With Auburn in the thick of the chase for the 2010 national title, and Cam Newton far and away the presumed leader for this year’s Heisman trophy, both will now apparently have off-field issues to deal with as well as the immense on-field pressure.
According to initial reports from Bryan Fischer of Yahoo! and Pete Thamel of the New York Times, and with much greater detail provided by ESPN.com, the NCAA is currently investigating the recruitment of Newton, specifically whether a person associated with Newton or his family solicited money from schools in order to obtain the services of the quarterback following his JUCO stint.
During the height of star quarterback Cameron Newton’s recruitment out of junior college last year, a man saying he represented Newton allegedly was soliciting a six-figure payment to secure his signature on a national letter-of-intent, ESPN.com has learned. Former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond told ESPN.com that a teammate of Bond’s at Mississippi State in the early 1980s contacted him soon after Newton’s official visit to Mississippi State during the Ole Miss game in December, and said he was representing Newton. “He said it would take some cash to get Cam,” Bond said. “I called our athletic director, Greg Byrne, and he took it from there. That was pretty much it.” Multiple sources told ESPN.com that Mississippi State called the SEC office with Bond’s information shortly after he brought it to the attention of the school.
Sources told ESPN.com that the former teammate is Kenny Rogers, who played at Mississippi State from 1982-85. Rogers operates a Chicago-based company called Elite Football Preparation, which holds camps in Chicago, Alabama and Mississippi. A Lexis search for that business lists Kenneth Rogers as the contact and his title as “agent.” A Birmingham News story from 2008 said Elite Football Preparation “matches high school athletes with college programs.”
Newton’s father, the pastor of a Newnan, Ga., church, denied any knowledge of the situation, telling ESPN.com that “[i]f Rogers tried to solicit money from Mississippi State, he did it on his own.”
The NCAA requested financial records from the Newtons “about a month ago”. The SEC was informed of the specific allegations in late July.
Bond, the former MSU quarterback, said his lone concern in this situation is his former school, and that he hasn’t a clue how Newton ended up at Auburn after it had been thought that the Bulldogs had the inside track because of Newton’s relationship with head coach Dan Mullen. Mullen was Florida’s offensive coordinator during Newton’s short playing stint in Gainesville.
“It’s been handed off to the NCAA, and it’s in their hands now,” Bond told ESPN.com. “I don’t know what happened at Auburn. I don’t know why he went to Auburn. That’s not my concern. My concern is Mississippi State and making sure this doesn’t cause us any trouble.”
It’s been reported in the past that it was Newton’s father, not Newton himself, who made the decision that his son would attend Auburn. Newton announced in late December that he would be attending Auburn in 2010.
Bond said that his former teammate, who was representing himself as a mouthpiece for the Newton family, stated that other schools had already offered the family $200,000 to get Newton to their campus. The ex-teammate said, because of Mullen’s past relationship with Newton, they were willing to knock $20,000 off his alleged sticker price. At that point, Bond went to Mississippi State officials with the information.
Newton had also taken official visits to Arizona and Oklahoma in September and December of last year, respectively.
Auburn told ESPN.com that they are aware of the allegation, but cannot comment at this point in time.
UPDATED 7:22 p.m. ET: Mississippi State has released a statement in response to the spate of Cam Newton reports.
“We are comfortable that representatives of Mississippi State University’s interests conducted themselves appropriately and in compliance with all NCAA by-laws. Mississippi State is committed to operating our athletics programs within the rules of the NCAA and Southeastern Conference, and we expect those affiliated with our program to continue to do the same.”