SEC athletic directors snub Cam Newton

Cam Newton is no Rafael Nadal.

But then, is John-Patrick Smith?

The SEC apparently holds Smith -- Tennessee's first four-time tennis All-American who finished the Vols' season ranked 10th in the nation -- in higher regard than the NFL's top draft pick, as the conference's athletic directors have made Smith the first Volunteer to win their male-athlete-of-the-year award since Peyton Manning in 1998.

Newton, meanwhile, will have to be content with the Heisman Trophy -- and a BCS national championship.

"The SEC is very proud to honor John-Patrick and Kayla, as they are outstanding examples of what a student-athlete can accomplish, both on and off the field of competition," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said in a news release this week of Smith and Kayla Hoffman, an Alabama gymnast. "Their hard work and dedication to excellence have made them fine representatives of their universities and this conference. We congratulate them and wish them the best in their future endeavors."

For his part, Australian native Smith was only the second player to be named All-American in singles and doubles every year of his career, repeating the feat of Southern California's Rick Leach (1984-87).

Newton's performance on the field was often overshadowed by controversy off it.

Newton, chosen No. 1 by the Carolina Panthers, has never been implicated in a pay-for-play scandal that swirled through the last two months of his junior season
after reports surfaced that his father, Cecil, shopped his services during Mississippi State's recruitment of his son.

But the aftermath was prominent and polarizing enough that NCAA president Mark Emmert, speaking at the governing body's annual convention in January, called for new rules ensuring that parents can't "sell the athletic services" of their children.

"If you look at the Newton case, a lot of people came away from that, because it's a complicated case, saying, 'Gosh, it's OK for a father to solicit money for the services for his son or daughter?' " Emmert told reporters afterward. "The answer to that is no, it isn't. But we don't have a rule that makes that clear."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.