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Why Cam Newton Should Be Unhappy with His Father

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There was no doubt Newton would win the Heisman. Whether he gets to keep it is still uncertain. These two sentences - from the Associated Press - introduce us to the controversy surrounding Cam Newton.

There was little debate among voters regarding who was the "best" player in college football this season. But did the "best" player deserve the Heisman?

The problem for many people is Cecil Newton, the father of Cam. It has been reported that Cecil asked Mississippi State for $180,000 in return for Cam becoming a Bulldog. The NCAA - as fans of college sports understand - substantially restrict the payment to college athletes. So what Cecil asked for was clearly a violation of the rules. And that means what Cecil allegedly did might mean that Cam's Heisman might ultimately have to be returned.

So should Cam be unhappy with his father? Well, that's not what he said on Saturday. With Cam's father back in Georgia, Cam told his parents: "Thank you for all you did for me"; and to his father he added: "To my father, I love you so much."

Such statements suggest Cam is not unhappy with his father. And according to Dan Wetzel - of Yahoo! Sports - Cam certainly shouldn't be upset. Wetzel's column does a wonderful job of outlining the problems with how the NCAA treats the elite athletes colleges and universities employ. Below is quite a bit of what Wetzel says (and I encourage everyone to read the entire column):

Exactly why should Cam Newton, who is worth millions to a university, whose jersey is being sold all over the school website, who fills stadiums and boosts television ratings, be asked to play football for just room, board and tuition - an amount far below his market value?

Why? Because the NCAA says he should.

They say it, in part, because it protects college athletics' tax-free status and tradition of non-compensation for its meal-ticket athletes. It funds their salaries, their private jets, their six-figure bonuses.

... If you see college athletics through a different prism, you may see the action of Cecil Newton differently also. Maybe not 100 percent right, but perhaps not 100 percent wrong, either.

Would he have been a better father if he just let coaches, athletic directors, universities, commissioners, television networks, bowl directors and so on and so on profit off his son in exchange for a deal that was well below his value?

Was he wrong to demand more from the establishment that had plenty to give? Was he misguided to look at the charade and say not this time, not with my son?

Is letting Cam play for "free" in the face of rampant profiteering really better than asking for some of the action?

It would've been easier, sure. Would've it been right? If your son was an actor, would you let him star in a Disney movie for free because Disney said so?

...Cam Newton isn't getting a share of all those No. 2 jerseys that are being worn across the South. He didn't receive a $225,000 bonus for winning the SEC title, like his coach did. He won't get $500,000 more for the BCS title either.

He may have scored 10 touchdowns in his last two games, but he isn't getting a cut of the $19.99 commemorative DVDs of those games that the school is selling as stocking stuffers.

The "No. 2 Heisman Hopeful" shirts available on the Auburn website? Nope. The framed pictures of him that can cost up to $289? Of course not. Will the NCAA claim the right to forever sell his likeness in video games and car commercials? You bet it will.

Cecil Newton saw all of this. He saw his son's ability. He saw all the schools circling, saw the system dying to get a hold of a commodity that could help deliver games, glory and lots and lots of money. He saw the boosters and their desperation to win.
So he asked for some.

...Yet Cecil Newton is the bad guy for asking for something close to what the market would bear? Meanwhile all of the suits who run the game can sip cocktails and enjoy the Heisman ceremony?

Why, because one dad did not respect the NCAA, its wobbly rule book and situational ethics? Why, for considering it all a sham and asking for a share?

That might be why Cam Newton says he isn't upset with his father.

I find that I agree with much of what Wetzel say. The NCAA is clearly exploiting athletes like Cam Newton. And to argue that somehow Cecil Newton is a "bad guy" because he makes an effort to minimize this exploitation seems misguided.

But I still think Cam should be a bit miffed with his father.

To understand my position, you need to consider the research of Robert Brown and R. Todd Jewell. These two economists estimated* the amount of revenue created by a premium college football player in 2004. This estimate - utilizing data from the mid-1990s - suggested that a college football player who is ultimately drafted into the NFL will create more than $400,000 each year he plays college football. If we adjust for how prices have changed since the mid-1990s, we see that a future NFL draft pick is easily worth more than $500,000 today. And Newton isn't an ordinary draft pick. A player like Newton - who is being explicitly marketed by his university - must be worth much more.

And yet, Cecil Newton only allegedly asked for $180,000. And I think when Cam heard that he should have been a bit upset. Cam Newton is probably worth at least three times this figure to a university. For his father to ask for so little, though, is a dis-service to his son.

So it looks like Cecil - if he did what he is accused of doing - was at least on the right track. But given the economic value Cam generated for Auburn, Cam should really think about getting a different agent when he moves on to the NFL.

* the citation for this article is as follows: Brown, Robert W. and R. Todd Jewell. "Measuring Marginal Revenue Product of College Athletics: Updated Estimates," in Economics of College Sports, edited by Rodney Fort and John Fizel (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2004).

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