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The Front Row with Jim Litke November 15, 2010

| November 15, 2010 8:00 PM

No one knows how many more twists the Cam Newton saga still holds. But everyone has a pretty good idea where he will be when it's over, regardless of how it ends: cashing paychecks in the NFL.

It barely matters whether Auburn's star quarterback did all the things that have recently been alleged, or none of them. Recruiting violations are the college sports equivalent of a victimless crime. Nobody really gets hurt.

Universities that get caught red-handed may have to hand back trophies, take down some banners and delete a few pages from the media guide. But if you hooked up the athletic directors at those schools to lie detectors - and for even more fun, the presidents who enable them - all of them would swear it was worth it. So would their fans.

Championships are a lot rarer than recruiting violations. Win the former and people will tolerate plenty of the latter. The Southeastern Conference is practically a testament to that.

This season hadn't even begun when word spread of NCAA investigations into "extra benefits" handed out by unscrupulous agents to players at North Carolina and four SEC schools. Alabama coach Nick Saban cluelessly likened those agents to "pimps," though the only distinction in some cases is whether the players get the benefits once they're in school or before they arrive.

Coach Gene Chizik angrily pushed back at suggestions that Auburn gave Newton anything beyond a scholarship - "pure garbage," he labeled them - and there's no reason so far not to believe him. Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs called it "sad and unfortunate," and there's no arguing with that, no matter what happens from here on.

The Newtons have denied any wrongdoing in the recruitment process. If that's true, the Newtons might be the only party in this mess who won't turn a profit - at least not until Cam Newton decides when to make himself eligible for the NFL draft.

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke@ap.org

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