Report accuses Cam Newton of academic cheating while at Florida

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Well, it’s all but official now.  Someone is in the midst of a massive behind-the-scenes tear-down project of what Cam Newton‘s built over the first ten games of the 2010 season.

Fresh on the heels of a report alleging a six-figure payment was being sought for his services before landing at Auburn, there’s yet another report that casts the Heisman frontrunner in a negative light.

According to Thayer Evans of FOX Sports.com, and citing an unnamed source, there were three different instances of academic cheating by Newton while at the University of Florida.  That, not the laptop incident or Tim Tebow deciding to stick around for his senior season, led Newton to leave the Gainesville school early in December of 2009 and make his way to a Texas junior college.

Newton was arrested for the theft of a laptop from a Florida student’s dorm room in November 2008. He again violated the university’s honor code by putting his name on another student’s paper and turning it in, according to the source. Newton was caught after the instructor asked the real author of the paper why he had not turned in his work, the source said.

According to the source, after the student said he had turned in a paper, he and the instructor went through all the submissions and discovered that Newton had put his name on the paper in question.

Newton subsequently turned in a second paper to the instructor, but it was later found to have been purchased off the Internet, according to the source. The source said Newton was to appear for a hearing in front of Florida’s Student Conduct Committee during the spring semester of 2009, but instead transferred to Blinn College.

Evans, who was one of several national writers to come out recently with a “Don’t vote for Cam for the Heisman” platform, also reports that Newton wasn’t even enrolled at UF when he decided to transfer.  Newton’s father didn’t exactly help his son’s case in this latest imbroglio.

“I wasn’t there,” the elder Newton said. “I cannot confirm or deny. At a time like this, I’m taking a defensive posture.”

Unlike the rumors and speculation surrounding his recruitment, which is still under investigation by the NCAA, the accusations of academic cheating will have no impact on his eligibility at Auburn.

What it does, however, is bring up a couple of questions that need to be asked but will be almost impossible to answer.  Why is this coming out now, nearly a full year after Newton decided to attend Auburn and ten games into a season that could end with a national title for the Tigers?  Perhaps more importantly, who is responsible for it?

It was rumored that Urban Meyer was the impetus behind the first set of allegations coming to light.  These latest accusations seem to point squarely at someone in Gainesville pulling the strings of the media on one whale of a payback/screw job.

Based on emails from a couple of media types this morning, the latest speculation being churned out by the rumor mill, and again this is merely the underbelly of the college football world speculating here, is that Meyer and/or someone associated with the Florida program is pushing this issue in an attempt to get Newton declared ineligible before the SEC title game.  Why?  The Gators have a play-in game with South Carolina this weekend that would give them the SEC East title, while Auburn would represent the West with a win over Alabama.  Obviously, a Newton-less Tigers team would be a much easier path for the Gators to an SEC title and the subsequent automatic BcS berth that would come with it.

Again, this is all just speculation and this is a rumor mill, but…

Move over, Phillip Fulmer.  You may have some competition for the inaugural class of the SEC Snitch Hall of Fame.

UPDATED 11:06 a.m. ET: Meyer has emphatically denied being involved in the Newton situation. “It’s a ridiculous claim and simply not true,” Meyer said late this morning.

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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Matt Krohn/USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.