Cam Newton Investigation: A Devil's Advocate Take On NCAA Eligibility Bylaws

While looking further into just exactly how much trouble Cam Newton could be in with the NCAA, we made the acquaintance of a lawyer we'll call Bob, who disagrees with the notion that Newton could already be rendered ineligible regardless of whether any money changed hands during his recruitment by Mississippi State. It's an interesting take, and we've reprinted his responses here in full, with his permission:

A solicitation (defined by Black's Law Dictionary as "[t]he act or an instance of requesting or seeking to obtain something") is distinct from an "agreement" (defined as "[a] mutual understanding between two or more persons about their relative rights and duties regarding past or future performances").  A solicitation of money is not an agreement to receive money.  Quite contrary to what Mr. Travis pronounces to be "clear," a solicitation does not constitute an agreement "by nature of the solicitation."  Suppose Mr. Newton simply had discussions about the possibility of receiving money for his son's enrollment at MSU.  Whether he initiated those conversations or not, if (1) no money was in fact received, and (2) it cannot be demonstrated that Mr. Newton agreed to deliver his son to MSU in exchange for said money, then it is doubtful that one could make a convincing case that Mr. Newton and representatives of MSU reached an "agreement."  The very fact that MSU reported this to the NCAA and so adamantly denies ever agreeing to pay money to Mr. Newton is itself strong evidence that there was never any "mutual understanding," i.e., never any agreement.

If indeed Mr. Newton did solicit money from MSU-affiliated persons (i.e., he sought money and did not merely discuss the prospect of receiving it), then the real question in this controversy is whether Mr. Newton can conclusively be deemed to have solicited money "on behalf of" his son.  Remember: the NCAA has stated clearly that "[t]he solicitation of cash or benefits by a prospective student-athlete or another individual on his or her behalf is not allowed under NCAA rules." 

Whether the NCAA can show that a solicitation was made on Cam's behalf starts with Cam's knowledge of what his father was doing.  If it can be proven (through voicemail messages or some other such form of hard evidence) that Cam did in fact know that his father was asking for money from MSU, then the NCAA would have a better case that Mr. Newton's solicitation was made on Cam's behalf.  Even if that evidence were to surface, however, under traditional legal principles of agency the NCAA would still likely have to prove that Cam actively authorized the solicitation.  If it cannot be shown that Cam Newton authorized his father's alleged solicitation of money, then the most plausible conclusion is that Mr. Newton was soliciting money on his own behalf -- not Cam's.  Under NCAA rules, that would not render Cam ineligible at Auburn.  See Albert Means, University of Memphis.

Ultimately, we must wait patiently for the facts to come out.  But in the universe of the limited information with which we are currently working, the most reasonable conclusion is the following: Cam Newton has committed no NCAA violations, Auburn has committed no NCAA violations, and therefore Cam Newton is eligible to play football at Auburn.

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