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Phillip's blog: Grasping the process

Waiting for the outcome of an NCAA investigation can be a maddening and frustrating experience for any college athlete or athletics program. The process almost always seems to move at a snail’s pace.

Phillip Marshall, Senior Editor, AuburnUndercover.com

To make things even harder, the NCAA tells schools that they should not publicly comment on any portion of the investigation, leaving them unable to defend themselves against even the most inaccurate published reports.

So it has been at Auburn for the past 16 days.

Auburn’s program is not under an NCAA investigation, but you would never know it by what you see, hear and read. The question facing Auburn is whether quarterback Cam Newton will remain eligible in the wake of an NCAA investigation of his recruitment at Mississippi State. It’s truly a unique situation.

For now, Newton is certainly eligible and is not even accused of any wrongdoing.

In an effort to get a better grasp of the process, I talked Friday with a former member of the NCAA enforcement staff. He is no longer involved in college athletics and said he has no inside knowledge of this case. He agreed to shine a little light on the process but did not want his name used.

“First, those guys are not ogres,” he said. “They are really dedicated. They work hard to get the truth, and they don’t have a dog in the fight. A lot of times, it’s just a lot harder to get at the truth than some people realize. From what I’ve heard about this case, they’ve really tried hard to get it resolved. I’m sure they are very aware of the Heisman Trophy, the national championship and all those things.”

But finishing in a hurry, the former staff member said, can’t be the overriding concern.

“I promise you they will do it as fast as they can,” he said, “but the worst thing they can do is get it wrong. They don’t want to say someone or some school is clear and then find out they were wrong. They sure don’t want the opposite to happen. They have to do their due diligence and check all the things they need to check. That can include going through literally a mountain of records and information.”

Meanwhile, Auburn, Newton and his teammates can only push on and get ready for next Friday’s Iron Bowl at Alabama. The stakes are enormous. Auburn needs only to win two more games to play for the national championship. Newton is the runaway leader for the Heisman Trophy.

“I don’t know about this case, but in almost every case that gets public, a lot of things get reported that are just wrong,” the former official said. “Some of that stuff makes you shake your head in amazement.”

Yes, it does.

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