YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Perhaps it’s not necessary for Auburn to forfeit. Yahoo! Sports reports that the NCAA is going to ask Auburn tomorrow to sit Newton out of Saturday’s game against Georgia pending questions about his eligibility.
The problem Auburn has with Newton is that whether there was an Auburn booster involved in sprucing up his dad’s church or not, Newton’s eligibility is in question even if all that happened was someone – whether it was his father or Kenny Rogers – shaking people down on his behalf.
“The solicitation of cash or benefits by a prospective student-athlete or another individual on his or her behalf is not allowed under NCAA rules,” NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn told Yahoo! Sports on Thursday.
To boil this down, you can’t have an agent and be a college football player. Somebody who’s negotiating under-the-table payments to get you to sign with a school is an agent. Even if that somebody is your father. So Rogers, who had his lawyer with him when he went on the air on ESPN Radio in Dallas today and described a meeting in Starkville wherein Cecil Newton represented his son wouldn’t sign “for free this time” more or less sticks the dagger in if he’s not outright lying.
It doesn’t particularly put Rogers in the clear for all this to come out, by the way. Nor does it help anybody who plays in Auburn’s league, as apparently one of the things Rogers does for a living is help “troubled” college players who need to change schools find new homes. Like Jeremiah Masoli at Ole Miss, for example. Or Ryan Perrilloux at Jacksonville State. Rogers apparently had something to do with Bryce Brown at Tennessee and may have had a hand in Brown’s subsequent relocation to Kansas State, where he’s “paying his own way” as a transfer student.
The upshot of this is that if the NCAA, amid a burgeoning scandal, comes to you and “suggests” that you sit a player, you do it. And without Newton, who even with this scandal is the likely Heisman winner and is almost certainly the top pick in the draft next April, Auburn is a very, very mediocre team.
The kind of team, in fact, which will have a lot of trouble beating Georgia on Saturday and will really struggle to beat Alabama.
Playing this scenario out, an Auburn collapse would give LSU’s fortunate-son head coach Les Miles a chance to battle his way into the SEC Championship game with wins against Ole Miss in two weeks and Arkansas Nov. 27. And if LSU were to knock off the winner of this weekend’s South Carolina-Florida game in Atlanta, they will have beaten either five or six ranked teams – more than anyone else in contention for the national title. They’ll also be the SEC champion and probably No. 1 in the computer polls.
Which means Kenny Rogers and ESPN Radio could very well give Miles the opportunity to play his way into the national championship game.
How crazy is that?
ANOTHER UPDATE: Kenny Rogers, a former Mississippi State player and runner for Chicago sports agent Ian Greengross who was apparently involved in Cam Newton’s recruitment – it was Rogers who got word to John Bond that Newton would sign with Mississippi State for $180,000 – was on the radio in Dallas today, attorney in tow, to bolster the accusations against Newton.
Rogers told ESPN 103.3 in Dallas that, on Friday night, Nov. 27, 2009, the night before Ole Miss played Mississippi State, he and Cecil Newton sat inside the Hilton Garden Inn in Starkville, Miss., and discussed where Cam Newton would sign with two Mississippi State football coaches.
Cam Newton was on his official visit to Mississippi State that weekend.
Rogers said that Cecil Newton told the two Mississippi State coaches, whom he would not identify, that State would have to pay between $100,000 and $180,000 to get Cam Newton to sign with the Bulldogs.
Rogers went further with the accusations…
Rogers said Cecil Newton asked him, “What do you think is going to happen? Do you think it (the deal) is going to go through?”
Rogers said he told Newton, “I’ll call Bill Bell.”
Bell is a former teammate of Rogers at Mississippi State. Bell is the president of Bel-Mac Roofing in Santa Rosa, Fla.
Rogers said he left a message for Bell that Sunday. Why?
“If somebody’s asking for that kind of money, I don’t have that kind of money,” Rogers said. “I called somebody I was close to to see if he knew anybody.”
Rogers said that it was Bell who called another of their former Mississippi State teammates, John Bond, to tell him of Cecil Newton’s solicitation. Bond has said that, when he learned of the solicitation, he reported it to then-Mississippi State AD Greg Byrne.
Cecil Newton is Cam Newton’s father. He’s a minister who’s Atlanta church was falling down a year ago and is now up to code.
Auburn’s internal investigation apparently says they can’t find any phone records of anyone from Auburn talking with Rogers during the period of Cam’s recruitment, which doesn’t contradict Rogers’ statements. He says his involvement in the Newton situation was limited to the question of whether he might end up at Mississippi State. Rogers also said he has no knowledge of what Auburn was offering Newton.
UPDATE: More information is starting to surface on this, and the Auburn pucker factor is increasing. Turns out there are a couple of folks who were recruiting Newton out of Mississippi State who were told that Auburn was offering him too much money to turn down and that it would take “more than a scholarship” to get Newton to Starkville out of junior college.
This won’t end well. The question is whether it ends before this season is over. While it would be unusual for such an occurrence to take place, this situation is developing more rapidly than any we’ve seen.
ORIGINAL: The Cameron Newton thing is rapidly expanding into a full-blown scandal.
TMZ reports that the FBI is now involved in an investigation of allegations that an agent was shopping the Auburn quarterback around for somewhere between $180,000 and $200,000 to prospective universities when Newton was at Blinn Junior College last year.
The man feds want to speak with is John Bond — a former Mississippi State football star. Last week, Bond claimed people connected to Heisman front-runner Cam Newton contacted him back in 2009 and said it would take $180,000 to get Cam to commit to MSU.
Newton eventually committed to Auburn University, where he’s now one of the top quarterbacks in the country.
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.”
Newton has denied any wrongdoing — and reps for Auburn have stated that Newton remains eligible to play and will start this weekend against Georgia.
Newton, who at this point seems like a shoo-in for the Heisman Trophy and will likely be the first pick in the NFL draft in April, has been the subject of widespread rumors and speculation since leaving Florida for Blinn two years ago. Newton found himself in trouble for stealing a laptop computer before leaving Florida – an offense which has not typically resulted in dismissal during Urban Meyer’s era in Gainesville. But the New York Times reports he was under investigation for academic fraud before leaving the Gator program.
Is it likely that the Newton rumors will come to a resolution before the end of the 2010 season? Probably not. But the scandal seems to be spinning out fairly quickly and might soon take on a life of its own. And with the FBI becoming involved, the odds of a break in the case are improving.
And in the event of a Newton eligibility crisis and Auburn forfeiture, LSU’s national championship prospects go from a long shot to quite good. Assuming, of course, that the Tigers don’t drop the ball from here until the end of the season.
History shows those who doubt Les Miles’ ability to inspire good fortune for himself are frequently proven wrong. Miles took a beating from across the spectrum of LSU fandom after his team’s loss to Auburn three weeks ago. What a turn of events it might be should that loss be wiped off the books courtesy of an NCAA scandal!
Hey, stranger things have happened. If a team can win a game thanks to a defense having 13 players on the field on the last play…