Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Clay Travis on Camkampf

I've enjoyed Clay Travis's writing on the Cam Newton story, but yesterday's column rubbed me the wrong way in a couple respects. Here's the first:

6. Cam Newton is, however, neither guilty nor innocent.

Those are terms reserved for criminal trial defendants. Right now Newton is something entirely different -- either eligible or ineligible. So please stop with all the Duke lacrosse e-mails about how people are innocent until proven guilty. These situations have nothing in common. Zero. The Duke lacrosse players faced years behind bars and were charged with a serious crime. Right now, all Newton faces is ineligibility in football. Let's be clear about this, there is nothing illegal, yet, about these Newton accusations.

What's more, saying that we need to reserve judgment until the "facts" are in -- as SEC commissioner Mike Slive did on Friday -- isn't fair because college football judgment is based upon our perceptions of the relative strength of teams. College football isn't a sport that's judged on "facts," it's a sport judged on our perceptions. Would Slive say it's unfair, for example, not to elect someone to the Senate if they faced a serious ethical charge during the campaign? Probably not, right, you should allow that to influence your opinion.

If my perception is, rightly, that Newton and Auburn aren't going to be able to keep any titles or awards they win this season, why is it then inappropriate to react based upon that perception? After all, every bit of the college football season is based upon perception. There's no playoff to determine which are the best teams, we have to come to a conclusion based upon what we see.

If anything, not reacting to these allegations is the irresponsible thing to do. That requires us to ignore what we clearly see before us -- that Newton and Auburn are in a world of trouble. Why is pretending that nothing is the matter better than considering that something is the matter?

It isn't.

You have to make a judgment in this situation. Either you believe Newton and Auburn are completely in the clear and you can support their title run or you believe that they aren't and you can't. Failing to make any decision at all isn't noble, it's the height of stupidity.
I was with Travis on the guilt and innocence point, but he goes off the rails with the perception point. Yes, college football has a two-team playoff and therefore perception matters, but it is perception of the teams' merits that matters. There is no Sagarin ranking for elgibility questions. There is no yards per game stat that accounts for Cecil Newton. If Auburn, the SEC, and the NCAA say that Cam Newton is eligible, then voters have an obligation to vote accordingly. There have been plenty of NCAA scandals that have not resulted in the forfeiture of games, so it is incumbent on us to see how this process plays out. It is possible that the NCAA will determine that Cecil Newton did ask for money from Mississippi State, but it won't force Auburn to forfeit its wins because Auburn neither knew, nor should have known about the issue. (I'm honestly interested in the answer to that question. Is Auburn strictly liable for its players' eligibility issues? Or does there have to be some level of negligence on Auburn's part?) In short, Travis is conflating relevant perceptions - how good is Auburn relative to other teams in college football - with irrelevant perceptions - how will the Newton story play out - in an effort to justify ... not voting for Auburn in the top 25?

And then this argument is really naive for someone with a legal degree:

11. Do you blame the Newton family if allegations of soliciting cash prove true?

Here's the rub: no, I really don't. As I've written and said a thousand times, my position is simple. If you're 18 years old, you should be able to make a living pursuing your chosen talent. The only people who can't in the entire United States are college football and basketball players. For some reason, we require that they serve an apprenticeship at college that makes universities a ton of money.

Again, we don't demand that Taylor Swift sing in the Vanderbilt chorus. Nope, we let her go pro.

This claim would be news to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. There is a collective bargaining exemption to the Sherman Antitrust Act. A union is free to bargain with an employer to set guidelines for entry into the workforce. The NFLPA has negotiated with the NFL to require that football players be three years out of high school before playing in the NFL. The NFLPA can do this in the same way that IBEW can create apprenticeship requirements for electricians. Stepping out of the union context, when I was 18, I wasn't permitted to start representing clients and trying cases. I had to go to college, then law school, then pass a bar exam. That's called a licensing requirement and I'm pretty sure that it's constitutional. I'd prefer a society that does not allow any 18-year old to perform surgery. So no, Clay, football players aren't the only people who can't do whatever they want when they're 18.


MLT said...

also I'm fairly certain the FBI's involvement in the investigation merits discussion of innocent/guilty. I am not an attorney but I remember reading recent articles regarding the situation and if Auburn gave money or someone gave money on behalf of Auburn, since it is a public institution, then there are legal ramifications to follow. The FBI wouldn't be looking into it if there weren't legal ramifications

Anonymous said...

BobbyPentz says:

Grits - if it is proven that his dad did request money, even only from miss state, then auburn would be vacating wins. By NCAA rule a player is ineligible for competition if they or a family member requests pay for play. Even if they never received a dime, the asking makes them ineligible. Auburn would have to vacate wins for fielding an ineligible player. You can say that's unfair to them, and I'd listen for a second, but a school is required to do due diligence when evaluating a player and there was already a ton of smoke around him.

If this is proven to be true, they gambled and lost.

Note though - the only punishment should be related to fielding an ineligible player. Wins vacated, nothing beyond that.