JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Cam Newton

Was at the gym this morning watching Robert Smith, the one-time Viking halfback, give his expert (we’re all experts these days) opinion on Cam Newton. Smith is a bright guy, and I was sort of intrigued by what he’d contribute to the dialogue.

His take: I was gonna vote for Newton for the Heisman, but now I’m not so sure.

Glub.

This is so not about the Heisman Trophy, and people keep bringing up this stupid award as if it’s the barometer of this whole fiasco. Well, it’s not. Award, no award—who gives a crap? This is 100 percent about the ludicrousness of big-time collegiate athletics (men’s football and basketball), and how the NCAA, greedy parents, greedy athletes, greedy adminsitrators, asshole boosters, media jackoffs and fans have turned something that, I’m guessing, was once decent and well-intentioned into a sham.

Not sure how many people here watched the Marcus Dupree film on ESPN the other night, but, well, it’s a must-see. When Oklahoma and Texas were recruiting Dupree out of Philadelphia, Mississippi, both schools sent recruiters to live in the town until a decision was made. Seriously, two universities spent their money on securing the services of an 18-year-old kid whose long obvious virtue was running the football.

Now, 30 years later, it’s gotten 100,000,000 times worse. My friend Mike Lewis was telling me recently about the time Billy Donovan, Florida hoops coach, drove 400 miles to North Carolina to wave to a recruit from a parking lot. NCAA rules prohibited him from making contact, so he made the drive merely to wave. I mean, what’s there to say? You’re Billy-friggin’-Donovan. Great player at Providence, former Knick, coach of one of the country’s top programs … and you’re waving to an 18-year-old? Is that what you genuinely want from life? This is your calling?

Not all that long ago, I looked at Newton-esque situations and blamed solely the athlete/parents. No longer. Why shouldn’t Cam Newton make as much dough as he can? Hell, I can guarantee you Auburn’s milking Newton’s presence for every penny they can. Do they sell No. 2 football jerseys in their bookstores? I can guarantee it. Does that UnderArmour merchandising deal have more value when a school bosts the best quarterback in the nation? Do game programs feature Newton’s likeness? Yes. Does the stadium fill with fans when he plays? Yes. Do more people attend Auburn because of Newton’s presence? Yes.

Will the university willingly share any of that money with the athletes who make it? No. Never. No way.

That said, Auburn and the other schools shelling out big bucks aren’t alone. What sort of father pimps out his son like a Queens hooker? What sort of son allows himself to be used like such? Where was the media when Newton came to Auburn, armed with a record of theft and cheating? How can the Auburn AD defend Newton as a worthy student?

The whole thing is so gross … so rotten … so pathetic.