Just because Auburn chose to play Cam Newton against Georgia doesn’t mean Auburn or Newton is safe. The NCAA doesn’t work that way. The NCAA gears, such as they are, grind slowly. The NCAA has only begun to sniff around.
Phillip Marshall of Auburn Undercover reported Saturday that the Newtons and Auburn administrators met with NCAA representatives last Thursday. (Link requires registration.) That the school chose to play Newton has been taken by some as an indication that the NCAA has nothing on Auburn. That’s not necessarily true. The NCAA might have nothing on Auburn yet. But by now its investigators have, or should have, a growing indication that this player was put up for sale at least once.
ESPN.com reported yesterday that another Mississippi State former player, the Florida businessman Bob Bell, essentially confirmed the story Kenny Rogers told on ESPN 103.3 Dallas last week and even added a detail: There was a payment schedule for Newton – $80,000 on his commitment to State, $50,000 one month later and $50,000 more a month after that.
From ESPN’s latest report: “Bell said Cecil Newton [Cam's father] never specifically asked him for money, but that Newton was present during three-way calls in which Rogers discussed a pay-for-play scheme.”
Again, none of the former Mississippi State players — Bell, Rogers or John Bond, who was the first to go public — has implicated Auburn. But here again we ask the only logical question: If Cecil Newton wanted $180,000 from Mississippi State, did he really turn around and send his son to another SEC school for free?
And the NCAA isn’t the only investigative body at work. From a TMZ report yesterday:
According to sources connected to the probe … FBI agents looking into the Newton recruiting controversy are also asking about Milton McGregor — a dog track owner arrested last month for allegedly bribing Alabama politicians to vote pro gambling.
We’re told agents asked someone connected to the Newton case if he was familiar with McGregor or the bribery scandal.
McGregor is an Auburn booster and an associate of the infamous former banker Bobby Lowder. McGregor owns VictoryLand, a dog track located just down I-85 from Auburn. Message boards have been buzzing about a possible Newton/McGregor link for the past week, but this is the first real report of any possible connection.
It’s unclear why the FBI would care about Cam Newton, but anytime the Feds get involved, however tangentially, the pace of an investigation accelerates. (Reportedly the McGregor case involves a wiretap.) The FBI, unlike the NCAA, has subpoena power. The FBI, unlike the NCAA, has the means to put somebody in jail for something.
Last week was a wild week regarding Newton. This week has been quieter, which is understandable. Auburn doesn’t play again until the day after Thanksgiving. Then it faces Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and that is, as you might have heard, a fairly big game. Then it comes here to play South Carolina for the SEC title. We are, you can be assured, going to hear much, much more about this surpassingly strange saga.
(Oh, and speaking of Cam Newton … a talented artist named MoonPie has re-imagined “Son of a Preacher Man” to fit these latest happenings. Take a look/listen. You’ll be glad you did.)
– Mark Bradley