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Cecil Newton, Meet LaMar Griffin

Nov 10, 2010 – 2:45 PM
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Jim Henry

Jim Henry %BloggerTitle%

Cecil Newton, meet LaMar Griffin.

LaMar, meet Cecil.

Griffin and Newton are parents of high-profile sons and football players. Griffin was once a preacher at The Life Changing International Church Ministries in San Diego. Newton is the pastor of a church in Newnan, Ga., called the Holy Zion Center of Deliverance.

The similarities may not end at the pulpit.

Griffin was once caught in a firestorm regarding his stepson and former Heisman Trophy winner and Southern Cal star Reggie Bush; Newton now finds himself in the center of controversy as news reports, talk shows and the blogosphere churn out daily details of an alleged pay-for-play scandal involving his son Cam Newton (right), the Auburn quarterback who also happens to be the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

Are quick paydays that enticing?

I chatted with LaMar Griffin three years ago at a San Diego High School where he was a security guard during the day. Pleasant and polite, Griffin declined to discuss the allegations that surrounded his stepson but stressed he only wanted what was best for Reggie. Those who know Cecil Newton say he's a loving father but not a man who would have his hands out to college recruiters.

Griffin, of course, was alleged to be the man who pitched the initial idea of forming a San Diego sports agency with two others and using Bush as the anchor client in October 2004. We all know how badly that ended.

Bush eventually signed with other representation after turning pro following a junior season in 2005 that was punctuated by the Heisman Trophy. The NCAA later determined that Bush and his family had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from two California agents while Bush was at USC.

Even the FBI briefly investigated claims of extortion by Bush, including conducting interviews before a federal grand jury. Civil suits, an NCAA probe that levied severe sanctions on USC and financial settlements made by Bush to a pair of California agents also ensued over the next four years.

In September, Bush relinquished his 2005 Heisman Trophy before most likely being stripped of it. The trophy has recognized the top college football player every season since 1935.

Bush, who stressed the return of his Heisman wasn't an admission of guilt, has said he wants to establish an educational program to assist college athletes and their families so they could avoid some of the mistakes that he made.

''You're still a kid, but you're still asked to make adult decisions,'' Bush said, alluding to a handful of college teams -- including North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina -- dealing with current probes into whether their players had improper contact with agents.

Have Cam Newton and his father Cecil, who made the decision for his son to attend Auburn, made similar mistakes involving quick cash? If so, when comparing Bush and Newton, who will it impact more financially?

Bush's annual endorsement take as a member of the New Orleans Saints is believed to between $6 million and $10 million and includes such companies as Pepsi, Subway, Adidas and Red Bull -- and this is above his annual salary of $8 million. There are some who believe the stain and stigma that will follow Bush in the aftermath of this scandal will significantly reduce his endorsement value.

If the ongoing investigation into the Newton matter reveals evidence that corroborates the allegations, the Newton family (and Auburn) will also pay a heavy price.

At the moment, Newton, a junior, can only imagine his potential financial future. Yet, typically Heisman Trophy winners see an increase in their future earnings either by virtue of endorsements upon turning pro and/or being able to command a higher signing bonus upon entering the NFL.

Newton's story certainly has taken on a life (or lives) of its own.

ESPN reported late Tuesday that two Mississippi State coaches claimed both Newton and his father discussed money during Newton's recruitment. The SEC was supposedly made aware of this information back in January, and one must assume the league passed it along to the NCAA. There also have been whispers of academic fraud when Newton played at Florida. It also appears Newton's case has taken yet another odd turn as it's being reported that the FBI wants to get involved.

Cam and Cecil Newton have denied any wrongdoing. Officials at Auburn have insisted that Newton is eligible to play and will stay on the roster. If Newton or a member of his family were to ultimately be found to have received impermissible benefits, Newton could have his eligibility stripped and put Auburn in line for an NCAA pile-driver for using an ineligible player. Wobbly USC certainly knows the feeling.

And just think if Newton somehow rises above this skirmish -- this late in the regular season and if allegations continue to linger -- and wins the Heisman Trophy, he might instantly become the most controversial Heisman winner.

Even more so than Bush and, at one time not so long ago, that seemed impossible.

Cecil Newton, meet LaMar Griffin.

LaMar, meet Cecil.
Filed under: Sports