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Key Players In Newton Saga Talk To NCAA And FBI Today

Two of the key players in the ongoing Cam Newton saga are sharing their stories with the authorities today.  And by authorities we mean the NCAA and the FBI.

According to Brandon Marcello of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond met with the FBI earlier today.  Bond was quoted in ESPN’s original Newton story as saying that he had been approached by former teammate Kenny Rogers in regards to raising money for the Newton family.

Bond’s attorney confirmed his client’s sit-down with the FBI.  As we — and others — have speculated, the FBI’s involvement in an NCAA scandal might have some connection to rumors that Cecil Newton might have laundered possible payments through one or more of his tax-exempt churches.  That is pure speculation, but good luck coming up with another reason for the FBI to look at this case.

Meanwhile, radio host Ian Fitzsimmons tweeted today the following:


“Don’t know if this has been reported yet but just in case — The NCAA is interviewing Ken Rogers this afternoon.  Was scheduled to begin @ 1:00″


It was on Fitzsimmons’ show last week that Rogers accused the elder Newton of trying to solicit money from MSU.

For Auburn fans, the FBI portion of this story means little at the moment.  However, the NCAA’s digging is clearly an issue for the Tigers.

We know that the NCAA will eventually give Newton an official thumbs-up or thumbs-down, but if things speed up, it’s possible that ruling could come before the Iron Bowl, the SEC Championship Game or a possible BCS Championship Game appearance by the Tigers.

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Report: Newton’s Dad Admits Having Money Talks With Ex-MSU Player

According to WSB-TV in Atlanta, “a source close” to the Cam Newton situation has told the station’s investigative reporter that Cecil Newton “has admitted having conversations with an ex-Mississippi State University player about the possibility of under-the-table money if Cam Newton signed to play football at Mississippi State.” 

The source also said that the elder Newton, “steadfastly maintained that no money ever changed hands and said no official at Mississippi State ever made such an offer.”

WSB’s source says that Newton “said his son’s hands are clean, and has made it clear that Cam Newton himself and his mother knew nothing about the money discussions, nor did Auburn University.”

According to the source, “the player and both parents have demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with the NCAA, beyond even the financial records turned over by the family, and from churches Cecil Newton oversees.”

(A tip of the hat to Nick Cellini of CSS and 790 “The Zone” in Atlanta for the heads-up.  Usually a Friday night 10:30 call isn’t appreciated… but muchos gracias on this one.)

Once again we’re left to deal with an unnamed source.  For the sake of argument, let’s assume WSB’s source is correct.

* Newton claims that he only had conversations with “an ex-Mississippi State football player,” and would be Kenny Rogers, obviously.  But Rogers told a radio station yesterday that Newton gave the price of $100,000-$180,000 to two MSU coaches during his son’s official visit to Starkville last November.  If Cecil Newton merely discussed the idea with Rogers, then there’s likely no violation.  But if Newton delivered — or had Rogers deliver — a price to State coaches then that would constitute a violation of NCAA rules.  How big of a violation?  That’s up to the NCAA… but one would expect Auburn to have to vacate a few if not all of its 2010 victories so far.  The question is: Did Newton talk only with Rogers or did he actually name his price to MSU coaches?

* The father claims that no one else in his family knew of his money talks.  He also claims that no money ever changed hands.  And he claims — all according to the source — that Auburn knew nothing of his talks with State.  However, ESPN’s Joe Schad reported earlier this week that both Cecil and Cam “admitted in separate phone conversations to a pay-for-play plan” according to his sources.  Schad wrote that a source told him that “an emotional Cam Newton phoned another recruiter to express regret that he wouldn’t be going to Mississippi State, stating that his father Cecil had chosen Auburn for him because ‘the money was too much.’”  So which unnamed source do you believe?

* According to WSB’s source, the Newtons “have demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with the NCAA.”  Could this be the reason the NCAA reportedly alerted Auburn to a possible eligibility issue with Newton today?

* I find it interesting that Newton and Rogers both denied any money talks last week when ESPN’s initial story broke.  Then — shortly after the FBI started snooping around — both men apparently reversed field.  MSU booster Bill Bell also went on the record with his knowledge of the story after the FBI got involved.  Think this issue suddenly got more serious for a few people?

* The FBI’s involvement in the case likely stems from Newton’s relationship with his churches.  This is purely speculative, but laundering money through a tax-exempt organization like a church (or churches) might be just the kind of thing that would interest the FBI.  After all, it’s unlikely that the FBI would take an interest in a simple recruiting violation.

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ESPN Tweeting What’s Already Been Reported

The Twitterers are all a twitter over something ESPN tweeted 40 minutes ago… but as far as we can tell, ESPN’s tweet regards old news.

This is why I hate Twitter.  (As always, you can follow us on Twitter here!)

According to twitter.com/SportsCenter:

“DEVELOPING STORY: FBI is involved in investigation into recruitment process of Auburn QB Cam Newton.”

Cool.  But unless the ESPN’ers have some new angle on this one, the fact that the FBI is interested in speaking to MSU alum John Bond has been known for days now.

Why exactly the FBI wants to find out if college athletes are being bought and sold is anyone’s guess.

There have been rumors that Cam Newton’s father Cecil received money for his son’s signature and quickly tucked that cash away at one of several churches he is connected to.  Churches aren’t taxed, of course.  So perhaps there’s some FBI-IRS tie here, but that’s ALL just speculation upon speculation.

Unless ESPN reveals some new info in their “DEVELOPING STORY,” it looks like everyone’s just tweeting over old news.

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Thoughts on Cam Newton’s saga

Georgia
Content provided by Georgia Sports Blog.

I'll start by saying that I find it highly unlikely that Mark Schlabach, Pat Forde and Chris Low would all put their names on the original story involving Newton and Mississippi State if they didn't have it cold.  Joe Schad's a different animal entirely.  I'd put his willingness to put himself out on a breakable limb as pretty high, but I digress.

It's important to remember that Forde, Schlabach and Low didn't say Auburn paid for Newton, and that's an enormous issue in this story. They simply said that a representative for MSU stated that someone representing Cam Newton tried to sell Newton to MSU.

Yes…Schad is reporting that the MSU recruiters say they were outbid.  However, I wouldn't put much stock into that as the MSU recruiters have nothing to lose by lying or exaggerating to Schad. And I think Schad may be the weakest link in the entire ESPN news organization .

Hello, I'm Agent Killjoy:
However, the FBI getting involved as TMZ is reporting makes it an entirely different thing.  Ask yourself why and how the FBI gets involved in a case like this?  They certainly don't care about college football's integrity or NCAA violations.  So why get involved?

Well…laundering money through a entity with non-profit tax status like a church…that's on their radar.  Using cross state phone lines to commit fraud or other crimes is also on their radar.

But again…the FBI doesn't get involved with a lot of wild goose chases.  They simply don't have the time.  So why this case?

Consider these three facts:

1.  The NCAA has no subpoena power.  They can't make a Church(es) reveal documents they don't want to reveal.  Nor can they make "runners" or "agents" cooperate with them.

2.  Contributing to non-profit organizations in a non-quid pro quo manner is not an NCAA violation.  Take a look at a some of the big name AAU basketball programs' web sites and notice that several have very visible "Donate Now" pay pal buttons that anyone can hit.  Routing money to AAU coaches via their non-profit AAU status is very common and tough for the NCAA to prove without subpoena  Same with routing money through a church I'd imagine.

3.  NCAA investigators are often retired/former FBI agents who love sports and hate being lied to.

So,What's more likely?  That MSU, Bama or UF called the FBI into this saga?  Thereby increasing their own legal costs and creating distractions for their personnel.  Or that an NCAA investigator called a former co-worker at the FBI and shared his information to date.

Bringing in the FBI is perfect for the NCAA.  They can then let the Feds do the heavy lifting regarding the money trail and leverage their subpoena power to find dirty secrets. Then the NCAA can read the testimony and discovery documents after the fact.

The NCAA wants real meaningful change in the recruitment of student athletes and what better way to facilitate that change than to have the parents, runners, agents and/or coaches involved in high profile cases go to jail?

So is Auburn in real trouble?
Maybe. Maybe not.  If I were betting, I'd suggest that Cam Newton's dad was more likely to end up in hot water than anyone at Auburn.  But Auburn officials should be sweating bullets.  Just remember, there are five people that you never want to see in your front yard:

1. Jim Cantore
2. An IRS Agent
3. An FBI Agent
4. Greta Van Susteren
5. Chris Hansen

If Cam and Auburn want due process, well..they are going to get it.  Sadly, just not fast enough for Georgia to benefit on Saturday.

PWD


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The SEC’s Greatest Strength Is Also Its Greatest Weakness

Fan passion.

When people ask what makes the SEC so great, the answer always comes back to “fan passion.”

It’s fan passion that fills stadiums across the South every Saturday.  It’s fan passion that has made the SEC Championship Game the crown jewel of all league title games.  It’s fan passion that leads thousands of donors to pour millions of dollars into SEC athletic programs each year.  It’s fan passion that drives athletic directors to demand excellence and championships from their coaches.

Fan passion is the SEC greatest strength.  SEC fans will do absolutely anything for their school. 

But. 

SEC fans will do absolutely anything for their school.  That’s why fan passion is also the SEC’s greatest weakness.

Take the current mess surrounding Cameron Newton.  Now, no one will admit that their school’s coaches, officials, boosters or fans might have had anything to do with the allegations surrounding Auburn’s quarterback, but someone somewhere is talking.  Someone is leaking info.  And they’re doing so because they want their team to win… and Auburn to lose.

This isn’t about Auburn, either.  No matter how loudly AU fans will moan about being picked on.  When there’s blood in the water, SEC fans turn into piranhas.  If Newton had signed with Mississippi State, it would be MSU on the slab right now.  As it turned out — for whatever reason — Newton inked with Gene Chizik and now Auburn’s being dissected.

But in their rush to undermine another program, some people might have put themselves in harm’s way.  Whoever leaked word that Newton had cheated academically at Florida likely violated federal privacy laws.  That could mean jail time if a federal judge gets involved.  Thayer Evans — who wrote the academic allegations story for FoxSports.com — could be forced to give up his source if a criminal investigation is launched.  If it’s found that a coach was involved in leaking the info, it’s likely that his tenure will come to an end.  We’re not talking about breaking an NCAA rule here, we’re talking about breaking a federal law.

Even people on the outskirts of the story are simmering in uncomfortable waters.  The FBI wants to talk to John Bond.  Now Bond is in no trouble himself, but if you’re like me, you wouldn’t want to sit down with the FBI for any reason.  I’m guessing Bond feels the same way.

Eric DeLaet is an employee of Florida’s football program.  His brother posted information about the FoxSports.com report before it ever hit the web.  Now AuburnSports.com has traced things all the way back to DeLaet inside the Gators’ own house.  If nothing else, one person working in the UF football offices appears to have known that this was coming and shared that information.  Someone will want to speak with Eric DeLaet at some point to find out what he knew and how he knew it.  Especially if a criminal investigation is launched.

All of this nonsense is playing out on a national scene, of course.  And things could get even worse.  If Auburn defeats Georgia and Florida beats South Carolina on Saturday, the SEC Championship Game will feature two programs at the center of the Newton saga.

That will be great news for ESPN’s week-long coverage of the title game.  It will certainly be great for CBS’ gameday ratings.

But it won’t be great news for the Southeastern Conference.  And you can be sure that commissioner Mike Slive doesn’t want this SWC-like infighting to be front and center as the league puts on its A-1 dog and pony show. 

The SEC Championship Game is all that’s right about the league.  This year it could become the backdrop for all that’s wrong with the league.

Slive said this week that the SEC has done a good job of cleaning up its act under his watch.  “The old days that had the idea of anything goes, I think those days are gone.”

Maybe when it comes to cheating, but not when it comes to mudslinging.

“We will have our incidents,” Slive told USA Today.  “Every league has incidents that occur.  (But) we’ve got a road map.  We’ve got a philosophy.  Is it easy?  No, but we’re committed to it and, in my mind, we have made progress… the kind of strides in less than a decade that people, whether they’re here or elsewhere, most likely didn’t believe we could make.”

Slive is correct.  The SEC’s reputation had improved in recent years.  But those improvements are fading fast.  Whether it’s a textbook scandal at Alabama, a coach lying to investigators at Tennessee, a man of John Calipari’s reputation at Kentucky, or the current allegations being directed at Auburn, the SEC makes as many bad headlines these days as good ones.

Tony Barnhart of The AJC suggests today that it might be time for Slive to put his foot down. 


“… what we have now are charges, albeit unsubstantiated, that coaches in this league have violated federal privacy laws at worst and SEC policy at best.  It’s probably a good time for everybody in the league to be reminded that they work for the institution and are obligated to follow the rules of the Southeastern Conference.  They also need to be reminded that if they violate those policies, the result will not be pretty.”


The problem is, what can the commissioner do at this point?  Most likely the leaker for FoxSports’ academic story was someone closer to UF’s Student Conduct Committee than to the Gator football program (even though that messageboard post that traces all the way back inside the UF football offices might raise some doubts to that).  How can Slive control a leaker who might simply serve on Florida’s Student Conduct Committee?

Slive can try to control coaches.  He can tell ADs and presidents to get control of their underlings before the SEC’s roof caves in on everyone.  But he can’t control fans and boosters.  And fandom is likely what led to the academic leak.

Fans and boosters have spread accusations and rumors about Newton’s recruitment from the day he signed with Auburn to right… this… minute.  That kind of messageboard muck is just begging out to be raked.  And there are plenty of reporters just living to rake it. 

SEC fans love their schools.  Some will do anything for their schools.  Some will spread any rumor or make any accusation to help their school (and hurt a rival).  Apparently some will even violate federal laws.

Slive simply can’t control that.  That fan passion is the SEC’s greatest strength.  But it’s also its greatest weakness.

(And for the record — I think this is obvious, but many do not — when I write “fans” this does not refer to all “fans.”  It’s like saying “Americans like baseball.”  Yes, many do.  But not all do.  So you can save the emails.)

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Team Speed Kills – ESPN: Cam Newton, Family Offered Pay-for-Play to Mississippi State, Said ‘The…

LSU
Content provided by And The Valley Shook.

Team Speed Kills – ESPN: Cam Newton, Family Offered Pay-for-Play to Mississippi State, Said ‘The Money Was Too Much’ at Auburn

Looks like someone really doesn’t want Cam Newton to play at Auburn anymore….

(Apologies for duplicating an EDSBS joke from yesterday afternoon, when this whole story seemed a lot more innocent. And that was just the FBI getting involved)


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