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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.