In what could possibly be the defining story of the season, Pete Thamel of the New York Times tweeted Thursday evening that Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was under investigation by the NCAA.
This could be the most potentially devastating news to Auburn, who could find themselves without the heart and soul of their team should the investigation warrant any type of suspension. Newton, widely considered the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, has had a phenomenal season for the Tigers. He leads the SEC in rushing, rushing touchdowns, and is second in total offense.
According to ESPN, the crux of the matter concerns Kenny Rogers (no, not him) (not him either), a former teammate of Mississippi State assistant coach John Bond, who allegedly approached Bond trying to acquire $200,000 to secure Newton's commitment out of Blinn JC last year. Here's the full statement by Bond, released to the Clarion-Ledger minutes ago:
“During the 2009 football season, I was contacted by a former football teammate, who represented to me that he was speaking for the Newton camp. He told me that Cam Newton wanted to play at Mississippi State, but that a specified payment would have to be made. I reported the conversation to the Mississippi State Athletic Department. I was told by the Athletic Department that Mississippi State would not respond to the overture that was made to me, and that Mississippi State would continue to recruit Cam Newton as it does any other football recruit.”To MSU's credit, it doesn't sound as if that school has anything to worry about in the coming investigation. As for Auburn, well, that'll depend on what the NCAA finds in the financial records of Cecil Newton, who is Cam's father and the pastor of a church recently under scrutiny for not meeting building codes and needing extensive renovation. Unsurprisingly, Newton's parents categorically deny any involvement:
"If Rogers tried to solicit money from Mississippi State, he did it on his own, without our knowledge," Cecil Newton said.It's important to note that Newton has not been declared ineligible as yet, and this is an NCAA response to a claim made by an opposing coach, as good-faith as the claim appears to be. If there's no unusual financial activity by Newton's parents and their church, there's likely nothing to the investigation (or, at the very least, Rogers didn't think it would cost $200,000 to make Auburn worth Newton's while). At any rate, the next couple weeks are going to be awfully interesting down at Auburn.
"If you've ever seen our church, you'd know we don't have any money," said Cam Newton's mother, Jackie. "We have nothing."