But other officials continue criticism
Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive said the established facts of the Cam Newton case merited the NCAA’s swift reinstatement of the Auburn quarterback.
Slive told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Saturday hours before the top-ranked Tigers were set to play South Carolina in the SEC championship game at the Georgia Dome that the top priority for the NCAA reinstatement committee “is to determine what’s fair to the student-athlete.”
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The commissioner said he supports the decision to allow Newton to play because there is “no evidence available” that the Heisman Trophy favorite knew his father was seeking money for his son to sign with Mississippi State or that Cam Newton received anything.
Slive also said Newton should have played because there’s no indication Auburn was involved in the pay-for-play scheme.
“The long-term issue is that we do not want this conduct that his father engaged in, this reprehensible conduct,” Slive said. “But we should not be in the business of sending messages on the back of a student-athlete on the facts that I just outlined.
“What we need to do is to look at the NCAA legislation, which is not clear enough in any way to deal with an issue like this, and strengthen it and clarify it.”
Within the span of two days, the NCAA notified Auburn of violations of amateurism rules, the school declared Newton ineligible, and then the governing body reinstated him, clearing Newton to compete without conditions.
Southern California athletic director Pat Haden has said the decision “surprised” him because Reggie Bush and his university suffered as a result of a parent’s actions.
The ruling to keep Newton eligible also rankled Atlantic Coast Commissioner John Swofford, who said it puts college athletics on a “slippery slope.”
Slive said the “interest and outcry” the case and the decision have fostered could be a boon in fixing legislation.
“The term slippery slope is a cliche,” Slive said. “What we need here is concrete action to make sure everyone’s clear that the conduct that Cam’s father entered into is reprehensible and not acceptable. I think to the effect that there’s so much notoriety in this case would make this legislation even more effective than it would otherwise have been.”
Slive said he has spoken to NCAA President Mark Emmert about revising the current legislation and thinks they could begin a review as early as next week and make changes in “a very, very expeditious manner.”
SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said the league’s rule isn’t applicable unless payment is actually made or agreed upon, not just solicited.
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has joined a chorus of college football officials questioning the NCAA’s decision.
Beebe, a former NCAA director of enforcement, said Saturday that he is “really troubled by the fact that we have a player who looks like that the father has tried to shop for a significant amount of money.”
Beebe said he couldn’t fully evaluate the situation without knowing all the facts, but he expects conference commissioners to talk about it soon with the NCAA.