Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What they’re saying: Sportswriters react to Auburn’s title win

In response to the 734,849,595 emails, tweets and comments seeking my own reaction as a Bama fan and blogger—I didn’t really care who won or lost. I didn’t have a dog in the fight but as a college football fan I was compelled to watch.  It’s also worth pointing out that I did pick Auburn to win it before it was fashionable to do so. I also identified them as the team to beat the SEC West. I probably would  have pulled for them last night, if not for the overwhelming sense that someone is cheating and getting away with it. I’m not the only one expressing that sense, either.

On with the roundup.

  • image Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: This season, there is no asterisk. The Tigers have to hold their breath until the NCAA concludes its investigation of quarterback Cam Newton. But Auburn finished 14-0. The Tigers got the chance to play for the national championship. They won the game as time expired. They needed every last second of this season to exorcise the what-if ghosts of the previous 53 seasons. (ed note: No asterisk yet)
  • Pat Forde, ESPN: It was a game of ethical flinches. Watching Cam Newton get a confetti bath did not qualify as the feel-good moment of the season for anyone other than title-starved Tigers fans and greedy Southeastern Conference backers, who will keep the crystal football in their neighborhood for an unprecedented fifth straight season. The Auburn quarterback withstood an interception, a lost fumble and a wince-inducing back injury to flash one more winner's smile.
  • Pete Thamel, New York Times: But Auburn cannot lock the crystal championship trophy in a case until the N.C.A.A. finishes the Newton investigation. The N.C.A.A. enforcement staff has been looking into Newton’s recruitment for at least four months. If it finds that he or his family committed violations, he could be ruled ineligible retroactively and Auburn could be forced to vacate its season.
  • Steve Weiberg, USA Today:  In a little more than three hours Monday night, it was settled. Cam Newton and Michael Dyer thrust. Darron Thomas and LaMichael James parried. And a new national champion was anointed in University of Phoenix Stadium, with Auburn's 22-19 win over Oregon closing one of the most fitful seasons of college football in recent history.  Deep breath now…
  • Mike Freeman, CBS Sports:  His career -- and life -- will go down as one of the more interesting turnaround stories in college sports history. Because of a misguided father with an alleged hand out, Newton's life went under a microscope. There were the stories about his past, other unproven accusations, and he faced a nation of smirks. Since the SEC sometimes stands for Send Extra Cash, many assume Newton and his dad were in on the alleged con together.  … The father was convicted by the NCAA. The son was found guilty by a public whose confidence in the integrity of the system has been stripped bare.
  • Thayer Evans, FOX Sports: And it’s because of Cecil Newton Sr. that you have to wonder whether Auburn will keep its national championship or eventually be stripped of it due to NCAA violations.  That was the last thing on Auburn’s mind after Monday night’s victory, but the first question for the rest of college football. “We know everything is right,” defensive tackle Mike Blanc said. “We know everything that’s going on.” But the reality is something different. The NCAA’s enforcement investigation into Newton’s recruitment is ongoing.
  • Andy Staples, Sports Illustrated: Of course, this win-at-all-costs attitude can make for some rather messy situations. Auburn won the national title Monday, but the Tigers will always be remembered as controversial champions because quarterback Cam Newton's father tried to sell him to Mississippi State for $180,000. Logic would dictate that a player for sale to one school is for sale to all schools, but no one has found evidence of any wrongdoing by anyone at Auburn. The NCAA continues to investigate, though.  "Nothing is ever over, because you never know what tomorrow holds," Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said late Monday. "But as far as this issue goes, I have no reservation whatsoever. Cameron has always told the truth and never done anything wrong."

There is a distinctly unsettled air about this season, and for good reason. It’s been a roller coaster ride of investigation after investigation. Schools affected by agent and eligibility issues include North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio State, Alabama and the biggest, juiciest of all—the one at Auburn. Shades of USC were inevitably raised, since that school was hit with some of the worst sanctions in the history of the planet earlier this year. The school will likely lose its 2004 BCS Title, and the center of the story, Reggie Bush, surrendered his Heisman Trophy.

One wonders if a repeat is in store.

 

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