Late Friday, as most Kentucky fans were bracing for the NCAA to rule on Turkish forward Enes Kanter's eligibility appeal, Kentucky released a rather intriguing statement. Kanter's appeal hadn't been decided either way. Instead, the school had "new information" it planned to present to the NCAA in the hopes of getting Kanter eligible after all.
Seeing as both sides have agreed to the major facts of the case -- that Kanter received around $33,000 during his developmental time in the Turkish club Fenerbahce -- what could this new information be? Here's a hint. The new information starts with a "C", and ends with "am Newton."
How do we know this? Given the similarity between the two situations, and the NCAA's loophole-y decision to reinstate Newton despite the apparent recruiting abuses by his father, Cecil, it's not exactly a difficult guess. But we don't have to guess, because someone told ESPN.com's Andy Katz as much Friday:
A source with knowledge of Kentucky's plan told ESPN.com the NCAA's decision on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton prompted the new approach. [...] Kentucky then requested an appeal in front of the reinstatement committee that was scheduled for this week. But the Newton decision forced the school to alter its approach. [...]
Kentucky is hopeful that the same committee will now look differently at the case after the Newton decision. Kentucky has maintained that Kanter intended to be an amateur by pursuing an education in the United States as a senior in high school and then as a freshman in college instead of going directly to a professional team in Europe, considering he was a rare foreign player who was a lottery lock but wanted to be a college player.
As I wrote Friday, this is Kentucky's last and best chance at getting Kanter on the floor this season. Why? Because the NCAA seems to have ruled one way on Newton and the other on Kanter. How else can you explain the two decisions?
The Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement could have decided -- and this is just a guess -- that Kanter knew about the professional-level benefits he received as an ostensible amateur in Turkey, that his family wasn't the only entity pulling the purse strings. If that's not the case, if Kanter didn't know how much money his family was receiving from Fenerbahce, then the NCAA appears to have backed itself into an intractable corner. That's the distinction the NCAA has created, and that's the one it will need to solve almost immediately.
How the Newton decision will affect recruiting and punishment over the long term remains a mystery. It's not hard to see it as a major slippery-slope; if the ruling becomes codified precedent, family members, AAU runners and the like would seem to have free reign to pursue cash in exchange for their players' services, so long as the player can plausibly deny any such arrangement. The Kanter case isn't directly analogous, but it is the first time a school will attempt to test this brand new Newtonian loophole. How UK's new hearing (and, if necessary, subsequent appeal) proceed will give us a first glimpse at what might just be a new NCAA era.
Theoretical noodling aside, though, the bottom line is this: Thanks to Cam Newton, Kentucky now has as good a chance at getting Enes Kanter eligible as ever. Probably better. A conference rival in a separate sport has never been quite so kind.