Auburn: ‘No comment’ on Newton status
Auburn spokesman Kirk Sampson says the school has "no comment" on Cameron Newton’s eligibility, FOXSports.com senior college football writer Thayer Evans reported on his Twitter page Friday.
Newton and the Tigers, ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings, host Georgia at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said in an e-mail Friday to The Associated Press that the governing body doesn’t talk about ”current, pending or potential investigations” when asked if the NCAA had advised Auburn of eligibility questions involving Newton, who boarded the team bus Friday evening to head to the hotel in Montgomery, where the Tigers stay the night before home games.
Dozens of fans attended the send-off, with one group holding up signs spelling out, "Lean on us Cam (nbr)2."
On Thursday, the man at the center of the controversy involving the recruitment of Newton offered more details about the plan to sell Newton’s skills.
In an interview with Dallas radio station KESN-FM, Kenny Rogers, a former Mississippi State football player, said he spoke with Newton’s father, Cecil, on Nov. 27, 2009, about how much money would be required to get Cam Newton to sign a letter of intent to play college football.
According to Rogers, he was told by Cecil Newton Sr. it would cost a school “anywhere between $100,000 and $180,000” for a school to sign his son, who is considered the leading contender to win the Heisman Trophy this year.
KESN-FM host Ian Fitzsimmons, who conducted the interview, asked Rogers if that amount was for Newton to play college football or to sign a letter of intent.
“Basically to get his son,” said Rogers, who acknowledged he was involved with Cecil Newton only regarding Mississippi State.
Rogers’ attorney, Doug Zeit, told the AP that the NCAA wants to meet with his client, but that the meeting had not taken place. Zeit said Rogers hopes the meeting "will happen sooner rather than later." Zeit said Rogers has not been contacted by the FBI.
In another Dallas radio interview, with ESPN 103.3 FM, Rogers said he and Cecil Newton initially talked after Cam Newton left the University of Florida after the 2008 season. During that conversation, Rogers said Cecil Newton told him, "It’s not gonna be free this time."
Rogers told 103.3 FM he had been referred to a Mississippi State booster named Bill Bell. Rogers said he called Bell and left a message that he was with Cecil Newton and Newton wanted to know if a deal could be done.
Contacted Thursday night by ESPN.com, Bell confirmed that Cecil Newton did ask for money in exchange for Cam Newton signing with Mississippi State. Bell said he was contacted by the NCAA about the matter and spoke to an investigator earlier this week.
"That’s all I want to say about it at this point," Bell told ESPN.com.
Telephone messages left for Bell by FOXSports.com were not immediately returned.
Mississippi State spokesman Joe Galbraith declined to comment on Rogers’ interview.
A call to Cecil Newton’s home went to voicemail, which indicated it was full.
Commissioner Mike Slive and Mississippi State have gone back and forth recently about why it took the school six months to file a detailed report after initially notifying the SEC in January that a request for extra benefits had been made during the recruitment of Cam Newton.
Mississippi State followed up with more information in July. The school said in a statement Wednesday that the delay was because its compliance office was busy with other ”time-consuming eligibility issues.”
Slive made it clear Friday that the SEC was not the cause of the delay.
”There was timely follow-up from our office between January and July,” Slive told The Birmingham News. ”As Mississippi State indicated, these requests were not fulfilled. We followed up in a timely way. Given the need for people to have a month or more to do that, we asked again. In six years, we’ve never had a problem with that.”
Mississippi State responded in another statement Friday night from athletic director Scott Stricklin.
”MSU alerted the Southeastern Conference about the offer,” the statement said. ”MSU did not have any specific incriminating information about any other school, and thus could not provide any.
”As Commissioner Slive mentioned (Friday), the SEC is not an investigative body. MSU has cooperated fully and completely with the NCAA from the time it began asking for our assistance, and looks forward to providing any and all help in this ongoing investigation.”
Auburn did not return telephone messages, text messages and e-mails, but is declining to comment on Rogers’ interview, according to ESPN.com.
In an e-mail to FOXSports.com, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn wrote that, “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.”
Newton transferred from Florida to Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Texas, where he played last season. He was then heavily recruited by both Mississippi State and Auburn before eventually committing to the Tigers.
But allegations about that process surfaced last week, when ESPN.com reported that former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond said Rogers, his former teammate, allegedly sought $180,000 for Newton to attend Mississippi State. Bond also said Rogers allegedly told him that other schools had already offered $200,000.
The story took another turn Monday, when Evans reported that Newton had three different instances of academic cheating while attending the University of Florida and faced potential expulsion from the university, according to a source.
Scrutiny of Newton ramped up Tuesday night, when ESPN.com reported the Tigers quarterback and his father said in separate phone conversations that schools recruiting the quarterback would have to come up with money beyond a scholarship to secure his services, according to “two sources who recruit for Mississippi State.” The report also said that the school’s compliance officials reported the conversations to compliance officials for the Southeastern Conference in January.
Reached late Tuesday night by phone, Cecil Newton told FOXSports.com he had no comment.
“I’m not going to confirm nor deny nothing that has been taking place,” Cecil Newton said.
Asked if he had seen the report, the elder Newton said he knew “nothing about this whole thing.”
“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.”
He described all of the recent allegations involving his son as “a witch hunt.”
“They can continue doing whatever they’re doing, sir,” said Cecil Newton, who added, “I’m just in support of my son.”
Before Cam Newton committed to Auburn, one of the Mississippi State recruiters said Cecil Newton told him it would take “more than a scholarship” to land his son, the ESPN.com report said. The recruiter said the school would not be willing to do that.
After committing to Auburn, Cam Newton phoned another recruiter and said his father had chosen Auburn because “the money was too much,” according to ESPN.com.
Hours before ESPN.com posted its report Tuesday, Tigers coach Gene Chizik dismissed the academic cheating report as "pure garbage" in an emotional 4-minute, 25-second rant.
"I’m standing up here on a very important week trying to defend something that’s garbage,"’ Chizik said. The second-ranked Tigers face rival Georgia on Saturday, and that’s where Newton insists his focus lies.
At the same press conference, Cam Newton declined to discuss the FOXSports.com report.
"I’m not going to entertain something that took place not three months, not six months, not a year but two years ago," Newton said. "I’m not going to sit up here and say anything about it, whether I did or did not do it, because I don’t want to beat a dead horse talking about it. It’s not going to affect me any way, shape or fashion."
It didn’t affect Newton against FCS opponent Chattanooga last weekend, when he passed for four touchdowns and 317 yards, all in the first half.
Chizik used his opening statement for a lengthy defense of his biggest star. He declined to answer questions about the academic situation.
"I’m wasting my time addressing allegations that blow my mind that they’re even out there, because there’s federal privacy laws that dictate that these things don’t get out in public," he said.
Chizik described Newton as a "great human being that comes from a great family" and backed up his quarterback’s Heisman Trophy credentials as well as his character.
"He’s one of the leaders in the Heisman race because he deserves it. That’s fact," Chizik said.
Florida coach Urban Meyer said in a statement that neither he nor anyone on his staff leaked information on Newton’s academic record, calling it a "ridiculous claim."
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."
Newton said Meyer was a man of integrity. "I would hope he wouldn’t say anything like that," he said.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who also recruited Newton out of Blinn, said he saw "nothing at all" out of the ordinary during that process.
"Our recruitment of Cameron could not have been better, or was just fine," Stoops said."I didn’t notice anything and none of our coaches did as we were recruiting him."
FOXSports.com college football writer Thayer Evans and The Associated Press contributed to this report.