Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has led the Tigers to an undefeated season so far in 2010.
Newton's on-field exploits, especially running the football, have placed him at the top of this year's Heisman Trophy contenders. He is the only quarterback in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision to rush for more than 1,000 yards and has more than 2,000 passing yards so far this season.
But allegations of a pay-for-play scheme to Newton's father, while Cam was being recruited out of junior college, have given some Heisman voters pause. The voters are sports writers and former Heisman winners.
Reports began circulating a few weeks ago that Cecil Newton contacted Kenny Rogers, a former Mississippi State player, about receiving thousands of dollars to make sure his son signed with the Bulldogs after leaving Blinn Junior College in Texas.
Rogers proceeded to contact Mississippi State football boosters about getting the cash Cecil Newton was looking for. As it turned out, Cam Newton signed to play at Auburn.
The NCAA, Southeastern Conference, and federal and state law enforcement officials are investigating the Newton "pay for play" allegations.
The Heisman Trophy has been awarded to the "most outstanding" college football player every year since 1935. Initially, performance on the field was the only criteria. But the Heisman Trust added that the winner must also be in compliance with the NCAA eligibility rules.
This year's Heisman vote is taking place against the backdrop of another Heisman scandal – and that may influence the outcome. Earlier this fall, Reggie Bush, the 2005 Heisman recipient, gave his trophy back after the NCAA punished USC, his alma mater, because Bush and his family had received improper benefits during his college career.
If evidence emerges before voting ends on Dec. 6, that could undermine Cam Newton's chances. Already, according to some websites, including heismanpundit.com, the prospects are improving for LaMichael James at Oregon and Boise State's QB Kellen Moore.
This year's Heisman Trophy will be handed out on December 11.