The NCAA is now planning to close the “loophole” that allowed Cam Newton’s dad to shop his son to the highest bidder without jeopardizing his son’s eligibility.
According to the USA Today, the change would “expand the NCAA’s definition of an agent to include third-party influences — including family members — who directly or indirectly market an athlete for profit. Among the specific targets: anyone who might ‘seek to obtain any type of financial gain or benefit from securing a prospect’s enrollment at an institution or a student-athlete’s potential earnings as a professional athlete.’”
With the vast rulebook the NCAA possesses, it boggles the mind that this sort of “loophole” existed. The NCAA has rules on who can text whom and when. A hotdog at a game can become a violation if it’s paid for by the wrong person. Coaches must be careful about what funerals they attend, lest their condolences violate NCAA bylaws. Universities must hire multiple compliance officers to help negotiate the vast legalese of the NCAA rulebook.
But there is nothing on the books for a dad shopping his kid? Really? That sort of omission shows a lack of real enforcement effort by the NCAA. It smacks of willful ignorance, particularly given the history of dirtiness in the game.
Pay-for-play schemes are certainly nothing new. If you watched the brilliant ESPN 30-for-30 documentary on Marcus Dupree, then you saw just how dirty Southwest Conference football was in the 1980s. Players were on actual payrolls. SMU faced the death penalty for its repeated institutional crookedness.
The NCAA can’t plead ignorance on wrongdoing. They surely know that if you go the crooked route, it makes sense for a player to keep his hands clean, having a third-party negotiate a deal for a player. That way, he can plead ignorance if the third-party is caught and maintain his eligibility. And if you’re going to have someone seek money for you, why not a family member?
Cecil Newton made it clear that he was marketing his son. He sought a cash payment for his scholarship signature. This was acknowledged by the NCAA. But the NCAA contended that there was no proof that the younger Newton knew of his father’s scheme. Therefore, Cam Newton was allowed to play. And the brilliant quarterback subsequently led Auburn to a national title.
But when the NCAA declared him eligible, they had to recognize the massive loophole they opened for any parent to seek cash for their son’s signature. Without closing that, any parent busted could simply cite the Newton precedent. My question is: how in the heck could such a loophole have existed?
The NCAA’s current fix is too little, too late.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.