AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said he has no reservations about erecting a statue for Cam Newton while an NCAA investigation continues and expressed confidence that Auburn will ultimately be cleared of any wrongdoing.
Jacobs points to comments from NCAA President Mark Emmert, who said "there was no evidence that money had changed hands and there was no evidence that Auburn University had anything to do with it."
"Out of respect for the NCAA process, technically it's still an open issue," Jacobs said. "But when Dr. Emmert, the president of the NCAA, comes out in February that he's found no wrongdoing on Auburn's part, I'm not sure how you can be any more confident than that.
"And no circumstances have changed since then."
If the Newton saga hasn't been officially closed, Jacobs at least takes that statement as indicative of a happy ending.
The NCAA cleared the Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 NFL draft pick to play for the Tigers in the Southeastern Conference and national championship games — when Auburn briefly declared him ineligible — after finding that Newton's father, Cecil, had solicited money from Mississippi State during the recruiting process.
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said Wednesday that Emmert's comments were only related to the reinstatement decision. She said that a school is notified when an investigation is closed.
Jacobs spoke to The Associated Press Tuesday about a wide range of issues for an athletic program that won a national championship in football in January while dealing with the NCAA investigation.
He also said Auburn is "pretty close" to a new deal with football coach Gene Chizik that Jacobs said will be competitive with other prominent Southeastern Conference coaches as Alabama's Nick Saban ($4.7 million annually) and LSU's Les Miles ($3.75 million).
Auburn will put up statues of its Heisman winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Newton — who was drafted No. 1 by the Carolina Panthers — during the upcoming school year. The monument to Newton did raise questions pending closure by the NCAA in the case.
"Typically, they don't say there's a closed issue because they never know what tomorrow holds," he said. "Any circumstance can change."
And other issues can surface.
Jacobs said Birmingham attorney William King is "still looking into" a March report by HBO that included four former Auburn football players alleging that they received cash payments during their college careers. Jacobs declined to comment when asked if King had been allowed to sit in with any of the players during NCAA interviews.
Asked for his take on the report, he said: "My only thought was that we want to get to the bottom of it and find the truth out.
"It all surprised me. I think it was a surprise to everybody that watched it."
The spotlight that descended on the Tigers during and after producing its first football national title since 1957 hardly illuminated only the wins. Jacobs dismisses some of that as success leading to "some scrutiny and questions."
"For the Auburn family, I don't think it's taken any joy out of what's been accomplished."
Jacobs insists that he's not worried about any hit that Auburn's reputation might have taken outside the familial unit with Newton and the group nicknamed the HBO Four — Raven Gray, Stanley McClover, Chaz Ramsey and Troy Reddick.
"I think the only people that worry about those things are maybe people that aren't doing it right," Jacobs said.
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