Cam investigation ends, no major violations for Auburn

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Nearly a year after allegations first surfaced of Cam Newton‘s father soliciting money in exchange for his son’s football talents, the NCAA’s investigation into the alleged situation has come to a conclusion.

And, in what will surely come as a surprise to some/many/most, the results are favorable toward Newton’s former school.

The NCAA informed Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs in a letter dated Oct. 11 that, following The Association’s 13-month investigation into the allegations involving the 2010 Heisman winner, “the enforcement staff has not substantiated any… violations” involving the current Carolina Panthers quarterback.  It had been alleged that Newton’s father, Cecil Newton, as well as a “middle man” had attempted to obtain in the neighborhood of $180,000 from individuals connected to the Mississippi State football program in exchange for Newton’s signing in February of 2010.

From the NCAA’s letter to Jacobs:

Regarding Mr. [Cam] Newton, the enforcement staff and the university conducted over 50 interviews regarding an alleged pay-for-play scenario.  Additionally, an extensive number of documents, including but not limited to, bank records, personal IRS documents telephone records and email messages, were obtained and reviewed as part of the inquiry. … It was also determined that Mr. [Cam] Newton and university representatives were not aware of that [pay-for-play scenario].

In a statement, the NCAA wrote that they are “committed to a fair and thorough investigative process. As such, any allegations of major rules violations must meet a burden of proof, which is a higher standard than rampant public speculation online and in the media. The allegations must be based on credible and persuasive information and includes a good-faith belief that the Committee on Infractions could make a finding.

The letter to Jacobs does note that, “should the enforcement staff become aware of additional information” regarding Newton’s recruitment, the NCAA “will review that information to determine whether further investigation is necessary.”

Additionally, the NCAA wrote in their missive to AU that they were unable to substantiate  any of the allegations made by former Tiger players during an HBO show earlier this year.  Those players — Raven Gray, Stanley McClover, Chaz Ramsey and Troy Reddick —  all alleged that they had received extra benefits and impermissible inducements from boosters and/or AU coaches.

Through interviews with Gray and his family, his claims could not be substantiated and in some cases was disputed by others.  The other former players refused to cooperate with NCAA investigators “despite several attempts to interview those individuals.”

“We appreciate the NCAA and thank them for their professionalism and thoroughness during this exhaustive investigation. We are pleased to put this matter behind us,” Jacobs said in a statement.

Add it all up, and it means that, barring any new information surfacing in the coming months and years, Auburn will get to keep its crystal for winning the 2010 BcS championship and Newton will hold on to his stiff-armed trophy.  And, finally, both parties might actually be able to enjoy the spoils of their on-field success, regardless of the cloud of suspicion that will continue to hang over both entities despite being “cleared” by the NCAA.

UPDATE 7:16 p.m. ET: Cam Newton has (very briefly) addressed the end of the NCAA’s investigation and its positive outcome.

Cam Newton said Wednesday he was not surprised that the NCAA cleared Auburn of any wrongdoing in his signing after more than a year of investigations.

“I could have told you that,” Newton told the Charlotte Observer as he left the Carolina Panthers’ facility

Asked for an additional comment, Newton said, “No, let’s let old wounds” heal, he said.

Florida’s Cece Jefferson reportedly out four months after surgery

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One of the most heralded members of Florida’s 2015 recruiting class has hit a medical speedbump.

According to Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun, Cece Jefferson underwent surgery on his right shoulder earlier this week after injuring it during the Gators’ spring game.  As a result of that surgical procedure and the ensuing rehab, the defensive lineman is expected to be sidelined for the next four months.

Such a timeline would see Jefferson returning to on-field football action in mid-August, which would be right in the middle of summer camp.  Whether the lineman would be ready for the start of the 2018 regular season remains to be seen.

Jefferson was a consensus five-star prospect, rated as the No. 2 strongside defensive end in the Class of 2015; the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 7 player overall on 247Sports.com’s composite board.

This past season, Jefferson led the Gators with 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.  After considering early entry into the 2018 NFL draft, the 6-1, 242-pound lineman opted to return to Gainesville for one more season.

Ohio State OL Matthew Burrell transferring from Buckeyes

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For the third time this offseason, Ohio State has lost an offensive lineman to transfer.

The latest to leave the trenches in Columbus is Matthew Burrell (pictured, right), with the rising redshirt junior taking to Instagram to announce that, “after prayer and thought, I will be transferring from OSU.” While no specific reason for the decision to transfer was given, the lineman’s placement on the depth chart likely played a significant role.

A four-star member of the Buckeyes’ 2015 recruiting class, Burrell was rated as the No. 7 guard in the country and the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Virginia.  The past two seasons, the lineman had seen action in a total of 25 games, including 12 this past season.

In addition to Burrell, OSU offensive linemen Jack Wohlabaugh (HERE) and Kevin Feder (HERE) have all left the program since the end of the 2017 regular season.

UCF police go all in on national championship campaign

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Look, I get it. I know exactly how this game is played. They do it so that people like me will write about it and people like you will read it. It’s all a ploy to make everyone on campus puff their chests out just a little bit further and to keep their name on our lips just a little bit longer.

But doggone if it isn’t working.

More than three months after claiming its 2017 national championship, UCF has found a way to keep itself relevant, this time by having the campus police department get in on the act.

AD Danny White already committed to pay national championship bonuses for coaches who are no longer in the school’s employ, but that’s not even the end of this. There’s still a ring ceremony that is (or at least should) be forthcoming, and the banner reveal at Spectrum Stadium that’s surely coming at the 2018 season opener.

If you’re going to go all in on a publicity campaign, it’s best to go all the way in. As UCF has done here.

NCAA tables proposal that would allow players to play in up to four games and retain redshirt

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The NCAA’s Division I Council on Wednesday tabled a proposal that would allow players to compete in up to four games and retain their redshirts. Championed by AFCA executive director Todd Berry, the rule was touted as a necessary change in an era where teams play 14- and 15-game seasons.

The rule would allow redshirting players to replace injured players without personal cost to their careers. Presently, a coach with dwindling numbers at a given position is put in between the rock and the hard place of burning an innocent player’s redshirt or putting players at risk of injury through overuse.

Here’s how the NCAA presented the news:

The Council tabled a proposal that would allow football student-athletes to participate in up to four games per year without using a season of competition. Proponents argue that late-season injuries and other factors often require student-athletes who hadn’t played all season to burn a year of eligibility for a small number of games. Others wonder whether the proposal could be applied to other sports, as well, whether the number of games in the proposal is appropriate, and whether the timing of the four games matters.

It is not clear what opposition exists to the rule, though Big 12 commissioner, Council member and noted fear-mongerer Bob Bowlsby posited in January that teams could, for some unexplained reason, hold their best players back until the final four games of the season.

“I think it’s got a lot of merit,” he said, “but there are some hooks in it. I don’t know how comfortable people are with, suddenly in the last three games and a bowl game, you go from being a guy who’s on the scout team to [a prominent role].”

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The proposal is not all dead, as Miracle Max would say. The Council will now turn the tabled proposal over to the Football Oversight and Student-Athlete Experience Committees for discussion and feedback solicitation.