Is you is or is you ain’t?

2011 January 10
by Don Hammack

Pete Thamel of the New York Times writes about how the Cam Newton affair may change how the Southeastern Conference handles such allegations. I’ve not covered the Cam Newton affair as a reporter and certainly have not read all the reporting done on the matter. It should be apparent from this site I have significant Mississippi State allegiances. That being said, I think what I’m pointing out here should be valid with those shortcomings and biases.

The biggest problem in this whole mess is the SEC’s insistence that it’s not an investigative body, yet it’s process for reporting potential violations stands in the way of actually reporting such violations. Schools are supposed to report to the SEC and do a self-investigation. Thamel says there’s a 30-day policy. “(SEC associate commissioner Greg) Sankey said that the time period was not hard and fast, and that the league had forwarded information directly to the N.C.A.A. upon receiving it in the past,” according to Thamel’s story.

So in this case, there’s an allegation of a pay-for-play scheme in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it coming from an institution and not Joe Maroon-and-White who believes in every recruiting conspiracy espoused on every message board. If that doesn’t rise to the level of immediate forwarding, what does?

The SEC can try to blame State for not meeting that 30-day window all it wants, but I’d be willing to bet Bracky Brett and those in the compliance office would have responded had appropriate pressure been applied, from the SEC and/or the NCAA. Certainly, it was working the Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost issues, but football drives the bus at SEC schools.

The root cause, it seems to me, is the SEC trying to play traffic cop among its member schools to keep them from running to the NCAA pointing the finger at each other, a la the Phil Fulmer-Alabama incident. There’s a long history of tit-for-tat accusations between rivals, but at some point either the SEC is an investigative body or it is not.

It has to decide – or be told by the NCAA – what it is.

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