Hey you, Mr. New York Times reporter. Hey you, Mr. Talk Radio Show Host and guests with “inside” knowledge. Hey you, Mr. ESPN college football “reporter.” Hey you, Mr. Bama fan conspiracy theorist message board poster.
The following is for you. All of you.
Here are the universities currently on NCAA probation. You may notice a certain school whose name has been dragged through the mud quite a bit over the past eleven months, yet whose name isn’t on the list—and won’t be. Here’s the list:
That’s right—despite everything you’ve heard and been told just relentlessly ever since late last season, Auburn has been cleared. As surely every Auburn man, woman and child knows by now, the word came down from on high (ie the NCAA) on Wednesday that Auburn has been cleared of any violations in the Cam Newton investigation.
Understand this very clearly: The NCAA crawled all up inside Auburn’s athletic department and lived there for a year and they couldn’t find a single thing.
And they were looking hard. Oh, were they looking. After all the headlines and hoopla last fall about Cam… After the ocean of stories and columns and speeches on talk radio about how college football is corrupt and something must be done… After all that, the NCAA Enforcement staff got serious, and started hitting schools right and left. Georgia Tech? Who even knew they were under investigation? Nailed. LSU? Nailed. Ohio State – nailed and nailed and nailed again. Ouch. South Carolina? Nailed. Oregon? Under investigation. Boise State? Nailed (for stuff the tennis team did). Oh, and Auburn? Surely they nailed us for something, right? There was so much talk—so much smoke! So…where’s the fire?
Let’s review the roll call of “bombs” that went dud in the last year, shall we?
– “The Bingo Trial and FBI Tapes.” Result: nothing. No mention of Auburn or even of college football.
– “NCAA Investigation of Cam including tax files and financial records from the Church.” Result: nothing.
– “HBO Four Allegations.” Result: nothing.
– “The bank” theories. Result: nothing.
– “Danny Sheridan/Bagman Allegation.” Result: nothing (other than Sheridan and Finebaum looking like bigger fools than normal).
– “Radio show claims it has tapes of Cam accepting benefits.” Result: nothing (and the person making the allegation got fired).
Notice a pattern?
Auburn was tried and declared guilty in the court of public opinion based on this evidence: Someone with connections to Mississippi State tried to offer his dad money to get Cam to go to MSU (or maybe his dad asked someone at Miss State about money). That’s it. That’s all there ever was. And many, many “journalists” in this country have dragged Auburn through the mud every day since the story first came out.
The argument usually went something like this: “If it happened with MSU, it must have happened with Auburn.” In other words, the sum total of the “evidence” the accusers could present was “a feeling” or “my common sense just tells me…”
Auburn people like us aren’t surprised that nothing was found on Cam. But we have to say we were surprised that the NCAA looked as hard as it could at Auburn and found nothing. Nada. Zilch. And they wanted to get Auburn so badly—after the embarrassing talk of corruption last fall, the NCAA wanted to nail Auburn as badly as any school they have ever investigated.
The chorus of “Cam and Auburn are guilty” was loud and long. We will not be satisfied if the NCAA announcement of exoneration is printed in the fine print at the bottom of a few websites and then goes away. This story needs to be told – a young man, his family and a university were tried in the media – unjustly. The desire to draw page views and readers led to piling on and some of the worst sports journalism in American history.
The NCAA must have come to recognize this. Their announcement on Wednesday, clearing Auburn of any wrongdoing in the matter, was virtually unprecedented. Usually they don’t ever say they’re done sniffing around. This time, not only did they announce it, they used the opportunity to denounce those who have been throwing around unsupported allegations.
Auburn won the National Championship in 2010. And yet, the next morning, instead of being able to turn on the car radio and enjoy the talk about it, what did any of us hear but, “Well, mark this one with an asterisk, because it’s only a matter of time until the NCAA takes it away.” Wrong again, ESPN!
And Kirk Herbstreit helpfully informed us, via the Finebaum show on Wednesday, that Auburn fans could now celebrate their National Championship.
Well, gosh, Kirk—we appreciate the permission. But, to be honest, we have to tell you—we’ve been celebrating the national title every day since January 10.
#BCS365 and War Eagle!
Art by Amy Quarles.
Related: Where there’s smoke, there’s smoke.
Van Allen Plexico managed to attend Auburn (and score student football tickets) for some portion of every year between 1986 and 1996. He realizes that’s probably not something one should brag about, but hey. He teaches college near St Louis (because ten years as a student was somehow just not enough time to spend at school) and writes and edits for a variety of publishers. Find links to his various projects at www.plexico.net.
John Ringer graduated from Auburn in 1991 (which may be the greatest time ever to be an Auburn student – SEC titles in 1987, 88 and 89 and the 1989 Iron Bowl). His family has had season tickets every year since well before he was born and he grew up wandering around Jordan-Hare on game days. He currently lives in Richmond, Virginia where he spends way too much time reading about college football on the internet and teaching his children to love Auburn football.
Previous Wishbone columns can be found here.
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