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On college football

Newton’s law: a lock for Heisman Trophy

Controversy aside, Auburn’s Cam Newton was nation’s best. Controversy aside, Auburn’s Cam Newton was nation’s best. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / December 11, 2010

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Auburn quarterback Cam Newton will be announced as the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner tonight. That is a mortal lock. Newton was the best player in the country and turned in what may arguably be the best college season ever — 4,040 yards from scrimmage, 49 total touchdowns.

No question, Newton is the real deal.

“I think he is the best player in the country,’’ said Oregon running back LaMichael James, a fellow Heisman finalist with Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. “I’d vote for him twice.’’

The issue that will draw the most attention is whether Newton deserves the Heisman, not because of his ability but because of the controversy around his recruitment out of junior college and the role his father, Cecil, played.

The NCAA investigated Cecil Newton being involved in a pay-for-play scheme, and said that as far as it could determine, Newton was eligible to play.

The mystery that has yet to be solved is whether Cecil Newton received money in exchange for the services of his son.

The NCAA ruled that Cecil Newton did indeed solicit offers, specifically from Mississippi State. But it has not been proven that any money exchanged hands. And the NCAA ruled that Cecil Newton can have only limited access to the Auburn athletic program.

With Cam Newton cleared, he was allowed to continue his career at Auburn, and delivered a six-touchdown performance (four passing, two rushing) in the SEC championship game, a victory that secured the Tigers’ spot in the BCS title game against Oregon Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz.

But some Heisman voters consider the award to be about more than just TDs and on-field achievements. They point to the embarrassment caused in September when former Southern Cal tailback Reggie Bush gave back his 2005 Heisman Trophy after the NCAA ruled Bush and his parents received gifts and cash from potential agents when he was at USC.

There is an underlying fear among some voters that if violations involving Newton are uncovered, the 2010 Heisman Trophy will also be vacated.

It is a subject that has provided fodder for Internet chatter. It is also nonsense.

You can not make judgments on what you think might happen or what you think did happen until those suspicions are proven. If you are a Heisman voter — I am, and had Newton at the top of my ballot — you must base your decisions on what a player did on the field.

Now if Newton had been arrested this season or charged with any crime, voters could factor that into their decision. But from what we have seen, Newton has been squeaky clean in his demeanor.

Yet Cam Newton is no choir boy. He left the University of Florida amid controversy concerning a stolen computer and academic misdeeds. He revived his career by leading Blinn College in Texas to the national junior college championship, and last winter was searching for a place to transfer.

In the often seamy world of college football recruiting, to think that no offers were solicited by Cecil Newton, or offers were made to him, is naive.

But as of right now, no one has proven anything. And that means Cam Newton deserves to win the Heisman Trophy, just as he did the Maxwell Award (best all-around player) and Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback) Thursday night.

What might happen in the future — whether Newton leaves for the NFL, whether he succeeds, or whether he or his father accepted benefits — must be discounted.

Cam Newton was the best player in college football this season and deserves the Heisman.

Period.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.