Posted: Wednesday November 10, 2010 11:44AM ; Updated: Wednesday November 10, 2010 2:29PM
Stewart Mandel
Stewart Mandel>COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

Mounting allegations making it very hard to defend Newton; more mail

Story Highlights

Cam Newton remains eligible to play, but his credibility keeps taking hits

TCU is distancing itself from Boise, but the Broncos may get the last laugh

Colorado's best bet is to target a hot college coordinator like Gus Malzahn

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Despite SEC and NCAA inquiries, Cam Newton is currently eligible to play at Auburn.
Despite SEC and NCAA inquiries, Cam Newton is currently eligible to play at Auburn.
John Reed/US PRESSWIRE

Hmm. Anything going on in college football this week?

Does the new Cam Newton story about his alleged cheating while at Florida change your mind any regarding Heisman voting? On the one hand, the story certainly sounds more plausible than the recruiting allegations and directly impugns his integrity. On the other, it doesn't concern his eligibility even remotely and "integrity" isn't part of the stated criteria for Heisman voting -- not to mention that they set a bad precedent for negative Heisman campaigning.
-- Aaron, Auburn

This whole sordid tale makes me very uncomfortable. As of Tuesday evening, my answer to your question would have been: No, the allegations don't change my mind about possibly voting for Newton because, as I wrote Sunday night, the only requirement made of Heisman voters is that they vote for a player in good standing with the NCAA, which Newton currently is. I'm all for the truth being exposed, but the timing of the cheating report came off as a blatant pile-on. It's given the public justifiable reason to believe that Newton is the subject of some orchestrated smear campaign.

But while the Florida story technically had no bearing on the investigation into Newton's recruitment, it did carry a consequence in the court of public opinion: It called into question the credibility of Newton and his father. Since at least last spring, Newton and his father have been telling the story that Newton left Florida solely because he didn't want to sit another year behind Tim Tebow. If the cheating allegations are to be believed (and it's certainly telling that neither Newton nor his father have denied them), then that version of the story, while not necessarily an outright lie, left out a pretty important detail. You'll have to excuse me if I have a hard time believing anything that comes out of Newton's or his father's mouths anymore.

Which brings us to the latest bombshell: ESPN's report late Tuesday that two Mississippi State coaches claimed both Newton and his father discussed money during Newton's recruitment. That's a game-changer. Mind you, as of now, these are still just allegations. The SEC was supposedly made aware of this information back in January, and it's hard to imagine the league didn't pass it along to the NCAA. If it didn't, you better believe the NCAA is looking into it now. Suddenly, this is shaping up to be the biggest pay-for-play scandal since I've been covering this beat. (Albert Means was a freshman defensive lineman, not the Heisman favorite.) And Auburn, with its infamous history of boosters paying players, doesn't do itself any favors in the credibility department. The story is hardly far-fetched.

Has Heisman lost luster?
Source: SI
As controversy swirls around Heisman frontrunner Cam Newton, we debate whether the taint of scandal has undermined the award.

Yet as of now, Newton remains eligible despite the SEC and NCAA inquiries -- which means he remains eligible for the Heisman. Would I feel good about voting for him? I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't make me feel a little bit dirty. But my job isn't to play moral arbiter; it's to pick the most outstanding player. Unless Newton's status changes between now and mid-December, I'm going to do my darndest not to let the allegations cloud my view of Cam Newton the player.

But I probably won't be feeling too many warm fuzzies during his acceptance speech.

ROSENBERG: As Cam Newton story grows, it's hard to know what to believe

Any chance Boise State jumps TCU before the end of the year? This exact same thing happened last season, and BSU beat them head-to-head on a neutral field. I know that was last year, but both teams are almost identical.
-- Tyrus, Boise

I do think it's possible, because college football is a "what have you done for me lately?" sport. In fact, the two teams' seasons have played out almost exactly the way I figured. Boise hogged the spotlight in September due to its high-profile Virginia Tech and Oregon State games. Even well into October, TCU was an afterthought, constantly getting passed in the polls by teams like Nebraska and Oklahoma while Boise remained unharmed. But as I suspected, Boise kind of fell out of sight, out of mind once it began WAC play. Other teams started losing, TCU started moving up and, by playing in the Game of the Week last week and throttling top 10 foe Utah, the Horned Frogs not surprisingly jumped the Broncos.

But now it's TCU's turn to fall back off the radar. After this week's game against a respectable but unranked San Diego State team, TCU has a bye, then finishes with 1-8 New Mexico. No one outside of Fort Worth will see those games. Meanwhile, Boise will be playing three straight Friday night ESPN games, including the big Nov. 26 game at No. 21 Nevada that figures to get a lot of attention with No. 1 Oregon (against Arizona) and No. 2 Auburn (at Alabama) playing earlier that day. Jerry Palm of CollegeBCS.com has projected that Boise will eventually surpass TCU in the computer rankings, at which point it will come down to the polls.

If things remain the way they are, with Oregon and Auburn finishing No. 1 and 2, it's hard to imagine the voters bothering to reevaluate TCU and Boise. However, if it comes down to a spot in the national championship game, recent history shows that the voters aren't afraid to reshuffle their ballots the final night of the season. (Florida passed Michigan in 2006, LSU passed Georgia in '07 and Oklahoma passed Texas in '08.) If Virginia Tech wins the ACC while Baylor (TCU's best nonconference victim) slumps to a 7-5 finish, that might play a factor. And while I know we're not supposed to consider last year's bowl result, at some point it can no longer be ignored. Imagine if Auburn loses, and the new poll reads: 1) Oregon, 2) TCU, 3) Boise State. The Broncos would be sitting behind two teams they'd played each of the past two years and gone 3-1 against.

I don't know if that will play a deciding factor; I only know that no one's going to be happy regardless of how this thing plays out.

You're quick to point out that Boise beat TCU last year in a bowl game. However, you're not quick to point out that Ohio State beat a team last year currently ranked as No. 1 (Oregon), and are instead calling them overrated.
-- Casey Jensen, Findlay, Ohio

Ohio State didn't return 20 starters from last year like Boise, it's not undefeated and it's beaten one team currently ranked in CollegeBCS.com's Top 50. Boise's beaten three.

Get back to me at the end of the year.

 
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