So Auburn has been investigated, weighed and measured, and not found wanting. Oodles of interviews later, after TV episodes, an eternity of radio hours, pointed fingers and forked tongues, nothing.
But, but—where there’s smoke, there’s fire! Not a false principle, but not a principle such that if its premise is true, it conclusion necessarily follows. What it really amounts to is—if there is smoke, there is probably fire. The same kind of thing is true of the argument that many liked: Cam’s father asked for money from Mississippi State, so he must have asked for money from Auburn. (And since Cam came to Auburn, Auburn must have ponied up.) At best, that argument could only establish a probability. It is consistent with both arguments that their premises could be true even while their conclusions are false. And it now appears that their conclusions are false. After all that investigating, nothing. So it is likely that nothing in fact happened. Sure, it could have. But that now means little more than that it is logically possible that Cam got money but the NCAA could not find out anything about it. A reasonable person must now know that it is unlikely that Auburn paid Cam (or any of the HBO Four).
National championship? Check. Heisman? Check. National mediots embarrassed? Check.
The only principle that is sure here, and the only one that appears to apply is this: Where there’s smoke, there’s smoke. And now even the smoke has cleared.
Dr. Jolley is a philosophy professor at Auburn University. He works in the theory of judgment, the history of 20th-century philosophy, metaphilosophy and philosophical psychology. He was recently profiled by The New York Times. He also likes football. His book “The Concept ‘Horse’ Paradox and Wittgensteinian Conceptual Investigations” was published in 2007. His column “Leisure with Dignity” runs bi-monthly to monthly to whenever. He blogs at Quantum Est In Rebus Inane. Write to him at [email protected].
Related: List of universities currently on NCAA probation (with commentary by two Auburn fans).
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Dr. Jolley, my favorite response to the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” analogy was always this: “Where there’s smoke, there can also be an idiot trying to start a fire with wet wood that’s never going to catch. He’s just producing a lot of smoke, hoping the fire will come.” That’s how I saw the media circus and blogger hoopla surrounding Auburn.
I’m proud of the school for coming out of this with an unprecedented letter from a tenacious investigator who basically said that Auburn’s athletic department is about as clean as one can get. That won’t stop rogue boosters from doing stupid things, but it’s so nice to be able to say that the school itself is in the clear.
As always, it’s GREAT to be an Auburn Tiger!
I’m beginning to think the only people that got paid were the 4 jacklegs on the HBO special. And by that I mean HBO paid them for the interviews. 3 of them wouldn’t cooperate with the NCAA investigators and the 4th’s story was disputed by his own family members…hmmm. Since these guys had nothing to hide and apparently a HUGE axe to grind, why would they not at least talk with the investigators? You’d think they’d have been the first in line to throw OFFICIAL NCAA gas on the fire!
One thing that we have learned in the last year is that very rarely do universities survive NCAA investigation without infractions (see Ohio State, North Carolina, Alabama, Miami, Orego, and a laundry list of others). That being said, considering all of the investigation performed by the NCAA without infraction, it’s reasonable and logical to deduce that nearly any team in the country is more likely to be non-compliant (dirtier) than Auburn. Furthermore, having survived the scrutiny without incident, Auburn players are probably among the least likely to have received illegal benefits.
I agree with Frank, and would like to see it emphasized more. Very few universities could withstand such intense, intentional, in-depth investigation and come out clean. This not only clears Auburn, but implies Auburn is probably far above average in rules compliance.
The smoke could have been from a previous fire…we earned much of the suspicion from Dye’s and Lowder’s shenanigans..let’s hope we can continue putting that all behind us with our present administration.
Sometimes: where there’s smoke – there’s people blowing smoke
I never understood why people would say this referring to Auburn. Yes, there was A LOT of smoke, but if I’m not mistaking they found the fire. Cecil DID ask Miss. State. That’s what caused everything. You take that one flame out, and there is no smoke. Including the HBO 4. I’d bet my left arm if all the Cam stuff didn’t exist, that HBO episode would’ve never existed.