The Cam Newton Saga: Even by SEC standards, it’s bizarre

There’s no tempest like an SEC tempest, the scope of which can be breathtaking. Only in this conference could Alabama’s signing of a lineman from Memphis lead to Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer being served with a subpoena at the league’s Media Days. Only here could a night out in Pensacola, Fla., lead to Mike Price being fired by Alabama before coaching a game. Only the SEC could spawn the feel-good-gone-bad tale of Cameron Jerrell Newton.

He’s a quarterback from College Park who played at Westlake High. He signed with Florida, where he served as understudy for the sainted Tim Tebow. Newton left to attend a junior college in Texas, where he played for Brad Franchione, whose father Dennis used to coach Alabama and whose abrupt departure for Texas A&M led the Tide to hire, albeit briefly, Mike Price. (Nobody does connections like the SEC.)

Newton wound up enrolling at Auburn, where he’s considered the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. His team ranks second in both the Associated Press poll and the BCS standings and can clinch the SEC West by beating Georgia on Saturday. All of this is, however, subject to change.

Last week ESPN and the New York Times reported that former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond had been informed it would cost $180,000 for Newton to commit to MSU. (This John Bond, not to be confused with Georgia State offensive coordinator John Bond, was the quarterback at Valdosta High after Buck Belue and John Lastinger, both of whom went on to greater glory at Georgia. At MSU, the Valdosta product was known as “One-Hop Bond” for his aerial accuracy.)

Bond has dropped from sight — the celebrity Web site TMZ reports that the FBI wishes to speak with him — but not before granting an on-air audience to Belue, his fellow Valdosta alum, on 680 The Fan in which he undercut his own story by suggesting he hadn’t spoken with the intermediary named in the initial reports. (To which we say: Huh?)

Auburn was quick to assert that Newton was fully eligible to play for the Tigers, whom he led to a 62-24 victory over Chattanooga last weekend. Afterward he told reporters: “When God be blessin’, the devil be messin’.” (Newton’s father Cecil is the pastor of the Holy Zion Center of Deliverance in Newnan, which, as the New York Times helpfully informed us, has only recently been restored to city building codes.)

We pause here for breath, for our tangled tale has only begun. This week FoxSports.com reported Newton had been accused of cheating while at Florida. (While a student in Gainesville, Newton was also charged with three felony counts involving a stolen laptop that was subsequently tossed out a window. The charges were dropped after he underwent pretrial diversion.)

This cheating revelation, attributed to an unnamed source, immediately led Florida coach Urban Meyer to issue a statement saying nobody connected with the Gators had done the leaking. On cue, Auburn coach Gene Chizik dismissed all allegations as “pure garbage” and wondered, in what seemed a clear reference to Meyer and Dan Mullen, the former Florida assistant who’s now head coach at Mississippi State: “Is there a wizard behind the curtain? Is there one? Is there two?”

In all of this, the overarching question has been: If it was going to take $180,000 for Newton to play for Mississippi State, did he really enroll at Auburn for free? On Tuesday ESPN became the first outlet to address that issue, reporting that two unnamed Mississippi State recruiters were informed in separate phone conversations with Cam and Cecil Newton that the player’s services were indeed for sale.

One recruiter, according to ESPN, maintained the elder Newton said it would take “more than a scholarship” to land his son. Another source said Cam Newton expressed regret after his father chose Auburn for him, saying, “The money was too much.”

And that’s where we are, our story nowhere near its conclusion. If Auburn has reason to believe there’s a chance Newton’s recruitment wasn’t aboveboard, will it bench him for the Georgia game and risk losing the division title it’s so close to winning? (Chizik asserted on a teleconference Wednesday that Newton would start against the Bulldogs.) Does the SEC, shuddering over the possibility of its championship game matching Auburn and Chizik against Florida and Meyer, intercede? Does the NCAA? The FBI?

And what of Georgia, which needs one victory in its final two games to become bowl-eligible? Could the underwhelming Bulldogs face Georgia Tech without quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, who broke his arm against Virginia Tech, and Auburn without Newton? If so, wouldn’t that make Mark Richt the luckiest man alive?

And what of us? What does it say when we pay so much attention to games purportedly played by amateurs after being reminded so often that college football is as pure as the driven sludge? Does that make us hypocrites? Or merely fools?

Feel free to answer, but I’m not sure I want to know.

519 comments Add your comment

cattledawg

November 10th, 2010
2:09 pm

Ostrich Racer

November 10th, 2010
2:15 pm

Hiring mercenaries is bad business. Always has been.

StraightJacket

November 10th, 2010
2:16 pm

The SEC needs to change:

(1) Kick out Vandy and Mississippi State. They do NOT fit the SEC profile: Vandy uses students as players, and Mississippi State doesn’t even TRY to cheat in recruiting.
.
(2) Withdraw from FBS College Football. There’s nothing “college” at all about the SEC.

(3) Start their new NFL “minor league” by making public and equalizing the SEC Salary Cap. Some years, it really IS hard to tell whether ‘Bama or Arkansas is paying the higher salaries.

(4) Ignore, … or even promote … the ridiculous number of player arrests from these teams. The Fulmer Cup could set up new rules to say that it is NOW exclusive to SEC teams. No use in letting amateurs compete for an award for which the SEC teams have demonstrated such dominance and professionalism.

(5) Withdraw from NCAA and let the players sign endorsement deals. There’s no reason that A.J. GREENbucks shouldn’t be able to eBay his jersey for a few thousand bucks.

(6) Have one redeeming program that the players must contribute too. Since SEC players don’t take school seriously, they should be required to document community service hours (since they don’t log any real academic hours majoring in profoundly meaningful studies like “Social Awareness”). NOTE: This should be in ADDITION TO the community service hours they’re assigned after their arrests and convictions.

Seriously, the SEC should just give up the charade of “college” football and become what they really want to be: The NFL minor league.

Buckeye

November 10th, 2010
2:16 pm

Second

Herbie Hancock,

Junk, you say. Checkout the overall BCS records: OSU 5-3, UGA 2-1. We won’t talk about total National Championships….

One is the lonliest number…

Oh ya, we beat Oregon on the Rose Bowl last year and remind me where UGA played?

JB

November 10th, 2010
2:16 pm

Nick

November 10th, 2010
2:16 pm

This stuff has been going on for years. Now, since we live in a 24/7 news cycle, can these things be brought to light. It’s basic economics. The supply of superior talented athletes is small. The demand is through the roof. No wonder they get paid under the table. It’s not even illegal to pay these people. This is basic capitalism 101. It’s sad, but as long as, the PapaJohns.com bowl president is making over 600k to put on a bowl game of two 7-5 teams money will rule the world. This should be shocking to no one.

cattledawg

November 10th, 2010
2:17 pm

This story gets stickier than an I-75 massage parlor.

JB

November 10th, 2010
2:18 pm

He will play…They will win…..they will deny……I pray they are right……I know lot’s of good Auburn folks… But, Go Dawgs…..If we show, we got a chance…..

sugarpikegang

November 10th, 2010
2:18 pm

disheartening, really. we should have seen it coming with auburn. we have all seen this before with them.

Jose

November 10th, 2010
2:18 pm

Probably not first!

dawgrific

November 10th, 2010
2:18 pm

well you know, coach richt is quite religious and thus believes in miracles :) I have to think that newton’s past, plus all of these allegations, mean something is massively amiss, but the ncaa is SO SLOW to act that we can’t expect any action for about, I don’t know, 10 months-5 years.

Paul Crew

November 10th, 2010
2:18 pm

Heisman-type, program changing QB’s are very hard to find and even more expensive to sign!

TXDawg (The Real TXDawg)

November 10th, 2010
2:19 pm

Wow….I really could have been first….lol……too busy reading instead of trying to make a fool out of myself by posting that word.

Fleishcman in Chi Towns bed

November 10th, 2010
2:19 pm

Allbarn is in BIG trouble…. goodbye perfect season, hello death penalty.

AnAuburnFan

November 10th, 2010
2:19 pm

Yeah, TMZ. That’s where I go for my sports news.

Mark, very nice summary of the situation/fiasco. The Twitterverse is insane with rumor.

Bull

November 10th, 2010
2:19 pm

Auburn is in some serious trouble

Nova Eagle

November 10th, 2010
2:19 pm

Proof read your article. His name is Cameron Jerrell Newton not “Jewell”.

Gbal

November 10th, 2010
2:20 pm

WELL Answered your own question id say

TXDawg (The Real TXDawg)

November 10th, 2010
2:20 pm

Auburn will not sit Cam if they can help it. They are too close to the BCS title to risk it. Especially with them being slighted several years back when they went undefeated. Expect to see Cam unless the NCAA steps in to bench him.

Andy

November 10th, 2010
2:21 pm

Mark

Is this a record for you? This is your 4th straight post about Newton. ALL NEWTON ALL THE TIME!

PMC

November 10th, 2010
2:21 pm

It says the south was very late to get on to professional sports so the people who live in the south are far more passionate about college sports namely football and it is very important to them. So that is where they spend thier money.

As far as kids getting paid extra. Man that’s every walk of life. From “main street” to “wall street”

First place is a new Cadillac Eldorado. Second Place is a set of Steak Knives. Third place… you’re fired.

War Scam Eagle

November 10th, 2010
2:21 pm

http://www.pricezack.wordpress.com has two interesting articles about Cam Newton’s recruitment. Very interesting reads.

dap01

November 10th, 2010
2:21 pm

Slim, Slim, Slim all around!

secfootball

November 10th, 2010
2:21 pm

blood pressure has had a nice ride this week & I’m not even an Auburn fan.You want to see fights break out at a game? Just let it be AU vs UF in the SEC Championship Game.Sad but true & I’m talking about in the stands.

extrapoint

November 10th, 2010
2:24 pm

Oh, there’s nothing like a high profile player, up to his eyeballs in alligators and crocodiles, knowing he will leave school after the season and make millions next year in the NFL. The sport writers need to take advantage of this story as soon as possible.

Fleishcman in Chi Towns bed

November 10th, 2010
2:25 pm

Auburn: from 9-0 to 0-9 in one week! Well done losers.

Bull

November 10th, 2010
2:25 pm

Mark Bradley, I’m actually going to extend a compliment to you on this article.

Let the facts speak for itself…..

Now, if you and Schultz could just take that approach with UGA

JB

November 10th, 2010
2:26 pm

What’s the line on Wake Forrest this weekend?

Muddy32

November 10th, 2010
2:26 pm

So much of this does not make sense. Why would Miss. State admit that they still pursued Cam Newton after saying in Jan. they were asked for money? Other schools (Oklahoma for one) that pursued him had no one contact them about money? Nor did Auburn. From “sources” we hear Auburns records had no contact with Mr. Rogers nor any agent.
Could the money problem Cam Newton mentioned be that Auburn is only two hours for his family to come see him and Starkville would have been across two states? Certainly, not easy to see him play.
Could it be that Urban Meyer was so mad and jealous he panned out to be a great quarterback sour grapes? He is reported he called the New York Times.
Could it be some Alabama fan is paying for this info?
Have you ever seen so many articles with “unnamed sources” in them?
He certainly doesn’t look like he has money nor his family. He rides a scooter in college.. not a fancy car or even a car. He mentors kids in need of help in the right direction.
Are we saying that the kid has not been a model student since coming to Auburn? From all accounts he has.
Are people like you just in need of a story and want to tarnish a kid for the rest of his life.
I bet you have done things in your past too.
Kids can be stupid and they can change.
I hate to see all this negative reporting to a kid from all accounts who is trying to do good.

JB

November 10th, 2010
2:27 pm

Tech/Miami…….??? Anybody care ?

cattledawg

November 10th, 2010
2:27 pm

I forgot to say first! No way Auburn sits cam at this point, unless they find 50 large in his locker.

Dawg Time

November 10th, 2010
2:27 pm

Looks like auburn is paying players again, just like the old days. They will be going down hard when all the facts come out. I’m glad Richt runs a clean program and isn’t paying runners $200,000 to get a QB.

bowman

November 10th, 2010
2:28 pm

The Smoking Gun provides this entertainment:

Cam Newton, Lame Laptop Thief
Heisman favorite was far from a master criminal
http://thesmokinggun.com/documents/college/cam-newton-lame-laptop-thief

JB

November 10th, 2010
2:28 pm

Cam will play…….This goes away…….Nobody stepping forward, so it’s just fodder.

Smyrna Jacket

November 10th, 2010
2:29 pm

Mark, did anyone confirm who these “recuiters” are? And shouldn’t MSU coaches do thier own “recruiting”? Isn’t that their job?

JB

November 10th, 2010
2:30 pm

I would love to see Dawgs upset them, with CAM….But At this point, only the Ga. people would care about our win……..Folks love a good car wreck…….

Noman

November 10th, 2010
2:30 pm

Too bad the media is allowed to run wild.

Bull

November 10th, 2010
2:30 pm

Muddy, chances are most of this stuff is true

Eddie

November 10th, 2010
2:30 pm

The game is great. The game matters. Which leads to continuously rising stakes. And when that’s the case, folks take shortcuts. When you have a construct where stakes/interest are crazy high and the participants are not paid … what is the fastest shortcut? Paying a better player to be on your team. And when many of these kids who do not come from much and they see all this money going to every one involved but them, it is hard to not be swayed. Waiting four years seems like an eternity to an 18 year old.

SimpleDawg

November 10th, 2010
2:31 pm

Lots of questions….no clear answers.

Auburn has to play Camzilla. There’s nothing to be gained by not playing him. If he’s dirty, they’ve already played 10 games with an ineligible player. If he’s clean….or at least clean enough to be eligible at Auburn, then they carry on with their quest for the Crystal Ball.

But……Vegas taking a big game off of the board due to rumor and innuendo…..sure does make me wonder…….

dawgrific

November 10th, 2010
2:31 pm

I had to post this again, on a more recent article blog:
Is anyone surprised that the Auburn Limo picked up folks with talent and no character/integrity whatsoever?! Seriously, I can’t believe that that whole Limo thing is allowed to go on, as it is an embarrassment to the recruiting process, college football, the SEC, and especially to anyone affilliated with Auburn in any way.

Bull

November 10th, 2010
2:31 pm

Smyrna Jacket…..Dan Mullen confirmed that the only “recruiters” MSU are the coaches/assitant coaches

Roll Tide

November 10th, 2010
2:32 pm

Mark, my opinion; boosters paying for players does happen, but not often. Boosters would much rather give a job to a qualified parent to relocate and place their athlete in the particular school of choice (the boosters alma mater) Most of the time, it is “out of touch” parents or some type of relations, that is actually trying to shop the athlete. Follow the money trail and there in is the truth. So don’t be surprised to see a large “love offering” (financial donation) to the church where Papa Newton is the pastor. Once the donation goes thru the “church” a 501c3 entity; the money is clean.

Bob

November 10th, 2010
2:32 pm

Bob

November 10th, 2010
2:33 pm

Crap, I missed it again.

Mark Bradley

November 10th, 2010
2:33 pm

Sorry, Nova Eagle. Thanks for editing.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, ajc sports editor, Justin Hokanson, Abby Drake, Mikeal and others. Mikeal said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: The #Cam Newton Saga: One of the strangest tales in the tangled history of the #SEC. #Auburn #UGA http://bit.ly/c9mloz [...]

Bull

November 10th, 2010
2:36 pm

Roll Tide, that may apply to the IRS but not the NCAA under improper benefits. NCAA can penalize how they see fit. Remember, the NCAA is for the most part unregulated and “allows” student athletes to compete

Irish-Tiger

November 10th, 2010
2:36 pm

I’ve read over 25 articles long and short about Cam. Will a real reporter get to the actual source(s) of the innuendos and rumors and get the facts. It’s all BS until someone gets a hard statement on video or recording to play to the public. Other than that all what ifs and suppositions means nothing. And for all you haters E.S.A.D.!!!!!!!

cattledawg

November 10th, 2010
2:37 pm

Does anyone honestly believe that something shady isnt going on here?