Auburn Tigers quarterback Cam Newton kisses the championship trophy after his team beat the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in Glendale, Arizona

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.

Georgia raises ticket prices following Kirby Smart hire

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 28: A general view of the Sanford Stadium before the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the LSU Tigers on September 28, 2013 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Running a college athletics department is only getting more expensive, so attending a college football game will only get more expensive. Or, at least attending a Georgia game will.

Bulldogs president Jere Morehead and athletics director Greg McGarity revealed Thursday per-seat donations would rise an average of 17 percent for priority season ticket holders beginning in the 2017 season.

“It’s in anticipation of things that are ahead,” McGarity told the Athens Banner-Herald.

Cost-of-attendance scholarships bumped that line item up $766,000, and other costs across the department added an additional $5.3 million to the budget. All this while Georgia is building a new indoor facility and replacing Mark Richt and his staff while hiring Kirby Smart and his new staff.

“Those projects are going to be expensive,” Morehead said. “The cost of operating our athletic program each year continues to rise particularly as you look at the enhancements that are being provided to our student-athletes and to the support that we’re providing our student-athletes.”

The bump in prices will raise an extra $2.5 million for Georgia, and represents the first time Bulldogs fans have been asked to ante up since 2005.

“We wanted to be respectable in the increase to not price people out of a certain area but we did feel like we needed to make an adjustment,” said McGarity. “We want to continue to encourage people to come to games. We’ve got our work cut out to make sure (that happens).”

Ohio State to host Tulane in 2018

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 6:  The Ohio State Buckeyes kickoff to the Virginia Tech Hokies at Ohio Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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The Fighting Frites are heading to the Horseshoe.

Ohio State and Tulane announced a one-time game to be played in Columbus on Sept. 22, 2018.

“Tulane enhances and completes a non-conference schedule in 2018 that already includes Power 5 conference teams TCU and Oregon State,” Ohio State deputy AD Martin Jarmond said in a statement. “The Green Wave is part of a fine American Athletic Conference, which produced a New Year’s Day 6 bowl winner last year [Houston over Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl], so its first trip to Ohio Stadium should be exciting for our students and fans.”

The two teams have never met previously. Tulane last faced a Big Ten team on Sept. 27, 2014, a 31-6 loss at Rutgers. Ohio State last faced an American Athletic Conference program in the 2014 opener, a 34-17 Buckeyes win over Navy in Annapolis, Md.

We are excited for the opportunity to play Ohio State, one of the premier programs in the country,” Tulane executive associate athletics director Brandon Macneill said in a statement.  “Our coaching staff and players, along with our fans are eager to play against the very best and this should be a great game.  There will be a significant number of Tulanians from around the country joining us at the Horseshoe.”

Adding Tulane completes Ohio State’s 2018 non-conference schedule; the Buckeyes host Oregon State on Sept. 1 and visit TCU on Sept. 15. Tulane still lacks two games for 2018 but is slated to visit Georgia Tech on Sept. 8.

Georgia AD apologizes for giving Ludacris everything he demanded for spring game concert

Greg McGarity
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The University of Georgia paid Ludacris $65,000 to perform a concert at Georgia’s spring football game, and now the athletics director is apologizing for catering to every demand made by the artist.

In a meeting with the Georgia athletic board of directors, athletics director Greg McGarity offered an apology for giving in to a lengthy list of demands from Ludacris, which included condoms and alcohol.

“I do want to take this opportunity to apologize to our board for mistakes we made with certain aspects of the details of an entertainment agreement,” McGarity said, according to The Athens Banner-Herald. “Few things in my professional life have bothered me more than this situation. There are no reruns in life so we need to turn the page, learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to make sure errors of this nature do not reoccur.”

Georgia set a school attendance record for its spring game with an estimated total of 93,000 fans coming out for the first spring game under new head coach Kirby Smart. Of course, more than a few of those fans were encouraged to come out to see Ludacris perform, so it all worked out well for Georgia even if some people were not happy with the goods supplied to him during his stay.

“Some more than others as far as different age groups,” McGarrity said of the people expressing their displeasure with Georgia’s hospitality. “It was all over the map. I think there were a lot of things that came into play.”

Auburn RB Roc Thomas apparently heading to Jacksonville State

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 6: Running back Roc Thomas #9 of the Auburn Tigers runs the ball in for a touchdown as offensive linesman Jordan Diamond #76 of the Auburn Tigers blocks safety Forrest Hightower #12 of the San Jose State Spartans on September 6, 2014 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. Auburn defeated San Jose State 59-13.  (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Auburn running back Roc Thomas is possibly looking to join one of the top programs from the FCS ranks. Reports today surfaced suggesting Thomas is looking to transfer to Jacksonville State, although another report says he has yet to ask Auburn for a request to transfer.

During a radio interview, Jay G. Tate of AuburnSports.com said Thomas is likely on his way to Jacksonville State…

As that message was spreading around the college football landscape, largely under the ominous storm cloud from Waco, Texas, SEC Country updated their report by saying Thomas has not yet made a request to transfer from Auburn. That may have been accurate, but may not suggest a transfer to Jacksonville State is off the table. It could just be a matter of semantics, where Thomas is set to join the Jacksonville State program but still must go through the formalities of transferring from Auburn.

Thomas does have two years of eligibility remaining.