This week had been relatively quiet on the Cam Newton investigation front.
Word came out that John Bond had met with the FBI. Then word leaked that Kenny Rogers had met with the NCAA. Nothing big there. Nothing unexpected.
But yesterday afternoon, the floodgates opened and wave after wave of new allegations and rumors emerged. Rogers’ attorney told the press that his client wasn’t pointing a finger at Mississippi State or Auburn, but at Cecil Newton. TMZ.com ran with word that an Auburn booster by the name of Milton McGregor has been somehow connected to the story by the FBI agents questioning a person in their own Newton investigation. And messageboard rumors have now hit the web on sports blogs.
Let’s catch you up on the basics:
* Mississippi State booster and former player Bill Bell told ESPN — and the NCAA — that he had actually received a text message from his former teammate Rogers detailing the payment plan that Cecil Newton wanted followed. Bell is trying to retrieve the text message… as his cell phone has suffered water damage. (Think Auburn fans buy that one?) Bell also claims to have voice mail messages from Rogers regarding Newton’s recruitment.
* “I’ve never been involved in paying anything for a player,” Bell said. “I’m not that big of a booster.” (I don’t think that came out right because it makes it sound like MSU does have some boosters who are big enough to buy players.) “I told Kenny that Coach Mullen was personally handling the recruitment of Cam Newton and no one was going to pay them any money. Kenny said, ‘Well, how about $100,000?’”
* As for Rogers, Bell defended his old teammate. “It was probably three phone calls or so before Kenny said, ‘They’re going to want money.’ It just seemed like he didn’t know what he was doing, like it was the first time he’d ever done something like that. I really believe it was Mr. Newton asking Kenny to do it. I don’t think it was Kenny’s idea.”
* In potentially bad news for MSU, Bell did talk to the elder Newton. Boosters aren’t supposed to actively recruit for a school — though it happens and we all know it does. Bell says that MSU officials told him to stop talking to Newton and Rogers. He says he never spoke with the younger Newton.
* According to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, MSU officials would not comment on Bell’s comments or ESPN’s latest story.
* Yesterday afternoon, messageboard fodder turned into actual news — sort of — when websites across the internet began running with McGregor/Bobby Lowder stories. McGregor is a casino-owner in Alabama who gave $1 million for the construction of the new Auburn Arena in 2008. He was recently arrested for allegedly attempting to buy votes. Lowder has long been one of Auburn’s — and the SEC’s — biggest boosters. Federal investigations into McGregor and Lowder’s failed Colonial Bank have reportedly — according to some messageboarders — turned up dirt relating to AU’s football program.
* The attorney for McGregor denied TMZ.com’s report that linked him to the Newton mess. According to his attorney: “Contrary to postings on celebrity and sports blogs, Milton McGregor has never had any contact direct or indirect with Cam Newton, Cecil Newton — Cam’s father, Kenny Rogers, or anyone purporting to represent Cam Newton. 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. As a proud supporter of Auburn University Mr. McGregor wants it known that he does cheer loudly for Cam Newton and he thinks he is the best athlete in college football.” That press release reads as though it was written by a kid fresh out of law school. It likely doesn’t help McGregor’s image one iota.
* The Birmingham News reports that to date, no one has said that Cam Newton has been involved in any shady dealings. Well, not exactly. Last week, ESPN.com’s Joe Schad reported that — according to a source — the quarterback phoned an MSU recruiter “to express regret that he wouldn’t be going to Mississippi State, stating that his father, Cecil, had chosen Auburn for him because ‘the money was too much.’”
* At this point, that appears to be the key to the NCAA’s investigation. Sources have said that Cecil Newton has admitted that he talked about shopping his son. The same source claims Newton denied that his son had any knowledge of the plan. If Newton did solicit cash from MSU boosters — and those boosters are certainly coming clean about that now — then an NCAA violation has occurred. However, the NCAA could be lenient in the case if it believes Cam Newton was an innocent bystander. If the NCAA can find an MSU “recruiter” to corroborate Schad’s source’s account and admit that the player did talk about “the money,” then the final nail in this saga could be driven home. Again, that’s if the NCAA can find someone to corroborate.
* Earlier this week, NCAA officials went to the Alabama campus to speak with former MSU — and current Bama — graduate assistant Jody Wright. Wright was at State during Newton’s recruitment and could possibly maybe be the person Cam Newton allegedly spoke to.
* Back to the Bell/payment angle of the story for a second. Bell claims that he told NCAA investigators about Newton’s payment plan last week. That information — and possibly Newton’s own sit-down session with the NCAA — might have led the NCAA to inform Auburn last Friday that there were potential eligibility issues regarding Newton. Auburn chose to play Newton against Georgia anyway.
* The website SportsByBrooks.com believes Auburn’s decision to suit Newton up shows “that Auburn is betting that the NCAA thinks prominent Florida businessman Bell and Kenny Rogers is lying and WSB-TV, which last Friday reported that Cecil Newton ‘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,’ is wrong.” Well, not necessarily. Another interpretation might be what we wrote above… and will expand upon below:
1. At this point, it appears that there are solid goods on Cecil Newton. Everyone is now surrendering details about his payment plan to the NCAA, the FBI and the press.
2. While an NCAA spokesperson has said that anyone acting on Cam Newton’s behalf in an illegal way — even without the player’s knowledge — would put his eligibility in question… it’s possible that the NCAA can show leniency if it believes the player was innocent.
3. Auburn could be betting that the NCAA will not find any actual dirt on Cam Newton or anyone connected to AU. At this point, what do they have to lose? The school is all in. So it’s possible they know/believe Cecil is guilty and are still banking on his son remaining eligible due to his own innocence.
FOR A LOOK AT WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN NEXT…
So what’s next? What will happen? What’s the gut feeling at MrSEC.com? Below are a few views and answers — ALL are opinions:
* The SEC has been correct to allow the NCAA to handle this investigation. If Mike Slive chose to jump in at this point, Auburn fans would scream that the league is out to get them and protect Alabama. Let the outside parties handle it.
* If things seem piecemeal in all of this, it’s because the NCAA and FBI are both investigating this mess. And it’s the FBI that’s likely leading the way. Let’s face it, you or I could lie to NCAA investigators with no consequences. We aren’t going to lie to the FBI. In fact, once the FBI got involved, folks like Rogers and Bell immediately changed their tunes and started singing about their involvement with Cecil Newton. The question is this: Where do the two investigations intersect? If the FBI gets dirt that could benefit the NCAA, would it share said dirt?
* I would suggest folks not fall for messageboard ramblings hook, line and sinker. There are some reports that Auburn’s dealings are so dirty that the school will be booted from the SEC. Some postings claim that Slive himself is in hot water with the Feds for not giving up information on Auburn’s situation. I’m not buying. There are grains of truth that can be found on messageboards. But to find those grains, you have to walk across a desert of inaccuracies and innuendoes. At the end of the day, messageboarders are fans. Their love or hate for Auburn impacts what they write. And while one poster might be an honest Joe with a good source, another might be a whack job… or someone who just wants to smear a person, a conference or a school.
* Will Newton play in the Iron Bowl? At this point, I believe so. Much of what’s come out in the last 24 hours has been rumor. If those rumors are eventually revealed as truth, then I believe the NCAA will put the kibosh on Cam Newton and Auburn’s season. But I don’t know that we’re going to get from rumor to truth in the next eight days.
* Will Auburn’s season be undone by all of this? I’m afraid so. There are reports that Cecil Newton has admitted his involvement in a pay-for-play plan. That’s an NCAA violation. There are parties now coming clean about their involvement in Newton’s plan. That’s confirmation of an NCAA violation. It looks as though Auburn — at the moment anyway — is simply praying that the NCAA will take it easy on Cam because to date he has not been directly connected to any wrongdoing. In other words, they’re probably just hoping for leniency…at best. And if the NCAA can find someone who’ll say Cam Newton spoke of his father’s plan, then the Tigers’ goose could be cooked.
* Are MSU boosters trying to tear down Auburn? It’s possible, but unlikely. If there was an MSU conspiracy to take down the Tigers, it would have likely been put into play earlier in the season. Also, it seems that former State players like Bond and Bell are simply trying to protect their school. Rogers appears to be protecting himself. And Cecil Newton appears to be the target in all of this, not Auburn. Also, if MSU backers were simply trying to smear Auburn, they’ve now been hit with some serious blowback. Those boosters’ names are now in the open press for all to see and some have been interviewed by federal and state authorities. I’m guessing they’re not happy about all that.
November 18th, 2010 07:28 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Auburn
Tags: Cam Newton, FBI, MSU, NCAA
This week had been relatively quiet on the Cam Newton investigation front.