Auburn is guilty.
That is an easy conclusion to come to. Auburn is guilty of committing some type of recruitng violation. Not because I think Auburn cheats but because I think the NCAA has so many just plain ridiculous rules that it would be virtually impossible for someone being recruited to not be given some type of improper benefit.
Just a couple weeks ago, a college basketball program was guilty of improper benefits when they had recruits visiting and watching a game accidentally meet Demi Moore. Really. That qualifies as a recruiting violation.
So, you can't tell me that Auburn didn't do something illegal. Almost impossible not to.
Auburn's biggest problem now is twofold. Let's call it the USC Syndrome.
There are two reason USC was hammered so hard by the NCAA. One was of their own doing and one was because of a circumstance beyond their control.
First, what USC, or more specifically Mike Garret, did wrong. Arrogance. The former USC AD refused to cooperate with the NCAA, refused to act any bit remorseful and basically ticking the NCAA off. It's no wonder USC got the heavy penalization it did. Had Garret been just a tid bit humble during the entire mess, Maybe USC would not be trying to appeal a case of possible overkill in punishment.
This is where Auburn can learn from USC's mistake. Do not act all high and mighty when the NCAA comes a-calling. Say 'yes sir' and 'no sir'. Show the investigators everything they ask for. Apologize profusely for the terrible confusion that has brought the ncaa to their campus. Do not act like an arrogant jackwagon.
And hope for the best.
Because, even that might not be enough.
Again, looking back at the USC case. And the thing they could not control. Publicity. The saying "any publicity is good publicity" is not so much true in the case of a college sports team under the microscope. The Reggie Bush situation was very high profile and was an opportunity for the NCAA to make a statement. Coast to coast, people knew what was going on, and it went on for several years, and the NCAA had to come down the way the did for the sake of public perception as much as anything else.
This is the bad news for Auburn.
Because Cam Newton is becoming as big a story as Reggie Bush was. So, a simple slap on the wrist is not going to make the NCAA look very good when it comes to public perception. So, when they get the evidence they need, they are going to hit Auburn. How hard they hit will depend a lot on how remorseful the Auburn AD appears to be and how much the story dies down over time.
The good news for all this, if you are an Auburn fan, is that that probably won't happen until around the year 2015. If, Newton is a non-story 5 years from now, Auburn has a chance to get just a slap on the wrist. If, on the other hand, he is still at Reggie Bush publicity level....
Auburn might have to forfeith the 2010 season.