The NCAA had visited the Mississippi State campus to look into that college's recruitment of the quarterback out of Blinn Junior College in Texas. Newton's status has been a subject of news articles and media discussion for the past month with the Auburn quarterback being the most high profile college football player in the country this year.
Auburn officials had steadfastly maintained that Auburn had done nothing wrong in the university's recruitment of Newton and the player himself said, "I haven't done anything wrong," prior to being made off limits by the coaching staff for interviews in recent weeks.
The NCAA issued this statement from its headquarters in Indianapolis:
Auburn University football student-athlete Cam Newton is immediately eligible to compete, according to a decision today by the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff. The NCAA concluded on Monday that a violation of amateurism rules occurred, therefore Auburn University declared the student-athlete ineligible yesterday for violations of NCAA amateurism rules.
When a school discovers an NCAA rules violation has occurred, it must declare the student-athlete ineligible and may request the student-athlete's eligibility be reinstated. Reinstatement decisions are made by the NCAA national office staff and can include conditions such as withholding from competition and repayment of extra benefits. Newton was reinstated without any conditions.
According to facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff, the student-athlete's father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton's commitment to attend college and play football. NCAA rules (Bylaw 12.3.3) do not allow individuals or entities to represent a prospective student-athlete for compensation to a school for an athletic scholarship.
In conjunction with the case, Auburn University has limited the access Newton's father has to the athletics program and Mississippi State has disassociated the involved individual.
The conduct of Cam Newton's father and the involved individual is unacceptable and has no place in the SEC or in intercollegiate athletics," said Mike Slive, Southeastern Conference Commissioner. "The actions taken by Auburn University and Mississippi State University make it clear this behavior will not be tolerated in the SEC."
"Our members have established rules for a fair and equal recruitment of student-athletes, as well as to promote integrity in the recruiting process," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs. "In determining how a violation impacts a student-athlete's eligibility, we must consider the young person's responsibility. Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement. From a student-athlete reinstatement perspective, Auburn University met its obligation under NCAA bylaw 14.11.1. Under this threshold, the student-athlete has not participated while ineligible."
"We are pleased that the NCAA has agreed with our position that Cam Newton has been and continues to be eligible to play football at Auburn University," Auburn University Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs said. "We appreciate the diligence and professionalism of the NCAA and its handling of this matter. "
During the reinstatement process, NCAA staff review each case on its own merits based on the specific facts. Staff decisions are made based on a number of factors including guidelines established by the Division I NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement, as well as any mitigating factors presented by the university.
Reinstatement decisions are independent of the NCAA enforcement process and typically are made once the facts of the student-athlete's involvement are determined. The reinstatement process is likely to conclude prior to the close of an investigation. It is NCAA policy not to comment on current, pending or potential investigations.
Former Mississippi State football player Kenny Rogers is believed to be the disassociated Mississippi State booster in the announcement made by the NCAA on Wednesday. In a radio interview Rogers admitted to meeting with Mississippi State coaches and Cecil Newton the night before the 2009 Ole Miss at Mississippi State football game to discuss extra benefits for the quarterback to sign with Mississippi State. Rogers said in a radio interview that after that weekend he lost contact with Cecil Newton, the quarterback's father.
On Wednesday afternoon, Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs sent this message via email to Auburn alumni and others:
Dear Auburn Family,
I wanted to use this forum to personally share a statement from me that was released to the media earlier today concerning Cam Newton's eligibility. I felt that it was important to send this statement directly to you in light of the many reports in recent weeks.
The following statement from me was included in a joint press release with the NCAA:
"We are pleased that the NCAA has agreed with our position that Cam Newton has been and continues to be eligible to play football at Auburn University. We appreciate the diligence and professionalism of the NCAA in its handling of this matter."
The joint press release also included the following statement from Kevin Lennon, the NCAA's vice president for academic and membership affairs:
"In determining how a violation impacts a student-athlete's eligibility, we must consider the young person's responsibility. Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement. From a student-athlete reinstatement perspective, Auburn University met its obligation under NCAA bylaw 14.11.1. Under this threshold, the student-athlete has not participated while ineligible."
Some of you have been frustrated by our inability to comment publicly on this matter in recent weeks and by the absence of factual information amidst the firestorm of reports. Your frustration is understandable. The Auburn Athletics Department declined to comment on these recent reports out of respect for the process. To do otherwise would not have been in Auburn's best interest or in the best interest of our student-athletes, and we hope you understand that.
Know that we will always act with character and integrity and that we will always do what is best for Auburn University. That has been and will continue to be the case.
The support of the Auburn Family throughout this remarkable season has been incredible. The gameday experience and atmosphere at Jordan-Hare Stadium was the best it has ever been. Your spirit and passion mean more to those young men who play for Auburn than you will ever know. I thank you for that.
I am proud of the character and class that Cam Newton, his teammates, Coach Chizik and his entire staff have shown in recent weeks and throughout the year. I know that you are equally proud of this very special team, and that we can count on the Auburn Family to rally around them as we prepare to go to Atlanta and play for the Southeastern Conference championship.
God Bless and War Eagle!
Director of Athletics
Newton and his Tigers are 12-0 and unbeaten headed into Saturday's SEC Championship Game vs. South Carolina. The Tigers are ranked No. 1 in this weeks BCS standings and a victory on Saturday would give the Tigers a spot in the BCS Championship Game.
Newton has been a major threat running and passing the football for the Tigers.
On Wednesday, Newton was named National Offensive Player of the Year by Scout.com in addition to be named a first team All-American as he was on Monday by the American Football Coaches Association.
Newton is also a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, which will be announced a week from Saturday in New York City.
Heading into game 13, he is the SEC's rushing leader and he is ranked second nationally in passing efficiency.