Like Brett Favre’s retirement or the dispersal of Tiger Woods’ semen, the Cam Newton coverage has become ubiquitous. Unlike those frivolous stories, this is vital news. To this point we only have clawed at the surface of it. This is not the end of the Cam Newton saga. It is not even the beginning of the end, but, with the investigation shifting toward Auburn, it may be the end of the beginning.
“It was like Bam!” Mississippi State booster Bill Bell confirmed that Cecil Newton, through Kenny Rogers, asked for $180,000 to have Cam attend Mississippi State. Rogers outlined a plan over a text message to pay an initial $80,000, followed by two payments of $50,000 each. Newton did not incriminate himself specifically, but made no attempt to dissuade Rogers.
“He said it was going to take more than just a relationship with [Mississippi State coach] Dan Mullen and that Cam’s relationship with Mullen wasn’t what Mullen thought it was,” Bell said. “That’s when he said, ‘Dan Mullen is going to have to put a smile on my face if he thinks he’s going to get my son.’”
Unless this story is poised for a bawdy turn, it’s clear what would “put a smile on (Cecil Newton’s) face.” At some point the NCAA will have enough evidence to make Auburn’s lawyering up irrelevant. Cam Newton will be ineligible. Auburn will vacate wins. The NCAA will send complimentary henchmen to each one of our homes to wipe his dream season from our cerebral cortices. It’s when, not if.
This is only the beginning. Consider the Mississippi State portion “phase one” of the investigation. The NCAA, federal authorities and scurrying journalists are corroborating sources and collecting evidence that will implicate the juicier target, Auburn.
Mississippi State refused Cecil Newton’s offer. Cam Newton broke off his pact with Dan Mullen at Mississippi State in mid-December, made a quickie visit to Auburn and committed, at Cecil Newton’s behest, on Dec. 31, 2009. Allegedly, he apologized to a Mississippi State recruiter, stating he chose Auburn because the money was “too much.”
Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate. Unless Cam was simply was gobsmacked by Gene Chizik’s charisma, the simplest explanation for that series of events is someone at Auburn was willing to put a smile on Cecil Newton’s face. A recent TMZ report suggests that’s where the authorities are moving.
Milton McGregor owns the VictoryLand Casino. He’s an Auburn booster, having donated $1 million to help construct Auburn Arena in 2008. He was arrested in October and faces charges for buying votes from local politicians for pro-gambling legislation. According to TMZ’s “sources connected to the probe,” the Feds were asking about him in connection with the Newton case. McGregor denied involvement with Cam Newton or any player.
It is feasible that someone who doesn’t respect our fair democracy might show a similar disregard for NCAA bylaws. At the absolute least, it’s smokier than a barbecue pit to have shady fellows involved in gambling and (allegedly) political corruption hanging around any football program, especially one already busted for nefarious activity.
McGregor’s case may have no relation to Newton, but, if it was, that would explain (a) why the FBI is involved with this (b) why it took so long for the information to come out (after McGregor’s arrest) and (c) why TMZ’s source, if valid, threw his name out there like chum.
Where do we go from here? We will learn more than most of us ever wanted to know about this Auburn season. It will be vacated, left naked and exposed. We will learn all about how recruiting specialist Trooper Taylor landed a Top 5 recruiting class in 2010, a year after Auburn barely cracked the recruiting Top 25 and went 7-5, losing five of their last six in the SEC in 2009.
Dots may be connected back to the original scandal, illuminating why certain Auburn background figures had such an acrimonious relationship with successive and successful coaches, Terry Bowden and Tommy Tuberville.
Auburn took the risk. They played Cam Newton against Georgia. If allowed, they will play him against Alabama, in the SEC title game and, potentially, in the national title game regardless of whether it is vacated. If it results in stiffer sanctions down the road, who cares? The coaches and players live in the moment. The university and the fans will be saddled with the neutered and desiccated program, for the next decade or longer. Auburn may not get the official death penalty, but the sanctions could make it a de facto one.
It’s wise to warn against aggrandizing instant history, but it’s also foolish to ignore history when it’s happening in front of you. The Cam Newton saga may not be “the biggest story in the history of college football” at this point, but we are still in the salad course.
The happiest person outside Tuscaloosa to have these allegations emerge? Butch Davis.
[Photo via Getty]