The NCAA is done with its investigation into Auburn regarding Cam Newton and any pay-for-play allegations.
After conducting more than 80 interviews during the 13-month investigation, the NCAA found no evidence that major violations took place. That means the NCAA cleared Auburn of any wrongdoing both by Newton, whose father shopped his services to another school for nearly $200,000, and involving the allegations by four former players who said they received payments during their recruitment or careers.
According to a letter from the NCAA to Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs, based on information gathered from "an extensive number documents" such as bank records, personal IRS tax documents, telephone records and e-mail messages, the enforcement staff "has not substantiated any further violations involving Mr. Newton."
The four former players -- Raven Gray, Stanley McClover, Chaz Ramsey and Tony Reddick -- appeared on HBO's Real Sports "Dirty Money" and alleged that they had received impermissible inducements and extra benefits. After multiple interviews, the NCAA concluded that none of their allegations was substantiated. Gray was interviewed by the NCAA, but none of the other three cooperated with the NCAA.
The NCAA added that the case could be reopened if any new evidence pops up, but it looks like this saga is finally over.
Now, Auburn coach Gene Chizik can really lay his head down on his pillow at night and sleep more soundly because he doesn't have to worry about answering questions concerning the NCAA's investigation. This also means that recruits and their families don't have to worry about the dark cloud of potential NCAA violations hanging over Auburn's football program.
And the players who actually won the championship, including Newton, no longer have to worry about hearing how their title was tainted.
Sure, opposing fan bases will no doubt sound off, and there will be doubters, but Auburn can now turn to the NCAA's findings as its defense. And that's all the defense Auburn needs.
“We appreciate the NCAA and thank them for their professionalism and thoroughness during this exhaustive investigation," Jacobs said in a statement. "We are pleased to put this matter behind us.”
This has been a major distraction for an entire program, but it had to be especially distracting to a coach who couldn't have enjoyed his national championship season as much as he let on. With this sitting in the back of his and everyone else's mind at Auburn, it had to sour the feel in some way.
Chizik and everyone involved with last year's remarkable season can now finally fully enjoy it. It's late, but it's always better late than never.
The NCAA released a statement on the decision Wednesday. Here's part of what it said:
The NCAA enforcement staff is committed to a fair and thorough investigative process. As such, any allegations of major rules violations must meet a burden of proof, which is a higher standard than rampant public speculation online and in the media. The allegations must be based on credible and persuasive information and includes a good-faith belief that the Committee on Infractions could make a finding.