AUBURN, Ala. — Heisman Trophy favorite Cam Newton can focus on playing for the SEC Championship instead of worrying about pay-for-play.
The NCAA ruled Wednesday that Auburn's quarterback won't be punished for the payment scheme concocted by his father, Cecil.
Instead, the younger Newton will lead the No. 2 Tigers into the SEC title game Saturday against South Carolina.
The NCAA cleared Newton to compete without conditions, saying it was Cecil Newton and "an owner of a scouting service" — former Mississippi State player Kenny Rogers — who violated amateurism rules.
Two Mississippi State boosters accused Cecil Newton and Rogers of trying to get up to $180,000 for Cam Newton to play for the Bulldogs while the former Florida quarterback was being recruited out of a Texas junior college last year.
"Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement," Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs, said in a news release.
The sports governing body concluded Monday that a violation had been committed by Cecil Newton and Rogers. A day later — following NCAA bylaws — Auburn declared Newton ineligible then requested his eligibility be reinstated.
But Lenin seems to have left the door open for future discipline. The NCAA would not say Wednesday that the case is closed, referring to its statement that notes reinstatement likely occurs "prior to the close of an investigation."
Auburn has agreed to limit Cecil Newton's access to its athletic program, and Mississippi State has disassociated itself from Rogers, who worked for a sports agent.
The NCAA decision surprised Southern Cal athletic director Pat Haden. USC was hit with harsh NCAA sanctions, in part because Reggie Bush's parents were found to have accepted extra benefits from agents and marketers.
"In the Reggie Bush case, when the parent (did) something inappropriate the kid and the school suffered," Haden told the Los Angeles Times.
Bowl bids: No. 21 Utah will try to extend the nation's longest bowl winning streak to 10 at the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22. Utah's opponent has yet to be announced; Nevada and Boise State are thought to be on the list. … Air Force will play in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 27 in Shreveport, La., against a yet to be determined ACC team. … San Diego State will play in its hometown Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23 vs. Navy. … BYU accepted a bid to play in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 18 in Albuquerque. No opponent has been announced.
ACC: Virginia Tech senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who led the No. 12 Hokies to 10 consecutive victories and his third berth in the ACC Championship Game after an 0-2 start, was named the conference player of the year. Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers was selected as the top defensive player.
Big 12: Oklahoma State sophomore receiver Justin Blackmon was named the conference offensive player of the year, and Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal took the top defensive player honors.
Camp finalists: Auburn's Newton, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Oregon running back LaMichael James were named finalists for the Walter Camp player of the year award voted on by coaches and sports information directors at Division I-A schools. The winner will be announced Dec. 9.