Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton will skip his senior season and enter the NFL Draft after leading Auburn to a national championship and drawing nearly as much attention for a pay-for-play scandal as for his dynamic performances.
Auburn released a statement Thursday night announcing the quarterback’s decision following his lone year as a major-college starter. Newton led the Tigers to their first national title since 1957 and a 14-0 season with a 22-19 victory over Oregon on Monday night.
“This decision was difficult for me and my family,” Newton said, adding that he made it after talking to coach Gene Chizik and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
“It’s been a blessing for me to be a part of something so great,” he said. “Any time you win games it’s a big deal, but for this school to win a BCS national championship, what a way to make people happy. Auburn is a special place that I can call home.”
The former backup to Tim Tebow at Florida arrived after leading Blinn College in Texas to a junior college national championship and won on a much bigger stage with the Tigers.
The national champions are waiting on Lombardi Award-winning defensive tackle Nick Fairley to announce his NFL decision today in his hometown of Mobile. Fairley might be the No. 1 overall pick, but the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Newton is the guy that Chizik called “probably the best football player I’ve ever seen” after the Southeastern Conference championship game.
In other NFL Draft news:
• Kentucky all-purpose star Randall Cobb is heading to the NFL. The junior first-team All-American will bypass his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
• Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has decided to stay and play for coach Brady Hoke.
• LSU leading rusher Stevan Ridley says he’s going to the NFL Draft, although it’s not yet clear whether he can be persuaded to change his mind.
Stanford promotes aide
Stanford, Calif. — If David Shaw has his way, he will never have to interview for another football coaching job. He is right where he always felt he belonged: Stanford.
A head college coach at age 38, Shaw is ready to turn Stanford into a football powerhouse despite its tough academic standards.
He was promoted Thursday to replace Jim Harbaugh and maintain the Cardinal’s place as a national contender following their most successful season in decades.
UConn raids Cowboys
Hartford, Conn. — Former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni is heading back to the Big East as football coach at Connecticut.
UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway announced the hiring Thursday and said a news conference introducing Pasqualoni, who grew up in Cheshire, would be held today.
Pasqualoni had been the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator, taking the position in November after the firing of coach Wade Phillips, who also handled the defensive duties.