On September 19th of this year, Dez Bryant was eligible to return from the year long suspension the NCAA levied on him for the egregious crime of perjury. When asked if he had been on the property of former NFL superstar Deion Sanders, Bryant lied. He admitted the lie in hopes of leniency and Mike Gundy, not wanting to jeopardize what was projected to be one of the best seasons in the school’s history preemptively took his best player out of the line up expecting to get him back a few games later.
On the date that Bryant’s suspension was lifted, Dez was being paid to play football for the Dallas Cowboys. It was the second game in his life for which he earned money. Five days after playing his twelfth game as a professional, the association regulating collegiate amateurs ruled that Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was eligible to play in the SEC championship.
Even by the standards of the NCAA this was an amazingly odd decision. Amid allegations that Newton was the recipient of a reported $250,000 to play for the Auburn Tigers, the NCAA made no effort to deny that a payment may have occurred, and went out of its way to admit that–at minimum–Newton’s father solicited such compensation. Their final verdict: Newton’s father was guilty of an NCAA infraction. The actual athlete was held harmless. As Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” character used to say, “How conveeenient!”
Keep in mind that Auburn is currently in position to play in the Mythical National Championship Game as one of three undefeated teams remaining. With a likelihood that Auburn would lose the SEC title game without the player their team’s entire offense is predicated on, that would leave the near certainty of non-BCS conference member TCU crashing the most overly hyped game of the year. So, it should be no surprise that the sport turned a blind eye in honor of supporting the good old boy network. If the Tigers had not pulled off the incredible (Cam Newton led) comeback against Alabama last week, I have no doubt the ruling today would have been entirely different.
Of course, there are other factors in play for why the governing body of collegiate sports gave Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant a capital punishment sentence for being untruthful in an investigation into his amateur status while giving Cam Newton a pardon for actually violating the line of becoming a pro. None of them have to do with conspiracy theories about the NCAA having a vendetta against OSU for winning a lawsuit against them in the past.
One factor that is not in play is character. A lot was made about Dez being a flake before the NFL draft and about his mother being a whore, but before the mistake he made in lying to the NCAA investigator, he had been a model citizen. The same cannot be said of Newton. While being the second string to Tim Tebow as a freshman at Florida, Newton was arrested for felony larceny. He ended up withdrawing from UF as a result and found refuge in junior college.
As a result, the NCAA had every reason to be skeptical of Newton’s claims that he was unaware that his representatives in the recruiting process were seeking out a highest bidder. Instead they accepted them on faith. The reason is that Auburn forced their hand.
Oklahoma State did the honorable thing, much like Bob Stoops did a few years before in dismissing his starting quarterback for accepting money from boosters. With questions abounding, they pre-emptively took action. Auburn, on the other hand took none. They played Newton, kept winning, and kept themselves in contention to be in the biggest Glorified Scrimmage in the land. For the NCAA to hand down a major penalty to OSU and OU it did not have to get too dirty. They (temporarily) vacated some wins for OU in a season long since ended, and hammered a defenseless player who never played in a game when questions about his eligibility existed. It was too easy.
If Gundy had called the bluff of the NCAA and Bryant’s presence had given the Cowboys a shot at the Big 12 Championship that could have gotten them in the MNC game, I think the infractions committee would have chickened out. It is difficult–and really embarrassing for the whole sport–to say that the best player in your game is crooked. It is why Major League Baseball pretended Barry Bonds’ rapidly growing melon was from heavy weight forehead presses. It is also why the very body that just exonerated Cam Newton on the most contrived excuse drug their feet years on investigating Reggie Bush’s mother living in a mansion while receiving welfare during his Heisman campaign.
So, what have we learned today:
- The NCAA will only punish your team if said team is mediocre.
- Never admit wrong doing.
- When the ClarkPupp is a five star recruit, I’m asking for a crap ton of money. They’ll only suspend me.