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.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

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When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.

Shaq Wiggins opts for Tennessee after leaving Louisville

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After a couple of years away, Shaq Wiggins is back in the SEC.

The defensive back took to his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon to announce that he “will continue to finish my career at the University of Tennessee.”  The move to Rocky Top comes a little over a month after he decided to transfer from Louisville.

As a graduate transfer, the defensive back will be able to play for the Vols in 2017.

The transfer to UT continues Wiggins’ well-traveled collegiate career.

In early May of 2014, Georgia announced that Wiggins had decided to transfer from the Bulldogs; later that month, he followed former UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to the U of L. With Grantham departing this offseason for the same job at Mississippi State, it was thought that, after a successful appeal of an initial barring, the Bulldogs would be a potential landing spot for Wiggins.

Wiggins started at corner for the Cardinals in 2015, earning honorable mention All-ACC honors. Injuries plagued him throughout the 2016 season.

LSU indefinitely suspends lineman Adrian Magee

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At least for the moment, one LSU offensive lineman has taken up residence in Ed Orgeron‘s doghouse.

In a very brief press release Wednesday afternoon, LSU announced that Adrian Magee has been indefinitely suspended from the football program.  Other than the lineman violated unspecified team rules, no reason for the suspension was given.

A three-star member of the Tigers’ 2015 recruiting class, Magee was rated as the No. 45 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 20 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.  An injury forced the 6-5, 309-pound lineman to take a redshirt as a true freshman.

Last year as a reserve, Magee saw action in three games.

This spring, Magee started at right tackle because of an injury to returning starter Toby Weathersby.  Weathersby is expected to be fully recovered for the start of summer camp in early August, with Magee sliding back to his role as a backup.