I'm a Heisman voter. If my vote were due today, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton wouldn't be on my ballot -- even though he's arguably the most outstanding college football player in the country this year.
Why? I have a hard time believing that he's innocent of the steady flow of allegations pouring in that his family perhaps orchestrated a "pay-for-play" quid pro quo that brought him to Auburn.
I concede that I'm jaded and overly cynical. I don't run away from that. But instead of blaming the voter for trusting the worst, perhaps it's time for people blaming a knowingly corrupt culture for fostering an environment where it's easier expecting the worst because that's more often the truth.
How many Heisman voters actually doubted the veracity of the Reggie Bush allegations that his family accepted improper money from a potential agent when he won the Heisman Trophy during the 2005 season?
When the NCAA eventually handed down sanctions to USC much, much later, Bush was retroactively ruled ineligible during that season. The Heisman Trust vacated the award. Some voters felt duped. Others thought they were powerless and can only base their vote on the evidence presented to them at the time.
The whispers regarding Newton make the Heisman Trust nervous because does it really want Newton standing up there next month accepting the trophy with that cloud of suspicion hovering over him.
Those arguing that Newton is being unfairly dumped upon right now are -- once again -- missing the point.
This isn't a criminal matter in which the accused is constitutionally protected -- innocent until proven guilty. But the government has subpoena powers in those instances, capable of applying the necessary pressure to accrue the available information to help prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In those cases, the accuser MUST prove it.
That's not the reality of the NCAA. I've long maintained that NCAA investigations operate underneath an umbrella of what I called "reverse due process" -- you're guilty until proven innocent. The NCAA can't coerce cooperation. It lacks subpoena power. It's at the mercy of the institutions providing the information that the university wants out publicly. It's why you never see an institution exonerated from a NCAA probe of major violations because innocence isn't attainable within these restrictive parameters. It's about falling on just enough of the sharp steel blade to give the NCAA infractions police the ceremonial punitive pelt it desires, enabling the NCAA to further scream from the mountaintop that its mission statement remains protecting the hypocrisy of the student-athlete ideal.
The final Heisman vote isn't due for another three weeks. That's the time that Newton and his family have to clear their names -- if they're even interested in that. Newton's reputation suffers because of the antics of those preceding him. It's why only the truly naive will believe that he's being treated unfairly and why the inability to quickly sell his innocence to the public could cost him the Heisman Trophy.