AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn quarterback Cam Newton bounced through the pre-game Tiger Walk with his usual zeal, sprinting past the early arriving student crowd and flashing the wide smile that’s become his trademark.
Life inside Jordan-Hare Stadium seemed much more normal than life on the outside.
After much discussion and debate surrounding allegations about the quarterback’s recruitment last year, Newton played Saturday, as expected, leading Auburn to an SEC West-clinching 49-31 win against Georgia.
Afterward, Auburn wasn’t talking about Newton’s off-the-field matters.
“Any questions that I’m going to entertain about Cameron Newton will only be solely pertaining to the game he just played,” Tigers head coach Gene Chizik said, stonewalling two attempts by reporters asking about allegations surrounding the quarterback’s recruitment at Mississippi State last year.
Newton, who solidified his Heisman Trophy candidacy with 151 rushing yards, 148 passing yards and four total touchdowns, was not made available in the post-game news conference, a first this season.
Auburn came to its decision to play the quarterback after a set of preliminary interviews with the NCAA last week, according to the Birmingham News.
Those sessions centered on Newton’s father, Cecil, talking about money with a former Mississippi State player during the quarterback’s recruitment by the Bulldogs last year. He said his son never knew about the discussions.
Cecil Newton told an unnamed source that no money ever exchanged hands and Mississippi State never made such an offer, according to an Atlanta TV report Friday by WSB’s Mark Winne.
The NCAA spoke with Cam Newton and his parents last week, according to The News, before Auburn decided not to sit him out of Saturday’s game.
Auburn has not been accused of any wrongdoing. The school did not have a comment regarding Newton’s eligibility, continuing its stance.
Earlier Saturday, Yahoo Sports reporter Charles Robinson tweeted that Auburn has hired Gene Marsh, who spent nine years on the NCAA Infractions Committee, including two as the chairman.
Marsh, who retired as an Alabama law professor this year, now works in counsel to the Birmingham-based law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White. The firm specializes in helping universities with NCAA compliance and academic issues. It helped Auburn in its most recent NCAA infractions cases in football and basketball.
On the field, though, nothing changed. Despite the swirling allegations, Newton’s teammates said it wasn’t a distraction last week.
“We just went in and focused like any other week,” linebacker Craig Stevens said. “It didn’t affect us at all.”