What do we know? The NCAA has been investigating a claim that Kenny Rogers, purportedly acting on behalf of Cam Newton, offered him to Mississippi State for $180,000. Rogers claimed to former MSU quarterback John Bond he had offers for $200,000 from other schools. Bond forwarded the info to the MSU athletic department. The Bulldogs declined the offer. Cam Newton’s father chose Auburn.
The NCAA requested Cam Newton’s father Cecil’s financial records and those of his church. Rogers is under a separate investigation by the NFLPA for serving as a runner and posing as an NFLPA employee. Cam Newton is eligible to play for Auburn, right now.
What do we suspect? The ESPN article hints Cecil Newton and his church received a suspicious influx of funds. Newton chose Auburn last December. Cecil Newton’s church, which had been facing a demolition order for building code violations, began renovations a short time later. Cecil told the city council in September 2009 the renovations would be carried out “within six months.” However, notably, he also claimed the church had “money in hand to proceed with the work.”
What do we not know? We have some suspicious activity and a faint whiff of perfume, but no damning lipstick stain. There’s no evidence here Auburn paid Newton or acted inappropriately. There’s no evidence Newton has threatened his eligibility. Even if Auburn did pay Newton, the NCAA has to prove it. Unless a paper trail emerges or someone involved becomes feels spurned, that will be difficult.
Why did this come out? Some in the Auburn camp are convinced this was Urban Meyer’s doing. Meyer, according to them, urged Mullen and Bond to release the story to the media. Mississippi State’s coach Dan Mullen is Meyer’s protege. Meyer also has been accused of having a close working relationship with Pete Thamel. His motivations could have been catty and ego-driven. He also could have been sincere. This information would have come out. It makes sense, from Mississippi State’s perspective, to be proactive and disavow involvement.
Where do we go from here? Auburn will play the us against the world card. Cam Newton will play. Even if something shady did go down, sitting him has no expected utility. Doing so would be an admission of guilt. Getting credit for the remaining wins if a penalty does go down isn’t worth scuttling a national title shot and the checks that will come with it. Auburn fans will hold their breath through whenever the statute of limitations runs out.
The dark cloud over Newton should complicate his Heisman candidacy. He’s obviously been the most outstanding player, but sanctimonious voters won’t want another Reggie Bush type scandal. Nothing has been proven yet, but this isn’t a law court. Though, Heisman voters would look silly and retrospect if he’s cleared.
We should also wonder how common payment is at major programs. It would make tremendous sense for Auburn to pay $200,000 for Newton, especially if it was low risk. They will make millions from his presence, even if the season is subsequently vacated. The individual trying to profit is always the scapegoat, never the entrenched system raking in millions from this “amateur sport.”
[Photo via Getty]