‘95: Suspended Star Didn’t Know Of Dad Benefits

Wednesday the NCAA announced in a statement, “Auburn University football student-athlete Cam Newton is immediately eligible to compete, according to a decision today by the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff.

Lute Olson: Stoudamire did nothing wrong in '96, but still missed a game

Despite rendering Cam Newton eligible, the NCAA noted:

According to facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff, the student-athlete’s father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton’s commitment to attend college and play football.

In the same statement Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs, said that Cam Newton not knowing about his dad’s activities is essentially what caused him to be completely cleared:

In determining how a violation impacts a student-athlete’s eligibility, we must consider the young person’s responsibility. Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement.

The Newton situation is not without precedent.

In 1995, the father of Arizona Wildcats basketball star Damon Stoudemire was accused by the NCAA of accepting a plane ticket from an agent. Stoudamire denied knowing of the arrangement while his father, Willie Stoudamire, also denied accepting the ticket.

After the NCAA informed Arizona of its allegation against Stoudamire’s father, the school immediately suspended the star guard while simultaneously filing an emergency appeal with the governing body seeking Stoudamire’s immediate reinstatement.

In announcing the suspension of Stoudamire, the WASHINGTON POST reported that Arizona Athletic Director Jim Livengood said at the time:

“I need to make this very clear and very distinct. Damon has done nothing wrong. Damon knows nothing of what has transpired, and Damon has had no part in that.”

The BOSTON GLOBE subsequently reported that instead of immediately reinstating Stoudamire, as it did in the Cam Newton case, the NCAA “suspended Stoudamire for the last regular-season game, reinstating him for the postseason tournament.

In his 2007 book Lute! The Seasons Of My Life, Lute Olson wrote of the suspension:

Damon had done nothing wrong, he wasn’t even aware where his father had gotten the ticket.

Frank Burlison of the LONG BEACH PRESS-TELEGRAM reported at the time that the NCAA’s final ruling on the matter, which did not come until after Stoudamire had sat out a game and before the final NCAA basketball tournament brackets were set, may have hurt Arizona’s seeding for postseason play:

Arizona (23-7), expected to earn a No. 3 seed (perhaps in the West), was given a No. 5 seed and shipped to the Midwest, where the Wildcats will face at-large selection Miami of Ohio in Dayton on Thursday.

The lower-than-anticipated slot led many to speculate that the committee may have been told by the NCAA’s Enforcement branch that Arizona All-American guard Damon Stoudamire may not regain his eligibility for the tournament.

Sources said Stoudamire, a preseason all-American, was under investigation because of the possibility his father might have accepted an airline ticket from a sports agent.

Danny Robbins of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE reported the details of the NCAA’s decision to force Stoudamire to miss a game while possibly injure his team’s March Madness seeding:

Carrie Doyle, NCAA director of eligibility, said the one-game suspension was considered a sufficient penalty. She also said Stoudamire’s father, Willie, had repaid the value of the ticket. 

More from NCAA director of eligibility Doyle in 1995:

(Agent Steve) Feldman has admitted that he wants to represent (Damon) Stoudamire and had provided the (plane) tickets to his father in hopes of representing the son on a professional level. Damon Stoudamire states that he had no knowledge of the relationship between his father and Feldman.

The similarity between the Cam Newton and Damon Stoudamire cases is indisputable.

Recap:

The NCAA has now confirmed that Newton’s father solicited money for his son’s college football services through Kenny Rogers. From the NCAA Newton statement:

According to facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff, the student-athlete’s father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton’s commitment to attend college and play football.

The owner of that “scouting service”, Rogers, has also confirmed on the record that Cecil Newton affixed certain prices on his son’s services - between $100,000-$180,000 - and personally made his intentions known to Mississippi State coaches.

Stoudamire’s offense? Once again, from the Houston Chronicle:

(Agent Steve) Feldman has admitted that he wants to represent (Damon) Stoudamire and had provided the (plane) tickets to his father in hopes of representing the son on a professional level. Damon Stoudamire states that he had no knowledge of the relationship between his father and Feldman.

Father Willie Stoudamire never admitted to using the plane tickets. So the NCAA made its judgement based on the integrity of the same agent it was investigating for other impropriety.

The only major difference in the two cases is how the NCAA characterized the defense of the actual players involved. In the case of Cam Newton, the NCAA noted:

Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement.

But of Damon Stoudamire, who the NCAA never proved had any knowledge of his father’s alleged impropriety, the governing body’s Director of Eligibility Carrie Doyle said in ‘96:

Damon Stoudamire states that he had no knowledge of the relationship between his father and Feldman.

If the NCAA had evidence to the contrary, you can bet it would’ve used it against Stoudamire. Much like Cam Newton.

So though the NCAA essentially conceded that it had no evidence that Damon Stoudamire had any idea what his father was doing, it still suspended him for a game.

Likewise, today, the NCAA conceded that it had no evidence against Cam Newton. But unlike Arizona hoops star Stoudemire, who was Pac-10 player of the year that season, Newton received no punishment.

Is it unreasonable to observe that these two cases show a decided lack of consistency in how the NCAA applies its own rules?