded after an investigation that he sought money from a Mississippi State booster last year to secure his son’s services.
The NCAA did not find any wrongdoing on Cam’s or Auburn’s part, ruling that neither party had knowledge of Cecil’s dealings.
Never miss a local story.
Auburn agreed to limit Cecil’s access to the program following the NCAA’s findings. Cecil did not attend the SEC championship game in Atlanta or the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York in December.
Although Cam said earlier in the week that he expected his entire family, including his father, to be in Arizona, Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said before Monday’s game that it was “mutually agreed upon” that Cecil would not attend.
School spokesman Kirk Sampson said Tuesday that Auburn did not provide the ticket and did not know Cecil would be in attendance.
ESPN crews showed several shots of Newton’s mother, Jackie, sitting in the crowd throughout the game, although Cecil was not within sight.
He was on the field afterward, there to embrace Cam moments after he became the 14th player to win the Heisman Trophy and the national title in the same season.
“Who knows what went on or what happened?” Auburn center Ryan Pugh told Fox Sports afterward. “But at the end of the day, that’s Cam’s father.”
Cam didn’t have an outstanding night, at least by his lofty standards.
He threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 64 yards but had two turnovers, throwing an uncharacteristic interception in the first quarter and fumbling twice, including one he lost in the fourth quarter that led to the Ducks’ tying touchdown.
Still, he had enough Newton-like plays to push Auburn over the top, showing off a deft passing touch and a powerful running display despite a back injury that became more painful as the game progressed.
The injury was bad enough that Newton, who said it wasn’t caused by one hit, required X-rays afterward. They were negative, according to ESPN.
“I’m OK,” Newton said during an abbreviated news conference immediately following the game. “It was worth it.”
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik had no update about Newton’s status Tuesday.
“I certainly can’t stand up here and tell you what kind of pain he was in,” Chizik said. “I can tell you what kind of competitor he is. Whatever pain he was in or whatever difficulty he was having physically, he was going to finish the game. I mean, that’s just who he is.
“I have said it multiple times: He’s not one of the, he is probably the most competitive guy I have ever been around.”
Newton, who was scheduled to appear on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno on Tuesday night, didn’t comment immediately about his future or whether he will declare for the NFL draft. Juniors have until Friday to submit their names.
Chizik didn’t drop any hints either, instead reflecting on how much the quarterback did for the program in the past year, seeing more accomplishment than controversy.
“When you look at a guy that a year ago nobody knew who he was, obviously, and you look at just what he’s done, it’s a great story,” Chizik said. “There is no question.
“He is a huge part of what our football team became.”