Newton winning Heisman sends the wrong message

‘The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”

Take note of the final word in that sentence. You may never see it again.

At least not in the same sentence as the words “college sports.”

The sentence above is the very first line of the Heisman Trust’s mission statement, and it was once recognized as an important criterion when evaluating potential recipients of the trophy. Not anymore.

When Heisman voters across the country placed that trophy in Cam Newton’s outstretched hand on Saturday — a position in which his hand is apparently very comfortable — they stated quite clearly that integrity, morality and ethics have no place in the high-stakes, professional world of amateur sports.

Newton’s well-told, yet simultaneously ignored story belongs in an FBI case file as much as it does any college football record book.

While at Florida, Newton was arrested for buying a stolen laptop and then destroying it when he was busted.

Also in Gainesville, Fla., Newton was reportedly caught cheating on three separate occasions as a freshman and sophomore, including a case in which he purchased a paper online and turned it in as his own. Only his transfer to Blinn College in Texas saved him from expulsion from Florida.

And this “ethical” young man accomplished all this even before the pay-for-play scandal engineered by his father that landed him at Auburn.

Newton was the most dominant player in America, which is undoubtedly what saved him from the NCAA’s eligibility guillotine. Too many dollars and television viewers were at risk for the NCAA to sideline its top attraction and risk an Auburn loss in the SEC championship game. A Tigers’ defeat would have put TCU in the BCS title game, and the NCAA hypocrites would rather have canceled the game than accept such a travesty.

How else can they explain away Cecil Newton’s admission to soliciting his son’s services to the highest bidder? Cecil acted as a de facto agent for Cam, but because he happens to share his client’s bloodline, the player’s amateur status is secure?

The NCAA’s, and Newton’s, excuse is that Cam allegedly didn’t know what his father was up to.

If you believe that, I’ve got a slightly damaged laptop to sell you. It’s not stolen. I swear.

As Sports Illustrated reported last month, Cam wanted to go to Mississippi State, but agreed to let his father make the decision for him. “A few days before Christmas, while sitting at the dinner table in his brother’s house in Jacksonville, Cecil Sr. uttered two words. ‘It’s Auburn.’”

What star athlete would allow his father to completely ignore his own wishes to play at a certain school without demanding to know the father’s reasons?

Even in defending himself, as he tried to do in an ESPN interview Thursday, Newton couldn’t declare himself innocent.

“Everything I’ve done at this university, I did it the right way,” he said.

The disclaimer “at this university,” speaks volumes, as it obviously neglects the solicitation scheme that Pops put into action “before” he arrived at Auburn.

Maybe nothing can be done to the powers-that-be that run the NCAA and its investigation committee, but the Heisman voters had a real chance to do the right thing. They had a chance to restore the word “integrity” to the mission statement, a necessity in the wake of the Reggie Bush forfeiture of the once-sacred
trophy.

They failed.

Bob Frantz is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at

bfrantz@sfexaminer.com.

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