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Why yes, the NCAA's investigation into Cam Newton's recruitment at Auburn and Mississippi State is over. But loose ends are going to continue presenting themselves over time, so it might be years before the story stops evolving.
The latest: Jay G. Tate of the Montgomery Advertiser reports the findings of a Freedom of Information Act request into Auburn's records from the investigation. There's still nothing that incriminates Newton, of course, but we do get some more detail about a side character or two.
Kenny Rogers, who's been part of the story since the very beginning, exchanged 275 phone messages with Newton's father, Cecil Newton. Bill Bell, a figure who emerged about a week in, was told Newton would commit to the Oklahoma Sooners instead of Mississippi State if Cecil's demands weren't met. Rogers also shopped Newton to the North Carolina Tar Heels, saying his "kids" Donald Langley and Justin Rogers liked it there.
For more on Auburn University, visit Track 'Em Tigers.
The NCAA's investigation into Cam Newton and any wrongdoing that took place between the quarterback and University of Auburn ended on Tuesday with the committee finding that nothing illegal took place. Not surprisingly, the fans around the SEC have reacted with passion regarding the news about the current starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.
It never occurred to numerous journalists to look at the facts and actual evidence in the cases. Instead, unprecedented vitriol was directed at the Auburn family. It's certainly important to remember what Auburn endured, the next time such pieces are written about another school. The lesson: don't judge without evidence.
What is amazing is that it took this long for the NCAA to make the statement. There's no telling how much damage the atmosphere has caused Auburn recruiting. It hurt Auburn last season, too. Several awards were denied to Cam Newton over the allegations. Over a hundred Heisman voters left Cam off their ballots, all over unproven allegations. All those tales of "tainted titles," and Auburn probation/death penalty have proved to be hot air. I wonder what the next salvo against Auburn will be? Folks have tried to keep this campaign going, certainly.
Team Speed Kills, SB Nation's blog covering the SEC as a whole, also weighed in on what should be the end of talking about Newton's time as a Tiger -- even if people will probably continue to talk about it.
Auburn fans will see this as a vindication, while opponents will call it a cover-up. In other words, it's back to the message boards and conspiracy theories for those who still have the energy to talk about this after nearly a year.
There are always going to be questions surrounding Newton's recruitment, but those questions now have to acknowledge that the NCAA did a pretty thorough investigation and found nothing that it could prove. The controversy about Cam Newton is dead; long live the controversy about Cam Newton.
Surprisingly, the reaction seems to be pretty level-headed. Are there any crazy people out there interested in commenting on the NCAA's findings in the comments below to make this more exciting?
Wednesday, the NCAA said the evidence in the Auburn/Cam Newton investigation didn't meet the burden of proof necessary for major violations. And so, they consider the matter closed.
Panthers QB Cam Newton, told of the NCAA's findings, said: "I could have told you, that."
Asked for additional comment, Cam Newton said: "No, let's let old wounds (alone)."
The Carolina Panthers quarterback can now put his focus on his current gig instead of wondering about whether or not his previous accomplishments would be wiped from the record books.
Newton led the Tigers to a national title and won the Heisman Trophy, two things that could have been affected by evidence of violations. Not to mention the many records he broke while at Auburn. But that won't happen now.
And so, Cam Netwon rides off into the sunset...Cam Newton-style.
For more on Auburn University, visit Track 'Em Tigers.
Less than a year after allegations of improper benefits related to the recruitment of former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton surfaced, the NCAA has closed the book on the investigation without levying major violations. The NCAA investigated claims involving Newton's recruitment, as well as pay-for-play allegations that came to light during an HBO Real Sports show.
After doing its due diligence, and interview a wide array of people related to the case, the NCAA said the evidence didn't meet the burden of proof necessary for major violations
After conducting more than 80 interviews, the NCAA has concluded its investigation into Auburn University. The NCAA enforcement staff is committed to a fair and thorough investigative process. As such, any allegations of major rules violations must meet a burden of proof, which is a higher standard than rampant public speculation online and in the media. The allegations must be based on credible and persuasive information and includes a good-faith belief that the Committee on Infractions could make a finding. As with any case, should the enforcement staff become aware of additional credible information, it will review the information to determine whether further investigation is warranted.
So that's it. Just a few months after Gene Chizik publicly quizzed Julie Latch Roe about whether or not the investigation was over, and was hit with a salty "you'll know when we're finished," Auburn walks away unharmed.
For more on Auburn University, visit Track 'Em Tigers.
The Danny Sheridan "bag man" saga seems to have finally crashed and burned. To recap: Sheridan claimed someone at the NCAA told him name of a man who paid Cecil Newton. After weeks of trolling the Auburn fanbase, teasing information and maintaining his lawyers forbid him from revealing the name, something had to give.
And because Sheridan said the NCAA gave him the information -- which, LOL -- it had to get involved in the whole fiasco. After Sheridan visited Outside the Lines to, once again, say nothing, the NCAA released the following statement.
Danny Sheridan continues to make vague, unsubstantiated claims without backing them up with proof. Contrary to his claims of having an inside source with details on the Auburn investigation, the NCAA has not provided information to Sheridan or anyone else. As a matter of due diligence, the NCAA spoke with Sheridan this week to determine if he had any facts pertaining to the investigation. Sheridan, however, did not provide any information to the enforcement staff and certainly did not provide a name. Instead, he unsuccessfully attempted to gather information for his own use.
This, friends, is an expertly-crafted smackdown. Now can we all drop "bag man" from our vocabulary and move on to more pressing issues? Like real football!
For more on Auburn University, visit Track 'Em Tigers.
During a radio interview with Paul Finebaum at SEC Media Day on Wednesday, Danny Sheridan of the USA Today said that his sources at the NCAA believe they have found a third-party "bag man" who helped Auburn University obtain the services of quarterback and 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.
When I tracked down Sheridan Thursday at SEC Media Days, he said he shouldn’t have said the words "bag man" and went on to explain the confidence he has in his "sources" and how often they’ve been right.
This, of course, led to the obvious question: What are the odds of this Sheridan information panning out?
"I’d say 50-50," Sheridan said matter-of-factly.
In other words, if you were hoping for the smoking gun to appear, don't hold your breath. At least not yet.
It also doesn't help that Danny Sheridan is an Alabama guy. A notion not lost on the many Auburn fans hoping and praying he's completely wrong.
For more on Auburn University, visit Track 'Em Tigers.
During a radio interview with Paul Finebaum at SEC Media Day on Wednesday, Danny Sheridan of the USA Today said that his sources at the NCAA believe they have found a third-party "bag man" who helped Auburn University obtain the services of quarterback and 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.
"The investigation, of course, is ongoing," Sheridan told Finebaum. "And what they're looking at now, and I don't know if the NCAA can hang their hat on this, I don't know if it'll be successful, but obviously they feel there was money that exchanged hands. Proving it is another matter.
"There's x-number of dollars to Cam Newton's father's church, and x-number of dollars to his father. And that's the current investigation. That's what they're--I wouldn't say trying to prove--but that's what they're investigating. So those are the two issues: x-number of dollars to his dad, and again, x-number of dollars to his dad's church. Handled by a third party."
Sheridan added that approximately $180,000-$200,000 allegedly exchanged hands, with $20,000-$30,000 going to Newton's father's church.
During last month's SEC meetings, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik complained to the NCAA about their slowness in declaring that their investigation into Newton was over. Julie Roe Lach of the NCAA reportedly told Chizik that "You'll know when we're finished. And we're not finished".
"I don't fault Coach Chizik at all for wanting to know. The system is a tad flawed," Sheridan said. "But when you bring it to the forefront like that, unintentionally--well, it was definitely unintentional--you rev up the motors. And the more a story is in the news, such as the gentlemen on the west coast at Oregon (Chip Kelly) or LSU, the more the NCAA pursues it. That's very understandable. And they're vigorously pursuing it, and as I understand it, they're trying to get a third person, allegedly the 'bag man', to step forward. And if he steps forward, then it'll be a bad situation. But I don't know that he will step forward. I don't know if they have any evidence...
"If it happened, the money would not have been delivered by a rogue alumni, it would have been through a third-party."
If proven to be true, and alumni from Auburn are proven to have paid Cam Newton, Sheridan anticipates severe sanctions, including the vacating of the 2010 National Championship and Newton's Heisman Trophy, as well as a loss of scholarships.
For more on Auburn University, visit Track 'Em Tigers.
Auburn fans and coaches are understandably a bit frustrated about the continuing investigation surrounding Cam Newton. And, yes, if you're wondering, there is very much a continuing investigation into Cam Newton's recruitment to play for the Tigers.
So Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik decided to take advantage of a presentation by the NCAA to the league's athletics directors and basketball and football coaches to see if he could find out what was going on. It did not go well.
He peppered Roe Lach with a flurry of questions about the N.C.A.A.’s investigation into Cam Newton and why the N.C.A.A. had not publicly announced that the investigation was over. Chizik complained that the inquiry’s open-ended nature had hurt Auburn’s recruiting and he followed up at least three times, leading to a testy exchange.
"You’ll know when we’re finished," Roe Lach told Chizik, according to several coaches who were at the meeting. "And we’re not finished."
That statement isn't likely to help Auburn's recruiting very much, and the argument probably isn't going to get auburn any leniency. In any case, the basketball coaches who confirmed the debate to the Times said the room felt a bit awkward. You would think.
Throughout the Cam Newton investigation, the Auburn Tigers quarterback has been withheld from the media, though that started to change after he was declared eligible. Newton spoke briefly after the SEC Championship Game, answering a question from CBS’ Tracy Wolfson about the ordeal with “I’m a SEC champion.”
With a BCS National Championship Game around the corner, Newton’s media restrictions appear to have loosened further. Thursday, in an interview with ESPN’s Chris Fowler, Newton spoke in specifics regarding his recruitment process at Mississippi State and Auburn.
Newton said he hasn’t talked to his father about whether anything forbidden occurred during recruitment. When asked for his speculation, Newton said, “It’s not for me to say.”
He also denied telling Mississippi State coaches that Auburn’s “money was too much,” as sources had reported, saying only that he had an “excellent conversation” with MSU coach Dan Mullen.
You’ll also be shocked to discover Cam Newton refers to himself in the third person: “Auburn possessed what’s best for Cam Newton … Everything I’ve done at this university, I’ve done it the right way. I’m a person that did no wrong.”
After the NCAA ruled yesterday that Auburn Tigers QB Cam Newton would be eligible to keep playing until proven otherwise, more than a few fans and writers were upset. Among other things, the ruling seemed to set a precedent that would allow family members to shop football recruits to schools without repercussion.
NCAA president Mark Emmert addressed those concerns in a statement released this evening:
We recognize that many people are outraged at the notion that a parent or anyone else could “shop around” a student-athlete and there would possibly not be repercussions on the student-athlete’s eligibility.I’m committed to further clarifying and strengthening our recruiting and amateurism rules so they promote appropriate behavior by students, parents, coaches and third parties. We will work aggressively with our members to amend our bylaws so that this type of behavior is not a part of intercollegiate athletics.”
Many in the media and public have drawn comparisons between recent high-profile NCAA decisions while ignoring the important differences among the cases. There is a purposeful distinction between determining student-athlete responsibility through an eligibility decision and university culpability through the infractions process. Universities are accountable for rules violations through the infractions process.
Student-athletes are responsible for rules violations through the eligibility process.
Reinstatement decisions are independent of the NCAA enforcement process and typically are made once the facts of the student-athlete’s involvement are determined. The reinstatement process is likely to conclude prior to the close of an investigation.
"The enforcement staff investigates all types of rules violations," said Julie Roe Lach, NCAA vice president of enforcement. "Some of these investigations affect student-athlete eligibility and others do not. The investigation does not stop with a student-athlete eligibility issue, but school officials must address it as soon as they are aware of the violations."
The NCAA looks at each student-athlete eligibility decision based on its merits, because no two are identical. In the Cam Newton reinstatement case, there was not sufficient evidence available to establish he had any knowledge of his father’s actions and there was no indication he actually received any impermissible benefit. If a student-athlete does not receive tangible benefits, that is a different situation from a student-athlete or family member who receives cash, housing or other benefits or knowingly competes and is compensated as a professional athlete.
"As the reinstatement staff reviews eligibility cases, we must review each case based on its own merits and the specific facts," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs.
"During the decision, we must examine a number of factors, including guidelines established by our membership for what conditions should be applied based on the nature and scope of the violation. We also carefully consider any mitigating factors presented by the university to determine if relief from the guidelines should be provided."
While comparisons may be human nature, they should at least be made based on the facts.
So the NCAA can’t yet prove Cam Newton that did anything wrong, but is still looking into whether Auburn did. Got all that. And defensive tone aside, it’s nice to see the NCAA respond to what have been pretty widespread concerns.
There’s still this issue: the rule in question, as clarified to the New York Times by NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn, was broken. A one-night suspension on a night without a game is a shuffling of paperwork, not a response to a broken rule.
And this: what if Mississippi State or Auburn had paid Cecil Newton without Cam Newton’s knowledge? Would Newton be eligible in that instance? Since when is the failure to coerce a conspirator a winning defense against having attempted to do so?
It’s Emmert’s repeated insistence that no precedent has been set by this ruling that illuminates the biggest problem with the NCAA’s powers here. Since it’s decrees aren’t law, they don’t have to be governed by precedent. Without precedent, The NCAA is as free as ever to make its next decision without any shading whatsoever from this decision. It’s a capricious ruling body that will remain so whether Newton plays or not.
The NCAA deemed Auburn QB Cam Newton eligible to play in the SEC Championship game, according to a statement released Wednesday by the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff.
The timeline of events here works like this:
The statement today does not mean that this case is closed by any stretch of the imagination. The final portion of the statement is as follows:
Reinstatement decisions are independent of the NCAA enforcement process and typically are made once the facts of the student-athlete’s involvement are determined. The reinstatement process is likely to conclude prior to the close of an investigation. It is NCAA policy not to comment on current, pending or potential investigations.
That is a lawyerly way of saying that given what is known now, Auburn is free and clear to play Newton in 2010, but that the investigation may or may not be still open toward further investigation down the road. So something for everyone, in other words: Auburn fans may rejoice at getting Newton for the championship game and the potential for a national title shot, and those convinced of fishy doings here may read the final paragraph and assume the story isn't done.
Silence the crickets, message boarders: The Cam Newton investigation, after a multi-day holiday break, is spooling back up in the public view. Kenny Rogers, the alleged runner in the alleged deal-brokering that went on trying to bring Newton to Mississippi State from juco, will be meeting with officials from Mississippi's State Department on December 9. It's not a meeting that sounds like it'll be particularly fun for Rogers:
Rogers' attorney, Doug Zeit, said his client will meet with officials from the secretary's office and has been interviewed by the NCAA.
The Secretary of State's office enforces regulations under the Uniform Athlete Agent Act, which governs sports agents in Mississippi. Violators can be sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison and pay up to a $10,000 fine along with additional civil penalties.
And so far, that's all we've got. This is the speed at which we can expect news to dribble out of Birmingham, Starkville, Auburn, and wherever else this case ends up putting down roots.
Follow this story here in our StoryStream and on our Mississippi State and Auburn blogs, For Whom The Cowbell Tolls and Track 'Em Tigers.
While looking further into just exactly how much trouble Cam Newton could be in with the NCAA, we made the acquaintance of a lawyer we'll call Bob, who disagrees with the notion that Newton could already be rendered ineligible regardless of whether any money changed hands during his recruitment by Mississippi State. It's an interesting take, and we've reprinted his responses here in full, with his permission:
A solicitation (defined by Black's Law Dictionary as "[t]he act or an instance of requesting or seeking to obtain something") is distinct from an "agreement" (defined as "[a] mutual understanding between two or more persons about their relative rights and duties regarding past or future performances"). A solicitation of money is not an agreement to receive money. Quite contrary to what Mr. Travis pronounces to be "clear," a solicitation does not constitute an agreement "by nature of the solicitation." Suppose Mr. Newton simply had discussions about the possibility of receiving money for his son's enrollment at MSU. Whether he initiated those conversations or not, if (1) no money was in fact received, and (2) it cannot be demonstrated that Mr. Newton agreed to deliver his son to MSU in exchange for said money, then it is doubtful that one could make a convincing case that Mr. Newton and representatives of MSU reached an "agreement." The very fact that MSU reported this to the NCAA and so adamantly denies ever agreeing to pay money to Mr. Newton is itself strong evidence that there was never any "mutual understanding," i.e., never any agreement.
If indeed Mr. Newton did solicit money from MSU-affiliated persons (i.e., he sought money and did not merely discuss the prospect of receiving it), then the real question in this controversy is whether Mr. Newton can conclusively be deemed to have solicited money "on behalf of" his son. Remember: the NCAA has stated clearly that "[t]he solicitation of cash or benefits by a prospective student-athlete or another individual on his or her behalf is not allowed under NCAA rules."
Whether the NCAA can show that a solicitation was made on Cam's behalf starts with Cam's knowledge of what his father was doing. If it can be proven (through voicemail messages or some other such form of hard evidence) that Cam did in fact know that his father was asking for money from MSU, then the NCAA would have a better case that Mr. Newton's solicitation was made on Cam's behalf. Even if that evidence were to surface, however, under traditional legal principles of agency the NCAA would still likely have to prove that Cam actively authorized the solicitation. If it cannot be shown that Cam Newton authorized his father's alleged solicitation of money, then the most plausible conclusion is that Mr. Newton was soliciting money on his own behalf -- not Cam's. Under NCAA rules, that would not render Cam ineligible at Auburn. See Albert Means, University of Memphis.
Ultimately, we must wait patiently for the facts to come out. But in the universe of the limited information with which we are currently working, the most reasonable conclusion is the following: Cam Newton has committed no NCAA violations, Auburn has committed no NCAA violations, and therefore Cam Newton is eligible to play football at Auburn.
One of the latest-breaking pieces of the Cam Newton investigation is Mississippi State booster Bill Bell's revelation that he received a text message containing a "payment plan" that would have sent Newton to play for the Bulldogs if executed. Via his lawyer, Doug Zeit, agent-like substance Kenny Rogers has as much as admitted to being the inquiring party, and he's being extremely quick about shoveling blame in Cecil Newton's direction:
An attorney for Kenny Rogers says his client knows he made "a stupid decision" when he sent a fellow Mississippi State booster a text of Cecil Newton's payment plan to secure his son, Cam Newton's, commitment to the Bulldogs.
In a phone interview with The Associated Press Thursday, Doug Zeit says Rogers sent the text after Cecil Newton insisted he do it.
The latest ESPN dispatch is full of carefully specific lawyerspeak from both Zeit and the Newton family's attorney, George Lawson. Among the choicer bits: Zeit stating that no money changed hands (regarding Mississippi State), the insistence that the younger Newton has never asked for money, and this gem from Lawson: "Cam Newton knew nothing about any money discussions if any discussions were had." Yes, everything about this sounds completely aboveboard.
For those of you getting lost in the snarl of personalities present here, an energetic LSU message board has put together a complete cast list of current players in the investigation. Enjoy.
Bill Bell, a Mississippi State booster and former player at the school, told the NCAA he received a text message from a man claiming to represent Cam Newton’s father that outlined a payment plan designed to bring the quarterback to the Bulldogs. …
Bell told ESPN.com he also shared a series of voice mail messages from Rogers with the NCAA last week. Bell said Cecil Newton never specifically asked him for money, but that Newton was present during three-way calls in which Rogers discussed a pay-for-play scheme.
Bell says the cell phone with the original text messages on it were damaged, but he’s trying to retrieve them. Auburn better hope the proverbial dog ate them; if there are text messages like that floating around, it could be curtains for Newton’s eligibility.
Not that Bell’s current packet of proof wouldn’t be enough, if he can somehow prove that Newton was on the line when Rogers and Bell talked business. At this point, any kind of evidence that doesn’t support Auburn’s case is not good evidence, as even Cecil Newton doing this without his son knowing it could endanger Newton’s eligibility.
It’s never a one-story day in the Cam Newton saga: We either get nothing or we’re hit with a deluge of information within a few hours. So perhaps the TMZ report earlier today, which said that FBI agents involved in the investigation were asking questions about a related political bribery case, should have been a tip that more was coming.
On that front, Auburn booster Milton McGregor has issued a statement about his role (or lack thereof) in the Newton case. Keep in mind that McGregor has been charged with bribing state politicians in Alabama.
Mr. McGregor has never been asked to provide money for any recruitment or compensation of any current or perspective student athlete including Cam Newton at Auburn or any other school, and has never provided any type of compensation in that regard period no exceptions.
But he also wants you to know:
As a proud supporter of Auburn University Mr. Mcgregor wants it known that he does cheer loudly for Cam Newton and thinks he is the best athlete in college football.
Good for him.
The Cam Newton Investigation yielded a strange tangent this afternoon. TMZ is reporting a bizarre new angle to the Cam Newton investigation:
According to sources connected to the probe … FBI agents looking into the Newton recruiting controversy are also asking about Milton McGregor — a dog track owner arrested last month for allegedly bribing Alabama politicians to vote pro gambling.
McGregor is the owner of Victoryland Dog Track and Casino, and was arrested on October 11th of this year on federal bribery charges along with four state senators in Alabama’s biggest political scandal in recent memory. McGregor also donated $1 million to Auburn for the construction of an arena at the school in 2008.
No direct link between McGregor and the Newton case is made in the report. If there is anything to divine from this, it is that the FBI is pursuing an investigation in both cases, and is probing to see if—just in case—there happens to be a link between the two. The association is at this point is just that: an association the FBI is making by geography and school, albeit one that is anything but flattering to Auburn in any sense of the word.
Though it sounded sensational at the time, the involvement of the FBI in the Cam Newton investigation has turned out to be far from conjecture. John Bond, the ex-Bulldog player who serves as the connection from Mississippi State University to agent-like substance and alleged Newton family representative Kenny Rogers, confirmed through his lawyer that he's spoken with agents regarding this case. And according to Rogers' own lawyer, he's apparently next in line to be questioned by the feds.
So as far as the investigation itself, where are we regarding Cam Newton's eligibility? Three tidbits from the latest ESPN report mark the way:
Friday, Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin acknowledged in a statement that the school "was approached with an offer to provide an extra benefit" and that the school refused.
Auburn has contended that Newton is an "eligible student-athlete" in light of reports that Rogers, acting on behalf of Cecil Newton, told two Mississippi State representatives -- Bond and Bill Bell -- that it would take money to get Newton to play at their school.
[MSU booster Bill] Bell, contacted Thursday night by ESPN.com, confirmed Cecil Newton did ask for money in exchange for Cam Newton to sign with Mississippi State. Bell said he was contacted by the NCAA about the matter and spoke to an investigator earlier this week.
We have a federal investigation; we have an NCAA investigation, but nothing that's been made public indicates that Auburn University was involved in financial dealings with the Newton family, which puts him in the clear, no? Not so, according to blogger/lawyer hybrid Clay Travis:
If this is true, a clear reading of this SEC bylaw would suggest that in making this demand "a student-athlete or any member of his/her family ... agrees to receive, directly or directly," an improper benefit that would rule him ineligible not just at the school in question but at all schools in the conference in every sport. A solicitation is a request or encouragement of another to perform an act. If Cecil Newton solicited Mississippi State then he agreed to receive the improper benefits by nature of the solicitation.
Will Newton's father's alleged actions during his recruitment by Mississippi State torpedo his time at Auburn, and take with it the Tigers' undefeated season? A better question might be: Will there even be the slightest headway made in this matter before Cam Newton graduates and/or takes off for the draft?
Just a touch more intrigue leading up to the 3:30 Georgia-Auburn kickoff, because if there's one thing this game is lacking it's extraneous distraction: Auburn's Rivals outfit is reporting that "at least one representative of the NCAA" questioned Cam Newton and his parents on Thursday. Salient tidbits:
The source could not confirm if the NCAA came to any definitive conclusions on Cam Newton's eligibility following the meeting.
Jay Jacobs, Auburn's athletic director, would not comment Friday when asked if Cam Newton was eligible to play against the Bulldogs.
Newton was seen boarding the team bus Friday in Auburn.
Beyond that, we know that Newton's taken the field for warmups with the rest of his team, and is getting a riotous reception from the home crowd. All indications point to him starting for the Tigers this afternoon, but university officials remain closemouthed, and Gene Chizik has canceled his pregame interview with CBS's Tracy Wolfson.
Cecil Newton, the father of Auburn superstar quarterback Cam Newton, has served as a central figure throughout the NCAA's investigation. While the elder Newton has denied taking money from Auburn or any other school, an Atlanta TV station is reporting that he has admitted to talking about money with someone representing Mississippi State. From WSB-2:
A source close to the situation exclusively told Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Mark Winne that the player's father, Cecil Newton, has admitted having conversations with an ex-Mississippi State University player about the possibility of under-the-table money if Cam Newton signed to play football at Mississippi State, though he's steadfastly maintained that no money ever changed hands and said no official at Mississippi State ever made such an offer.
In the report, Cecil Newton is careful to note that Cam Newton had no knowledge of the conversation. The ex-Mississippi State player cited in the report was not named. Regardless of the level of culpability held by the Newtons, if this report is accurate, then it's clear that violation of NCAA regulations was at least contemplated.
The stakes, for the moment, couldn't be much higher for the Tigers: A win against Georgia Saturday would give the SEC's lone remaining undefeated team the West division title for 2010, and send them to Atlanta in December to face whoever staggers out of the lobster-pot East division. A win with a player later ruled ineligible, after being warned off (to some degree) by the NCAA, wouldn't augur well for leniency on the part of the Committee on Infractions should sanctions become part of the discussion. A win with Newton's backup, healthily-consonanted sophomore Barrett Trotter (he of the five pass completions in 2010), against a Todd Grantham defense that appears to have rediscovered the use of their upper bodies in tackling may not be possible.
All discussion of the Cam Newton investigation and its effects on the focus of the team, the Heisman Trophy race, and the like could be rendered moot very shortly. In a sharp about-face from Gene Chizik's full-throated defense of Newton on Tuesday, Auburn officials are newly closemouthed when it comes to questions about their star show pony's eligibility. Tracy Wolfson of CBS, who's of course in a pretty good position to have solid university contacts, couldn't get a word out of any Tigers athletic administrators:
Another traditionally solid source, however, is reporting that despite the zipped lips, Auburn expects Newton to start against Georgia. From AL.com:
Nothing has changed in Cam Newton's status, and Auburn expects its quarterback to start against Georgia on Saturday, the Auburn Bureau of al.com learned Friday.
Newton practiced with the first team Thursday night.
The takeaway, of course, is that nobody knows anything, still. Stay tuned to this StoryStream for all the latest updates.
The Cam Newton investigation has further-reaching implications than just this weekend's Auburn-Georgia game or the Iron Bowl. Heisman Trophy chatter site Stiff Arm Trophy polled a sample of the award's voting body, and heard back from 58 members, roughly 79% of whom said the various allegations swirling around Cam Newton wouldn't sway their voting.
Which is all very interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the reasons several of them expressed:
[A] number of voters shared the sentiment expressed by Fanhouse's Brett McMurphy (a Florida voter): "These are still only allegations. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?"
Nothing happened to it. It's still there. But unless the FBI's involvement in this case continues and deepens, nobody in Cam Newton's case is on trial. Nor is Cam entitled to due process: Recall that based on their own bylaws, the NCAA would be perfectly within bounds to recommend suspension based on the actions of Cecil Newton or another third party alone, even if Cam had no prior knowledge.
[The] Oregonian's John Hunt said, "The Heisman Trust may see fit to take a trophy away, but it's not our place to judge players' character - just what they do on the field."
That's nice -- only it is their place. The very first sentence of the Heisman Trophy Trust mission statement reads:
The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.
SB Nation's SEC communities affected by the Cam Newton investigation are all aflutter heading into a crucial weekend of gameplay, with Auburn's fate still very much in question.
Mississippi State fans wonder if they could still get burned by this whole circus:
So now the question MSU fans want to know. What does this mean for Mississippi State? Unfortunately, that question will be hard to answer right now. There are A LOT of NCAA rules and there is one in particular that I worry about in regards to Mississippi State.
I hope that MSU did not continue to try and recruit Cameron Newton after the meeting in November because that would be a violation of NCAA rules. The entire month of December is what I'm concerned about. It bothers me that MSU did not report the alleged meeting that took place in November until January. However, we simply don't know enough facts to be able to piece together all of what happened during that time period.
Alabama fans, you'll be shocked to discover, are wallowing like pigs in clover:
Isn't this fun? Again, it's a lot more enjoyable than doing a postmortem on how the hell we managed to lose to Les Miles or sitting around on pins and needles over a game with Mississippi State.
To be honest, this all comes to me as a total shock. I honestly figured all along that Rogers was the middle man in the transaction that helped transfer money between a school / booster and the Newton family, so I have expected all along that Rogers would deny everything and refuse to say anything of substance while ignoring the NCAA entirely. For him to come out openly discussing the dirty dirty comes as a major surprise to me.
Georgia fans, while far too genteel to openly gloat at the prospect of facing an Auburn team sans Newton this weekend, concede that the outcome of the game probably hinges on his presence:
In many respects, Saturday’s combatants are evenly matched, but Cameron Newton likely will make the difference. As previously noted, Newton is a strong contender for the Heisman Trophy, which ought to give Bulldog Nation pause. In 1971, Pat Sullivan stated his case for the award he later claimed in an impressive aerial performance in Athens. Against Georgia in 1985, Bo Jackson rumbled for 121 yards on just 19 carries (including a 67-yard touchdown run) en route to his own stiffarm statue. Cam Newton very well may follow in their footsteps.
And a besieged Auburn community takes comfort in the strong, stoic presence of their head coach:
While, as Auburn fans, we are used to being under attack from one side of the State of Alabama, we seldom see the venom coming our way as it is today. Not from a rivalry alone, from many sources. It can't be stressed enough how important it is to have strong, and confident leadership when faced with adversity. Auburn has that in Gene Chizik. Has it in spades.
Charles Robinson's getting in the Cam Newton investigation game, reporting that the NCAA could (very strong emphasis on could, please) recommend that Auburn sit Cam Newton for Saturday's game against Georgia -- regardless of whether or not he had any knowledge of his father's alleged recruiting antics:
Under NCAA guidelines, Newton could be held responsible for any alleged solicitation on the part of Rogers or his father, and determined to be ineligible. According to past precedent, the NCAA’s next step would be to inform Auburn of Newton’s potential ineligibility and recommend he be held out of competition indefinitely. If Auburn were to ignore that recommendation and Newton were eventually be found to be ineligible, the school could be subject to more stringent sanctioning.
Though it's still completely unknown whether Auburn took any action in the recruitment of Cam Newton that could affect the validity of their accumulated wins, the case for sitting the Heisman Trophy frontrunner to ward off fallout from eligibility problems strengthens with yet another puzzle piece: Mississippi State booster Bill Bell confirmed to ESPN tonight that Cecil Newton asked him for money and that he's been questioned by NCAA investigators.
In a twist that's both surprising and unsurprising, agent-like substance Kenny Rogers told ESPN Radio's Dallas station this afternoon that not only was Cam Newton's father Cecil Newton shopping Cam around during his recruitment out of junior college, he had a specific price range in mind. Audio of the most pertinent bit, with a transcript below:
Host Ian Fitzsimmons: Cecil Newton, in this process, in recruitment of his son, did he ever tell you flat-out, "This is what it's gonna take for any school to get my son to go sign a letter of intent and play for them?"
Kenny Rogers: Yes, he did.
Fitzsimmons: How much was it?
Rogers: Anywhere between a hundred and a hundred eighty thousand.
Fitzsimmons: To go play college football, to sign a letter of intent.
Rogers: Basically, to get his son.
ESPN has the full audio of the show, featuring both Rogers and his attorney, and some additional details -- including, of course, the part where we still don't know the extent, if any, of Auburn's involvement:
Rogers said he only was involved with Cecil Newton in regards to Mississippi State.
Rogers said he didn't know anything about Newton's recruitment at Auburn, or any other school. He said he had "no idea" why Newton chose Auburn and had no idea if Auburn paid Newton.
SB Nation's Track 'Em Tigers is already breaking down the latest news volley.
SB Nation's SEC blog, Team Speed Kills, has the official statement from the Mississippi State University athletic department regarding the ongoing controversy regarding quarterback Cam Newton's recruitment:
STATEMENT FROM THE MISSISSIPPI STATE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT:
Mississippi State University acknowledges that it contacted the Southeastern Conference office in January of 2010 regarding an issue relating to its recruitment of Cam Newton.
Shortly after the initial call, the SEC office requested specific information to include interviews with involved staff from MSU.
Due to MSU dealing with ongoing and time-consuming eligibility issues involving non-football matters in the winter and spring of 2010, the specific SEC request went unfulfilled. Some additional information was provided to the SEC during July of 2010. Once the NCAA enforcement staff became involved, Mississippi State University cooperated fully with its investigation. MSU is confident the SEC office has managed this process consistent with its established procedures and the university is committed to the conference's ongoing efforts to ensure compliance with SEC and NCAA rules.
Team Speed Kills notes that the "time-consuming eligibility issues" referenced in the release most likely relate to Renardo Sidney, who was pursued by MSU after USC dropped him following a report that Sidney's family accepted free housing and a loan based on Renardo's future earning ability. That case would delay MSU fulfilling the SEC's request for information because Mississippi State employs only one compliance director.
Also worthy of consideration is the fact that MSU coach Dan Mullen continued to recruit Newton even after he was made aware of the compliance issues. The initial contact the university made to the SEC came only after Newton signed with Auburn.
The NCAA has so far declined to comment on the release.
While Auburn continues to conduct an investigation into possible Cam Newton recruiting improprieties, the head coach of the Tigers, Gene Chizik, said on Wednesday that Newton will play this Saturday against Georgia:
Auburn coach Gene Chizik beat the questioners to the punch during his portion of the SEC teleconference Wednesday.
“Cameron Newton will be playing Saturday against the Georgia Bulldogs,’’ Chizik said before he entertained questions.
Chizik wouldn’t answer questions concerning the allegations against Cam Newton, and said he is “focused on Georgia and beating Georgia.”
This comes the day after ESPN reported via anonymous sources that Cam Newton and his father were seeking “more than a scholarship” from Mississippi State to bring the QB to Starkville.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton's father, Cecil Newton, is at the center of reports alleging requests of benefits above and beyond a scholarship during the younger Newton's recruitment. Reports surfaced tonight indicating both Cam and Cecil Newton requested money for the quarterback's services in phone conversations with Mississippi State recruiters. When it came time to end his recruitment, Cam Newton allegedly told Mississippi State his father chose Auburn for him because "the money was too much." FoxSports' Thayer Evans somehow got in touch with Cecil Newton and asked for comment on the latest allegations. He, predictably, had no comment, but seemed to dare reporters to keep throwing stories out there.
"I'm not going to confirm nor deny nothing that has been taking place," Cecil Newton said.
"I've answered what I need to answer," Cecil Newton said. "If they're out there, go with it and make the decision or determination based on whatever you've got to say."
Newton described the allegations as a "witch hunt" but said reporters can "keep doing what they're doing" in the statement. While there's been nothing but smoke so far in this investigation, the smoke has grown thicker with each passing day. Cecil Newton's no comment and non-denial surely won't quell the firestorm surrounding his son.
ESPN is reporting Cam Newton's father, Cecil Newton, spoke of needing "more than a scholarship" during the star quarterbacks recruitment process last year. Both Cam and Cecil Newton allegedly confirmed in two separate phone interviews that a pay-for-play plan was needed to secure the quarterback. The sources, both with recruiting ties to Mississippi State, added Cam Newton called to inform them his father had chosen Auburn for him, saying the "the money was too much." Mississippi State relayed the information to the SEC compliance office in January.
Prior to Newton's commitment to Auburn, one of the recruiters said Cecil Newton told him it would take "more than a scholarship" to bring his son to Mississippi State, a request the source said the school would not meet. Cecil Newton also referred the recruiter to a third person that would provide more specifics, the source said.
Newton has been embroiled in controversy for the better part of the last week. After allegations of recruiting violationssurfaced on Thursday, it's been open season on the Heisman contender from Auburn. It got worse for Newton, at least in the PR department, yesterday after allegations of academic impropriety during his time at Florida came to light. Auburn head coach Gene Chizik spent the day feverishly denying the allegations in an emotional statement to the media. Even if Newton did cheat while at Florida, it wouldn't affect his current status at Auburn.
Let's review: So far today in the Cam Newton investigation spectacular, we've seen the University of Florida frantically waving off charges they leaked Newton's academic records to the press, Alabama fans gleefully combing through his rich history of traffic tickets, and the FBI sniffing around the pay-for-play allegations. Let's watch Gene Chizik introduce a slow jam of emotion to bring some human edge to this forbidding landscape:
|Auburn's Gene Chizik defends Cam Newton|
[I] want to make this very clear, because I'm wasting my time addressing allegations that completely to be frank, blow my mind that they're even out there."
"But I'm standing up here on a very important week trying to defend something that quite frankly is garbage. Is there a wizard behind the curtain? I don't know. Is there one, is there two, are there 10? I don't know and I don't care. But what I do care about is coming to the defense of not only a great football player but a great human being who comes from a great family."
A great football player, absolutely. A great family ... we certainly hope so, for Cam's sake and for Auburn's.
TMZ Sports is reporting that the FBI has requested an interview with John Bond, the former Mississippi State quarterback who went on record this week regarding Cam Newton and a request by a third party for cash in exchange for his commitment to an SEC school.
Bond’s attorney confirmed with TMZ that a request for an interview had been made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been made.
Bond’s attorney confirms to TMZ Sports that the FBI has requested a sit-down meeting with his client — and tells us the agent who contacted him said, “We are interested in whether young men are being shopped to colleges.”
There’s not an established date for the interview. Newton, the player who is the focus of the investigation, remains eligible to play this weekend against Georgia, and Auburn’s AD Jay Jacobs and Gene Chizik have in separate statements supported Newton publicly as being guilty of no wrongdoing.
Despite this outward stance of calm solidarity, the intervention of the FBI in the case is a dramatic ramp-up in intensity even if the agency is merely sight-seeing. If there was any doubt as to the seriousness of the affair at this point, the presence of men with FBI badges in the middle of the drama should erase that with a swiftness.
Urban Meyer has denied he is the source of the cheating allegations made regarding Cam Newton's time at Florida.
"Our entire focus right now is on preparing for our biggest game of the year against South Carolina,'' Meyer said. "For anyone to think that I or anyone on our staff may have leaked information about private student records to the media doesn't know us very well. It's a ridiculous claim and simply not true.''
The allegations, published by Thayer Evans on FoxSports.com, detail Newton handing in a paper that was not his during his freshman year at Florida, a violation of the student academic honor code that might have had him facing expulsion.
There is the question of how the information got out in the first place, since student records are confidential and protected under the Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA). If the institution did leak them, there's a serious violation of both institutional standards and the law, but this isn't necessarily how it happened, either. The source in this case could just as easily be a friend or someone else who is not an employee of the university, which while gossipy is certainly not a violation of any laws.
Late Monday night, FoxSports broke the news that Auburn quarterback Cam Newtown reportedly had three separate instances of cheating during his time at Florida, and faced expulsion as a result. Of course, this news comes just days after allegations of recruiting violations surfaced.
There are two important things to keep in mind: 1) cheating at Florida should not affect his eligibility at Auburn, and 2) this investigation is hardly over.
Auburn's athletic director Jay Jacobs told USA Today that they've been investigating Newton since the summer, looking into questions surrounding his eligibility, but they've "found no issues."
"Any of our student-athletes, if we had any questions about them, about their eligibility," Jacobs said, "we wouldn't want them to play." [...]
"It's not a closed matter," he said. "It's still ongoing. ... But we look for Cam to continue to play for us."
When asked if there would be any reason Newton would not be allowed to finish this season, Jacobs said, "I don't have a way to know that at this time."
Auburn, 10-0 and No. 2 in the BCS, hosts Georgia this weekend before ending their regular season next week at No. 12 Alabama.
In light of Monday night’s report from FOX that Auburn QB Cam Newton cheated while he was at Florida, SB Nation’s Team Speed Kills raises a good point: Why does this news matter?
According to the report, Newton was arrested in 2008 while he was a student at Florida for stealing a laptop. And in another incident, he allegedly violated the honor code by passing off another student’s paper as his own. Both of these are indefensible acts, but neither should affect his status as Auburn’s quarterback — Newton can’t be punished at his current school for violating another university’s honor code. Which leaves Team Speed Kills wondering why this story is coming out at all:
I can’t think of why it’s newsworthy to begin with. So he cheated and was about to be expelled — what am I supposed to do with this information? Think less of him? It’s interesting gossip, but I’m not sure that it’s a journalistic endeavor any more than finding out who John Mayer’s latest girlfriend is.
This is different than the possible pay issue. Records like this are supposed to be confidential, and there’s no reason to report on them unless it has ramifications for Newton’s career at Auburn. Otherwise, it’s just a cheap smear.
There is already plenty of speculation that Florida coach Urban Meyer and the Gators football program are connected to the leaks in this story. Expect those rumors to intensify now that private records from Florida have magically become public. Clearly, someone at Florida is talking to FOX. And FOX is more than willing to run with whatever info it's being fed.
It’s getting worse before it gets better for Auburn Heisman contender Cam Newton. Already under investigation for the events surrounding his recruitment, Newton’s past at Florida is coming to light -- and it isn't pretty. Newton spent a tumultuous two years at Florida, according to FoxSports.com’s Thayer Evans. It was two years that reportedly involved multiple instances of academic dishonesty in addition to an arrest for the theft of a laptop. Insert your own Jeremiah Masoli joke here.
Newton was arrested for the theft of a laptop from a Florida student’s dorm room in November 2008. He again violated the university’s honor code by putting his name on another student’s paper and turning it in, according to the source. Newton was caught after the instructor asked the real author of the paper why he had not turned in his work, the source said.
It didn’t end there, however. When asked to resubmit the work, the source said Newton handed over a paper purchased on the Internet. The teacher caught attempt No. 2 at cheating, sending Newton to the Florida Student Conduct Committee for his efforts. If nothing else he was persistent.
Instead of facing the consequences for violating the university’s conduct code not once, not twice, but thrice, Newton took his talents to Blinn College before transferring to Auburn and entering the thick of the 2010 Heisman race. With his eligibility in question and an NCAA investigation in full swing, reports about his departure from Florida — and the unflattering circumstances that surrounded it — are about the last thing Newton needed this week.
Sure, his recruitment is the subject of an NCAA investigation that could derail his Heisman Trophy campaign and Auburn's undefeated season. But that doesn't mean Cam Newton can't take it all in stride.
In post-game comments following a five-touchdown day against Chattanooga — comments Auburn asked reporters to keep free of investigation mentions — the Auburn quarterback demurred at first, then dropped one of the quotes of the year in response to the tumult.
"I love Auburn and that's all I got to say. God has blessed me right now... When God be blessin', the Devil be messin.'"
It's not hard to imagine Newton delivering that one with his signature broad smile. And without any substantial evidence linking him to any wrongdoing at this point and the backing of Auburn, which insists he's been eligible, he has reason to smile right now.
But there's likely more to this story, and if any fire matches the smoke seen so far, that smile could soon be wiped from Cam Newton's face.
Add Cam Newton to the list of people denying that Cam Newton did anything wrong after the news that a former Mississippi State quarterback allegedly tried to auction off the player's services as he was leaving the junior college ranks.
"I didn't do anything wrong," Newton said. "I'm blessed to be at Auburn right now. I'm sure the smoke will settle. I'm looking forward to the game tomorrow."
While it marks Newton's first comments on the investigation, this is probably not the last time Newton he'll have to address it.
Cam Newton’s coach in junior college is blasting as “false” the notion that a former Mississippi State quarterback was auction off Newton’s services to the highest bidder.
Brad Franchione, coach of Blinn Junior College, told CBSSports.com that he believes in the character of both Newton and his family.
“They are a humble, modest family,” Franchione said. “It’s unfortunate.”
Franchione also voiced hopes that the controversy won’t affect Newton’s pursuit of awards like the Heisman. That likely won’t be clear until the ceremonies in the December.
Keep an eye on Track Em Tigers, our Auburn blog, for the latest on Newton and Auburn.
We now have a denial of the reported three-person call between John Bond, who blew the whistle on the pay-to-play offer made to Mississippi State for Cam Newton’s services, Dan Mullen and Urban Meyer.
Bond spoke to an Atlanta radio station and, according to Year2 over at Team Speed Kills, denied the idea of a Florida-State conspiracy to leak the story.
He laughed when asked if Urban Meyer put him up to this. He told the Mississippi State athletics department about Rogers’s offer, and that’s the end of his involvement.
There was never a three-way phone call between him, Dan Mullen, and Meyer where the Gators coach insisted on taking this story public, as reported by some less reputable Auburn news sites.
Not that this will stop the more cynical among us — and most Auburn fans of any degree of cynicism — from believing it anyway. But since everyone is going to largely believe whatever they want to about the whole matter, there’s grist for the mill of those who doubt Meyer’s involvement.
We suppose this was inevitable, really, but quietly roiling allegations that connect Urban Meyer to the Cam Newton investigation finally have a mouthpiece and a name to go with them: Phillip Marshall of the (unfortunately paywalled) Auburn Undercover site has heard from folks who heard from John Bond that Urbz pushed for the publicizing of the Cam Newton improper recruitment rigamarole. That's several degrees of separation at work, so take this with as much salt as you can stomach:
Bond was on a three-way telephone call with Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen and Meyer to discuss the situation. Both Mullen and Bond said that they believed the matter was closed. They had done what they were supposed to do, passed it on to the league office, and nothing else needed to be said.
But Meyer strongly disagreed, saying it needed to be public and that he was going to call The New York Times. Meyer and Pete Thamel, the reporter who wrote the story for The New York Times, are close friends.
Meyer, Bond has said privately, "is behind the whole thing."
SB Nation's Track 'Em Tigers has a lively discussion going on the matter, where the first commenter jokes, "If ya can't beat em, try as hard as you can to get them on probation."
The Cam Newton investigation plot thins, a little: The AP is now reporting, via ESPN, that Auburn is denying any contact with Kenny Rogers or requests for cash during Newton's recruitment out of junior college.
Auburn has not received a letter of inquiry from the sport's governing body, the person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Friday on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to comment publicly.
The person said Newton's eligibility "has at no point been in jeopardy." Newton will play Saturday vs. Chattanooga.
Just to remind: Nobody, yet, is saying Newton himself or the Auburn football program has gotten up to anything they shoudn't have. This situation has yet to progress beyond Kenny Rogers and Mississippi State. And this does dovetail with Gene Chizik's flat, declarative statements on his radio show Thursday night that Newton's amateur status is not endangered.
SB Nation's Team Speed Kills offers three hypothetical (but plausible) scenarios concerning the now-controversial recruitment of Cam Newton from junior college:
SCENARIO 1: THE LONE GUNMAN
Kenny Rogers is a shady character, already having gotten in trouble for falsely claiming to be an NFLPA employee. Seeing an opportunity, he began calling up schools known to be interested in Newton and asking for $200,000 in exchange for Newton's services. He pretended to be in the Newton camp just like when he faked being NFLPA employee, and he hoped that whatever school Newton committed to (or one of its boosters) would fall for his scheme and send him a payment after Newton signed.
This scenario is basically the one that Cam and Cecil Newton are putting forward: that Rogers is a sleaze bag who worked alone in trying to bilk schools out of money. Because he was never officially representing the Newton family, Cam is completely eligible to play just as Gene Chizik asserts.
We do find it hard to believe that, in an imaginary shady recruiting shakedown, Newton wouldn't rate more than Albert Means money (have you seen this kid run?). Read the rest of the theories at Team Speed Kills.
Pete Thamel of the New York Times has his latest column up, and it includes at least four new (at least to my knowledge) pieces of information regarding the investigation: (1) John Bond makes the explicit allegation that Kenny Rogers made the representation to him that he represented the Newton camp; (2) court documents show that Kenny Rogers has financial ties to NFL agent Ian Greengross via a shared bank account; (3) Newton's father, in addition to being a preacher, also owns a construction company; (4) Roger's company specializes in players who are transferring and players who have been kicked out of school.
It's this fourth piece of information that may end up causing Cam Newton the most problems. The function of Rogers' firm plus the previously-acknowledged relationship between Cecil Newton and Rogers is going to reek of improper agent contact to even the casual observer.
The late hour of the Cam Newton investigation story's surfacing Thursday night didn't stop the discussion, keeping about half the SEC awake and the message boards humming. Here's a roundup of Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama, and other SEC fan reactions in the wake of this potential blockbuster story.
SB Nation's Mississippi State community, For Whom The Cowbell Tolls, sifts through the various rumors and facts surrounding the Newton family and wonders why we're just now hearing about all this:
Why did the SEC sit on this story for a year? John Bond reported all of this in September 2009 but the SEC didn't notify Auburn until July 2010. Why the long wait?
SB Nation's Roll Bama Roll plays it cool in anticipation of a storyline that could make or break this year's Iron Bowl:
Now, stating the obvious, this could be a huge story of Albert Means / Reggie Bush proportions. In all fairness, though, it could be all a bunch of hot air and half-baked allegations. We'll see in due time, so no use rushing to anything now. If this story is legitimate and if there indeed was a pay-for-play scheme, then I'm sure all of it will come to light in due time. If not, it'll rightly become a moot point.
SB Nation's Team Speed Kills makes the rare plea for caution and impartiality in the SEC community:
Finally -- no, the ESPN story was not a hit piece. Yes, Mark Schlabach went to Georgia. [...] Not that it should matter where Schlabach or anyone else went to school, because the vast majority of journalists I've known honestly do try to keep their personal biases out of the reporting they do. Whether you believe that is up to you, of course, and there is a deeply-ingrained "kill the messenger" response whenever a story like this is reported. But the best way to undermine a story is to prove that someone got the facts wrong regardless of their college; no one has done so in this case, so until they do we're going to assume that ESPN got what they reported right. That means that the allegations and the investigation are out there.
And SB Nation's Track 'Em Tigers has a discussion going for fans of the team most affected by all this, comforting itself with the simple starkness of Auburn officials' statements:
Auburn assistant athletic director and media relations Kirk Sampson said "We have been made aware of the allegation. Unfortunately, we cannot comment at this time." "However, Cam Newton is eligible to play football at Auburn."
Dan Wetzel's piece on the Cam Newton investigation is yet another chapter in his long jeremiad against the BCS, the NCAA, and the code of amateurism--or as he would write it, "amateurism"--that yields little payout for athletes and huge windfalls for athletic departments and the bowl system:
In the end this is the same old story. College football’s power brokers write a bunch of lip-service rules in an effort to maintain the sports’ "amateurism" so they can continue to beat federal, state and local taxes. When you pay neither taxes nor the players there’s a lot more cash laying around to line your pockets.
True enough in this Cam Newton case, though the great majority of football programs don't run at nearly the financial speed you'll see in the SEC, Big Ten, or Big 12. When Wetzel writes about corruption in the NCAA, we are talking about every school, but most especially about a group of 30 or so schools of a magnitude greater than their surrounding competition.
Major conferences are really their own Premier League at this point, and serve as a semi-pro training league for the NFL. They also happen to be attached to and sheltered by universities, and that's where the trouble really starts in the conflict between the avowed non-profit status of universities and the large profits college football can yield.
For all the hoopla that's descending at this very moment on Cam Newton and the Auburn football program, there's not even an officially acknowledged NCAA investigation in the works (that we know of). Piece together the timeline from the ESPN piece that kicked this all off, however, and reading between the lines is not difficult:
• Mississippi State alum John Bond reported contact from an old teammate, believed to be Kenny Rogers, to MSU athletic director Greg Byrne.
• MSU called the SEC.
• Bond met with an NCAA investigator and school officials.
• The NCAA's not talking:
"We do not comment on current, pending or potential investigations," said Stacey Osburn, the NCAA's associate director for media and public relations. Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA's new director of enforcement, said it is the association's policy to neither confirm nor deny an investigation.
• Neither is the SEC:
[SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey] also would not directly comment on whether the league office considers this an ongoing issue or a closed case.
• And neither is the university:
"We have been made aware of the allegation. Unfortunately, we cannot comment at this time," Auburn assistant athletic director, media relations Kirk Sampson said. "However, Cam Newton is eligible to play football at Auburn."
• The NFL Players Association, however, is another story:
NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis told ESPN.com on Thursday that the organization is "in the process of investigating [Greengross and Rogers] as we speak for violations of our rules and regulations."
They know, is the point. Everybody knows, and has known since last summer, and now the question becomes whether Auburn's involved in this at all. Both schools claim to have been completely aboveboard in their actions, but if there's a real connection between Rogers and the Newton family, young Cameron could still find himself sidelined at the height of his game.
One important point to take away from the freshly-hatched Cam Newton Six-Figure Circus is that the Auburn football program isn't implicated, unless they, too, were asked to pay him, and right now nobody's saying that they were or they did. Gene Chizik addressed the issue rather emphatically at the top of his radio show tonight:
Not a lot of wiggle room there. But if Newton is ruled ineligible thanks to incidents that took place before he even signed with the Tigers, because of the agent-like substance alleged to have contacted Mississippi State on his behalf, the SEC West title, SEC championship, and national title races will all change dramatically. SB Nation Atlanta takes a look at the wider implications if Auburn is forced to take the field without their brightest star:
Newton has accounted for 41 percent of his team’s rushing yards and 93 percent of their passing yards. He’s even caught one of Auburn’s 16 touchdown receptions. He’s fourth in the nation in rushing yards and yards per pass attempt, and he’s done it against one of the country’s toughest schedules.
Without him Auburn might have a decent running game, though much of Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb’s effectiveness has been due to the attention Newton draws.
Auburn’s defense ranks in the bottom of the SEC. The only teams worse in both scoring and total defense are the Mississippi Rebels, Tennessee Volunteers, and Vanderbilt Commodores, who combine for one SEC win against teams besides each other.
Cam Newton's eligibility likely hinges on what exactly agent Kenny Rogers did during the process of his recruitment from Blinn Junior College in Texas to Auburn. Rogers, though, has already been part of one flap about the role of agents in college sports this year.
In July, ESPN Chicago's Michael C. Wright wrote about the NFL Players Association investigating Chicago agent Ian Greengross and an associate. That associate was Rogers.
Rogers allegedly worked as a runner for Greengross, connecting him to players, and, according to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, may have posed as a representative from the NFLPA in order to influence players.
Greengross explained his involvement with Rogers as thus:
"I paid Kenny to work with some of my players," said Greengross, who according to his Facebook page represents Bears players Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman, Israel Idonije and Lance Briggs as a Chicago attorney. "He introduced me to a lot of coaches, and [I paid him] to review film of players and scout players. I paid him a flat fee. I never paid a percentage for referring players. That's disclosed on the NFLPA form [which is required of agents, who have business ties with people who have contact with any of the agent's clients]."
There's probably a ways to go before we know what, exactly, transpired during Cam Newton's recruitment, or what role Kenny Rogers played in it. But there's more than enough circumstantial evidence here to light sports radio programs and message boards ablaze in the coming days.
And what Rogers said then in response to allegations of wrongdoing won't help.
Rogers called the NFLPA's investigation "crazy." Asked if he was concerned about possible ramifications, Rogers said, "Hell, yeah. Man, nobody needs his name tarnished, especially when I do what I do to try to put kids in school. I don't need nothing like that."
If Cam Newton is at the center of an NCAA investigation regarding his eligibility, his father may be just slightly off-center.
Cecil Newton is mentioned in ESPN's report on the investigation as the pastor of Holy Zion Center of Deliverance in the Atlanta suburb of Newnan, Georgia. That church doesn't return many results, but a condemned building the church has used has been part of an ongoing squabble over its destruction, and Bishop Cecil Newton shows up in news reports about it.
ESPN report has Cecil Newton saying he's met Kenny Rogers, the agent (or "agent") who solicited cash from Mississippi State for Cam Newton's commitment. But Cecil is also important because he reportedly made the decision that his son would play for Auburn.
Last December the choice of which college to attend came down to two schools—Auburn and Mississippi State. Newton preferred Starkville because of his close relationship with Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen, who had been Newton's offensive coordinator at Florida. But Cecil thought his son should choose Auburn, which had an experienced offensive line (four starters were returning) and was only a two-hour drive from Atlanta. Newton let his father make the final decision, and a few days before Christmas, while sitting at the dinner table in his brother's house in Jacksonville, Cecil Sr. uttered two words that would radically alter the college football landscape: "It's Auburn."
It's a safe bet we'll learn more about Cecil Newton in the days to come.
So remember how Cam "Cameron" Newton wanted to play for Dan Mullen when it came time for him to return to I-A ball, but left the decision up to his dad and ended up at Auburn? There may have been much, much more to that second round of recruiting than we've been led to believe, as ESPN.com is reporting an agent or agent-like substance claiming to represent Newton wanted $180,000 to send the juco wonder to Mississippi State, and boasted that other schools were offering $200,000:
Former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond told ESPN.com that a teammate of Bond's at Mississippi State in the early 1980s contacted him soon after Newton's official visit to Mississippi State during the Ole Miss game in December, and said he was representing Newton. "He said it would take some cash to get Cam," Bond said. "I called our athletic director, Greg Byrne, and he took it from there." [...] Sources told ESPN.com that the former teammate is Kenny Rogers, who played at Mississippi State from 1982-85. Rogers operates a Chicago-based company called Elite Football Preparation, which holds camps in Chicago, Alabama and Mississippi. A Lexis search for that business lists Kenneth Rogers as the contact and his title as "agent." A Birmingham News story from 2008 said Elite Football Preparation "matches high school athletes with college programs."
Is anyone surprised? The Chinese Zodiac designates 2010 as the year of the Tiger, but in college football this remains the season of giant bats. The starting quarterback of the No. 2 team in the country may very soon find himself ineligible, and his frontrunning program with him, and if you're batting an eye you haven't been paying attention.
(Oh, and we get to dispense with the tiresome rebranding and go back to calling him "Cam" now, right? It flows ever so smoother off the tongue.)
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