On November 4th, ESPN and The NY Times independently broke the news that the NCAA was looking into MSUís recruitment of Cam Newton and the story quickly consumed daily news cycles. Reports indicate that the NCAA is moving quickly in an effort to reach some sort of conclusion on this issue. That said, the slow news week in the Cam Newton story represents a chance to catch up on everything that has been reported on this issue and to review just what we actually do know about this story.
What follows below is a summary outline of the events (please provide corrections or point out omissions as needed) with sources and a breakdown of which facts are corroborated and which are not necessarily trustworthy. This is meant to help me answer the all important question relative to the BCS-if what we know about the story represented everything the NCAA knew as well, would we rule Cam ineligible? I offer it here as quick view for others who might be interested in this well. Obviously Iím an Auburn fan but Iíve done my best to be objective and to minimize editorialized comments as much as possible so please realize that any omissions etc have come about honestly and I welcome corrections.
November-December 2009: Cam Newton was recruited by MSU, Auburn, and Oklahoma and he made official visits to each (Nov 28-MSU, Dec 11-OU, Dec 18-AU).
December 31, 2009: Cam publically committed to Auburn.
January-July 2010: MSU reported irregularities with Camís recruitment; The SEC requested additional information within days of receiving the news and made regular and repeated requests throughout the spring and summer though these requests went unheeded by MSU. MSU filed its initial response to the SECís inquiries in July.
November 4th, 2010: The NY Times and ESPN independently report that former MSU quarterback John Bond alleges he was approached by a former MSU player who solicited money in return for Camís commitment to MSU. Kenny Rogers is incorrectly identified as that player. Rogers initially denies involvement in a pay for play scheme. Cecil Newton denies any wrongdoing. Bond indicated that he informed the MSU athletic department then headed by Greg Byrnes upon being approached with the solicitation.
November 5th, 2010: John Bondís lawyer Phil Abernathy, states that John Bond never named Kenny Rogers as the player who approached Bond to either the NY Times nor ESPN. This is also corroborated by Bond in an interview with Buck and Kincaid at WCNN radio where Bond indicates that Kenny Rogers never asked him for money on Camís behalf suggesting there were two individuals between Bond and Rogers.
November 8th, 2010: Allegations that Cam cheated while at Florida are leaked by unnamed sources.
November 9th, 2010: Cam Newton publically denies wrongdoing in his recruitment. An unnamed source associated with Auburn indicated that Auburn University had not received a letter of inquiry from the NCAA concerning Camís recruitment and an audit of phone records spanning the months of Camís recruitment failed to turn up any evidence of contact between Rogers and Auburn University. Likewise Auburn had found no irregularities in either the Rogersí family records or those of Cecilís church. Bob Stoops commented upon OUís recruitment of Cam saying OU was not approached about providing extra benefits in return for Camís commitment.
November 11-12th, 2010: Rogers does an interview with ESPNís Ian Fitzsimmons. Rogers contradicts earlier statements and now admits he solicited money and claims to have acted on Cecil Newtonís behalf. Rogers provided some details about the solicitation of extra benefits indicating it would have taken between $100-180K to secure Camís commitment to MSU and Rogers said Cecil asked about payment while in a Starkville hotel room on Nov 27th with Rogers and two MSU coaches. He indicated that Bill Bell, another former MSU player, was the person that Rogers solicited for money. Rogers admitted he could recall no specific language regarding conversations where Cecil is alleged to have directed Rogers to solicit money on behalf of the Newtons. Separate reports also cited unnamed sources claiming that 1) Cecil told an unnamed MSU recruiter, ďIt would take more than a scholarship for Cam to go to MSUĒ and referred the recruiter to a third unnamed individual, and 2) another unnamed source said Cam called another unnamed MSU recruiter and expressed regret that he chose Auburn over MSU because ďthe money was too muchĒ. MSU head coach Dan Mullen indicated that he and his assistants are the only persons on the bulldog staff who are registered with the NCAA as recruiters. SEC spokesman Charles Bloom indicated that there was no mention of conversations between MSU staffers and the Newtons concerning the solicitation of extra benefits in the reports that MSU filed with the SEC concerning the recruitment of Cam Newton. This was independently corroborated with the SEC office by a reporter for the AJC (Barnhart). The SEC indicated that MSU could offer no incriminating evidence concerning other institutions. This is eventually echoed by Rogers, Bond and Bell as well as each go on record indicating they have no knowledge of details concerning Auburnís recruiting effort.
November 13th, 2010: WBTV out of Atlanta reports that an unnamed source close to the Newtons indicated that Cecil admitted having conversations with an ex MSU football player about money. No money was said to change hands and this was also said to have occurred without Camís knowledge.
November 16th, 2010: John Bond is interviewed by the FBI though the focus of their involvement is unclear.
November 17, 2010: TMZ reports on its website that the FBI has asked an unnamed individual connected with the Newton case if that person was familiar with Milton McGregor, an Auburn booster who is involved in a gambling/bribery scandal in Alabama.
November 18th, 2010: Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com reports that Bill Bell was interviewed by the NCAA and discussed a text message that details a pay schedule (three payments over consecutive months comprised of $80K, $50K, and $50K). He also shared voice mail messages with the NCAA though it is unknown if Cecilís voice is on them or if he participated. Bill Bell indicated that Cecil did not specifically ask for money during alleged conversations between Bell, Rogers and Cecil Newton. Bell does seem to indicate that Cecil and he talked about money in other undocumented conversations. The Birmingham news reported that wire taps of McGregor contain no conversations connecting him to Auburnís recruitment of Cam Newton.
November 19th, 2010: A lawyer for the Newtons denies that Cam ever took money or knew of any efforts to secure a pay for play arrangement. The NCAA President, Mark Emmert goes on record to address the standard that the NCAA applies when judging evidence in investigations of player eligibility saying, ď"I want our people to be as efficient and expedited in the way they manage these things as possible, but at the same time, you've got to get the facts right. The burden of proof is higher than what it is for somebody who's writing in a blog,"
At this time there have been no accusations against Auburn or against Cam and the NCAA is not investigating Auburnís recruitment of Cam.
At this time, the alleged pay for play scheme does not appear to involve individuals acting in an official capacity for MSU.
Based upon both named and unnamed sources in the above narrative, here is the chain of individuals and the order of their connections regarding the alleged pay for play solicitation during MSUís recruitment of Cam:
Given information that can be corroborated, the only thing we know with absolute certainty about these connections is that Rogers and Bell had detailed conversations about money because both have admitted to having such conversations.
Cecil has publicly denied that Rogers solicited money on his behalf both in person and through his lawyer. An uncorroborated secondhand source alleges Cecil admitted to having a conversation about money without Camís knowledge.
It does not appear that the relationship between the Newtons and Kenny Rogers was a strong one. Cecil and Rogers had never met in person before Camís visit to Starkville. Cecil has indicated that he had been contacted initially by Rogers when Cam was leaving U of F. Cecil has indicated that he called Rogers in late 2009 when MSU started recruiting Cam. Rogers is on record as indicating this phone call was about life in Starkville and MSUís campus and program. In Rogerís Dallas radio interview, Rogers indicates that he met with Cecil on the 27th (the alleged hotel room meeting with MSU coaches) but did not interact with the Newtons during the 28th (Camís official visit) and thereafter only had significant contact with Cecil at a gas station as Cecil was leaving Starkville.
Apparently, MSU has reported no information regarding a solicitation of extra benefits by Cecil to MSU coaches contradicting Rogersí account of the 27th meeting in a Starkville hotel room. This also calls into question the unnamed secondhand sources that claimed Cecil told an MSU recruiter it would take more than a scholarship and that Cam told an MSU recruiter that the money was too good. It would be a shady scenario for two coaches to meet a known player handler with a checkered past and the playerís father in a hotel room. Did the meeting happen? Maybe-maybe itís even probable. But it seems unlikely that Rogersí account is going to be corroborated by the two coaches if indeed they were present given the omission from MSUís reports to the NCAA. It should be fairly easy for the NCAA to determine the identity of any coaches who were present on official recruiting business. Mullen has made it clear that only he and his coaches are officially allowed to recruit. At this time, it appears that any alleged conversations about extra benefits would have only occurred between individuals outside of MSUís official recruiting efforts. Bond, the individual who initially reported irregularities to the MSU athletic department, was at least three degrees removed from any alleged conversation with Cecil about extra benefits. MSU continued to recruit Cam until he announced his commitment to Auburn despite information Bond provided to their athletic department.
Nothing in what we know from media accounts can directly tie Cecil to Bell with certainty. Rogers asserts a connection but the detailed pay for play text to Bell was sent to Bell from Rogers. Also that text no longer exists so the NCAA would have to rely only upon the word of Rogers and Bell regarding its contents. Bell has provided voicemails to the NCAA but it is unclear if Cecilís voice is on them and Bell is on record as stating he never heard Cecil ask directly for money in alleged conversations between Bell, Rogers, and Cecil. Given that admission, it is unlikely that the voicemails will corroborate anything more than Rogersí effort to solicit money through Bell.
At this point, there has been nothing credible to suggest Cam knew of Rogersí efforts. There is only circumstantial evidence to link Cecil to such conversations and little of this evidence can be corroborated independently of the word of Rogers and Bell. Rogers has some major flags concerning credibility issues.
Concerning Auburn there has been nothing to implicate Auburn in any wrongdoing. Rich McGlynn, Auburnís compliance officer, has a reputation of being hard-nosed concerning procedure in the mold of Slive. If the NCAA or Slive had indeed informed Auburn of specific facts that called Camís eligibility into question, it just isnít likely that Auburn would play Cam. There would be no reason to the NCAA or the SEC to withhold such facts from Auburn especially given the NCAA is attempting a speedy resolution to this situation.
Clearly, the scandal brewing in the media raises the possibility that Camís eligibility could be affected. But Auburnís recruitment of Cam appears to be legitimate at this point and the details of what may or may not have happened in Starkville are very murky with very few facts actually being corroborated. What in the above narrative suggests that it is obvious that Auburn should sit Cam and doing so would be fair to Cam or to Auburn?
Here is some editorializing: Auburn may be taking a bit of a risk by continuing to play Cam but frankly, and yes, Iím biased here, their defense of Cam is laudable and seems justified given what we know from media accounts of this currently all smoke and no fire saga.