On Wednesday both Auburn and the NCAA announced an investigation has cleared the Auburn program, backing up previous statements by AU head football coach Gene Chizik and Athletic Director Jay Jacobs that Auburn had not illegally recruited Newton or violated NCAA rules. Public statements such as the one in the case by the NCAA are considered unusual, however, the fact that this case was a particularly high profile one probably led the NCAA to make the announcement.
Last year when media reports quoted unnamed sources charging that Auburn had illegally recruited Cam Newton, Chizik passionately defended his program and the quarterback, who Auburn signed with the Tigers prior to the 2010 season. Newton led the Tigers to a 14-0 record and the NCAA BCS title and is an NFL rookie this season with the Carolina Panthers.
Chizik called reports alleging a pay for play scheme to get Newton to Auburn were "garbage"and the university's and NCAA's probes into the charges backed up what the coach said.
On Wednesday night after getting off the practice field where his team is preparing for a Saturday night home game vs. Florida, Chizik stated, "As I have said many times, I feel very confident about the way we run this program. I have said many times we haven't done anything wrong so, quite frankly, I moved on a long time ago."
Coach Gene Chizik is in his third season at Auburn.
Investigations into charges made by former players Raven Gray, Stanley McClover, Chaz Ramsey and Troy Reddick that they received illegal benefits were also found to be without merit, the NCAA report concluded. Those players made the charges on an HBO television program.
Immediately after the television show aired a large number of Auburn players who were teammates of Reddick, Gray, McClover and Ramsey disputed what those players had said.
"After conducting more than 80 interviews, the NCAA has concluded its investigation into Auburn University," the NCAA stated in a letter to Auburn dated Oct. 11th. "The NCAA enforcement staff is committed to a fair and thorough investigative process. As such, any allegations of major rules violations must meet a burden of proof, which is a higher standard than rampant public speculation online and in the media.
"The allegations must be based on credible and persuasive information and includes a good-faith belief that the Committee on Infractions could make a finding. As with any case, should the enforcement staff become aware of additional credible information, it will review the information to determine whether further investigation is warranted."
Jacobs had this statement on Wednesday. "We appreciate the NCAA and thank them for their professionalism and thoroughness during this exhaustive investigation. We are pleased to put this matter behind us."
The following is a letter from the NCAA Director of Enforcement to Jacobs:
Dear Mr. Jacobs:
As you are aware, during the past 13 months the enforcement staff and Auburn University have reviewed a number of allegations regarding the football program's compliance with NCAA legislation, including, but not limited to, allegations involving football student-athletes Cam Newton, Raven Gray, Stanley McClover, Chaz Ramsey and Troy Reddick.
Regarding Mr. Newton, the enforcement staff and the university conducted over 50 interviews regarding an alleged pay-for-play scenario.
Additionally, an extensive number of documents including, but not limited to, bank records, personal IRS tax documents, telephone records and e-mail messages, were obtained and reviewed as part of that inquiry. As reflected in the university's November 30, 2010, self-report, it was determined that a violation of amateurism legislation occurred when Mr. Newton's father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market Mr. Newton for compensation. NCAA Bylaw 12.3.3 prohibits individuals or entities from representing a prospective student athlete for compensation to a school for an athletics scholarship. It was also determined that Mr. Newton and university representatives were not aware of that activity.
Based on the information currently available, the enforcement staff has not substantiated any other violations involving Mr. Newton. Should the enforcement staff become aware of additional information, the enforcement staff will review that information to determine whether further investigation is necessary.
Regarding Mr. Gray, he appeared on HBO's Real Sports "Dirty Money" and alleged that he had previously received impermissible inducements and extra benefits. The enforcement staff and the university conducted multiple interviews, including those of Mr. Gray and Mr. Gray's family, friends and others. Ultimately, Mr. Gray's allegations were not substantiated, and in some instances were disputed by others.
At this time, and based on the available information, the enforcement staff does not have sufficient evidence to conclude that any violations involving Mr. Gray occurred. Should the enforcement staff become aware of additional information, the enforcement staff will review that information to determine whether further investigation is necessary.
Regarding Mr. McClover, Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Reddick, those individuals also appeared in "Dirty Money" and alleged that they had received impermissible inducements and extra benefits. Unfortunately, even though the enforcement staff made several attempts to interview those individuals, they refused to cooperate. Therefore, the allegations made during the HBO show have not been substantiated.
At this time, and based on their lack of cooperation and lack of any other information, the enforcement staff does not have sufficient basis to conclude that any violations involving Mr. McClover, Mr. Ramsey or Mr. Reddick occurred. Should the enforcement staff become aware of additional information, the enforcement staff will review that information to determine whether further investigation is necessary.
The enforcement staff appreciates the university's cooperation in these matters. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me. Thank you.
Laura Wurtz McNab
Assistant Director of Enforcement
Because of NCAA rules, Auburn officials have had little to say on the matter since the charges were made in 2010. Jacobs did have this to say during Auburn's run to the national title.
"One thing I do want to say is just like we have always done, we will continue to protect Auburn," Jacobs said. "We will do what is in the best interests of Auburn. We are not going to get into the gray area with any rules. We are going to have coaches and staff who are people of character and integrity."
Newton, who played at Westlake High in Atlanta, was recruited by Coach Tommy Tuberville's staff at Auburn, but those coaches decided not to offer him a scholarship. Newton signed with Florida, where he was a backup to Tim Tebow for two seasons. He transferred to a Texas junior college for the 2009 season and was recruited by Auburn as a mid-term signee. He chose Auburn over Mississippi State, Oklahoma and others.
After leading the Tigers to a victory over Oregon in the BCS Championship Game, the quarterback was the first pick in the NFL Draft and is currently a starter for the Panthers. After practice on Wednesday when he learned the news, he said little on the subject saying preferred to let old wounds heal.