published Friday, October 14th, 2011

Wiedmer: Auburn deserves apology

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It's time to apologize. To Cam Newton. To the rest of Auburn's 2010 football team, especially coach Gene Chizik. To the War Eagle Nation. To the school administration. Maybe even to the poor, poisoned trees at Toomer's Corner.

It's time for all of us in the media, myself included, as well as all those opposing fans who've ripped Auburn on the Internet and talk radio airwaves to tell the Tigers we're sorry.

With Wednesday's announcement that the NCAA has cleared the program of all wrongdoing in Newton's recruitment, a good number of Southern football fans in general and untold media in particular have enough egg on their faces to feed a third-world nation for a month.

Call it Egg McNewton.

We arrogantly found the Tigers guilty until proven innocent regarding their obscenely talented quarterback, an error in judgment that needlessly lessened the joy of Newton's Heisman Trophy win and march to the national championship during his lone season on the Plains.

On the vaguely defensible level that Cam's dad, Cecil, has admitted to shopping his son to Mississippi State for $180,000, such initial hysteria was somewhat understandable.

After all, what parent in his right mind would encourage his son to go to Auburn for nothing if he could get even close to $180,000 at another school?

But asking is not the same as receiving. I could ask the New York Times to pay me $1 million per year. You could tell your boss that you've asked your rival company to triple your salary. Doesn't mean they're going to do it.

Whatever any of us may think happened, there has never been much credible evidence that any member of the Mississippi State athletic department ever seriously considered handing Cecil Newton $180,000.

Moreover -- as has been written in this space previously -- people forget that Newton was a junior college transfer with some pretty heavy baggage from his earlier days at Florida. Damaged goods, some labeled him. Beyond that, he wasn't even a clear Auburn starter until late in preseason camp.

But then he blossomed into the most talked-about SEC player since Georgia's Herschel Walker tongue-tied the nation for superlatives 30 years earlier. By the time Newton was done he had thrown 30 touchdown passes, run for 20 TDs and almost single-handedly carried the Tigers to their first national title since 1957.

A player that good had to have gone to the highest bidder, went the argument. And money well-spent, at that.

Nor did the NCAA help quell the masses when it told an exasperated Chizik in the late spring that the investigation remained alive.

In Chizik's mind it must have seemed as if the Mark Twain's line "A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth puts on its shoes," had been altered to include the entire Earth.

Yet Chizik's confrontation with NCAA enforcement also may have encouraged the NCAA to bring this to the swiftest end possible, especially since the coach's frequent statement "I sleep well at night" began to sound more and more like an honest man wrongly accused than lawyer lingo.

Could it be that we -- all of us accusing Auburn of wrongdoing -- were the ones doing wrong?

Finally, on Wednesday, Auburn released this statement from the NCAA: "Any allegations of major rules violations must meet a burden of proof, which is a higher standard than rampant public speculation on line and in the media."

For those conspiracy theorists who still believe the Tigers got away with something, the NCAA did oddly add the following words: "As with any case, should the enforcement staff become aware of additional credible information, it will review the information to determine whether further investigation is warranted."

(Note to Tennessee fans: Allegedly wiring $1,500 to Willie Lyles for former recruit Lache Seastrunk's unofficial visit may still get you in trouble.)

But as it stands now, Auburn is free and clear and back in the NCAA's good graces.

Maybe next time at least a few of us (blush, blush) will be more patient and more prudent with our criticisms. Until then, let me be the first to apologize to the entire War Eagle Nation. The line behind me should stretch at least halfway around the world.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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WarEagle said...

Thank you Mr. Wiedmer. I wish others in your field, would follow your lead. Takes a real professional.

October 14, 2011 at 11:48 a.m.
cgolt said...

I also would like to thank you Mr.Wiedmer for this article. It does take a real professional. In my opinion the way Cam was treated at the Heisman award was a disgrace and was much worse than any articles. Thanks again.

October 14, 2011 at 1:59 p.m.
Postermom said...

Thank you SO much for having the guts to write this. I'm pretty sure your fellow sports media at ESPN will not join you. In fact, you may be in line alone. But if you think you're doing the right thing, that doesn't really matter, does it?

October 14, 2011 at 3:16 p.m.
ausupersize said...

Thank You for you humility. It has been a long year in many ways dealing with the slam campaign. Hope you can make it down to the loveliest village soon. I really miss those opening games with UTC. WDE!

October 14, 2011 at 3:25 p.m.
AULinda said...

Thank you, Mr. Wiedmer, for your article and apology. Someone posted it on our message board and there are a lot of grateful Tigers reading it.

Not many folks believe AU did nothing wrong. Many believe we paid the NCAA off. I believe we hired coaches of integrity and they did their best to guide our team through a minefield of ugliness last fall from just about every media source in the nation. I think the most hurtfull was what happened at the Heismann Trophy presentation, but an apology now helps to heal the hurts. I hope Cam sees your article, too.

October 14, 2011 at 3:42 p.m.
EBArnold said...

Apology accepted, but the outrage that you started will never end. As fans, we are still being called cheaters, liars, etc. I am true blue Auburn till the day I die. Nothing will change that, but what you and your cohorts did will last on and on. All of those who were rivals of Auburn are now haters of Auburn. I wish you could take THAT back. War Eagle and go SEC!!

October 14, 2011 at 5:03 p.m.

It has been a tough year, and it is good to see at least one member of the media apologize for his part in the barrage of attacks. We just have to move on.

War Eagle and Go Cam/Panthers!

October 14, 2011 at 5:18 p.m.
alarmdog1961 said...

thank you Mr Wiedmer , you are a true gentleman , and I do hope that maybe this can help others from jumping to a conclusion, and destroying someone's life and future. it is the reason you guys go to college for journalism so you know better than to do these things , But the human factor plays into things sometimes. and alabama did everything they could to destroy AUBURN . it has been a disgrace the way the alabama fans and media and most certainly the alabama alum , how distasteful and complete lack of integrity shown by these people. Thank you for being a man with a conscience to say you were wrong. wow I am completely amazed there are people like you. and there are alot of people who will say they were wrong. Now the Ncaa can look into the most corrupt football program on the planet.....bama nation..where cars trips and gifts are all part of the scholarship. like Coach Steve Spurrier said before , He realized long ago that the scholarships at bama were worth alot more than the ones they give out at florida.

October 14, 2011 at 5:20 p.m.
rollingoak said...

The day I apologize to Auburn for falsely accusing them is the same day I apologize to OJ Simpson for falsely accusing him of murder. As I recall, a jury found him innocent. I still believe Auburn has an extremely sophisticated and influential system of corruption that is centralized and controlling. The nut has not been broken, but I do believe one day it will be cracked. When and where are still to be determined. Auburn, everyone outside of Lee County looks at you the same way they look at OJ. You got off, but your day will come. We're all counting.

October 14, 2011 at 6:10 p.m.
Humphrey said...

rollingoak you mad?

October 14, 2011 at 8:09 p.m.
EBArnold said...

Rollingoak is an example of what I was talking about. We (Auburn Fans) have had to listen to his ranting all year. He's a nut job and someone gave him alot of fodder.

October 14, 2011 at 9:03 p.m.
EBArnold said...

Oh, and Mr. doesn't matter if YOU apologize or not. You are irrelevant. We appreciate the gesture from someone who really matters.

October 14, 2011 at 9:05 p.m.
tintop said...

I would truly like to thank you for posting the apology that you wrote. It says something about who you are and your personal set of values. We can all agree that the entire situation was unfortunate and to some extent a reflection of the society in which we live today. Hats off to you sir and if you ever choose to accept the invitation I have a steak waiting for you in Tuscaloosa, Alabama....Imagine Auburn graduate in Tuscaloosa...the irony...

October 15, 2011 at 1:15 a.m.
Tigers2010 said...

It would be nice if ESPN, The NY Times, HBO, Paul Finebaum among others would do the same as this writer. But alas, it will never happen. Lies, disguised as controversy, sell advertising - who no reprocussions to those lying. To put it bluntly, they all whored themselves out for ratings and dollars. Thank you Mr. Wiedmer.

October 15, 2011 at 6:39 p.m.
keithg said...

You must be out of your mind. Auburn beat the rap, they should be apologizing for getting away with it. You seriously think Cam just changed from Miss. St. to Auburn at the last minute for nothing, when his dad was shopping him? You need help man, that's a pathetic writeup.

October 15, 2011 at 11:19 p.m.
budfudlacker78 said...

Apology? To Auburn? LOL

The only thing the NCAA accomplished here was telling the rest of the free world that giving college athletes "impermissible" benefits is perfectly fine. You have to be a moron and/or Auburn fan to truly believe that they are perfect little angels who did nothing wrong. The NCAA is a complete joke.

October 18, 2011 at 2:36 p.m.
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