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Radio Host Says Newton Tapes Are The Real Deal And They Implicate Auburn & Tennessee

Radio host Scott Moore of WZZN-FM 97.7 in Huntsville, Alabama will be making the rounds today.  That’s because yesterday he revealed that he has heard Kenny Rogers’ audio tapes regarding Cam Newton’s recruitment.

“There are tapes.  There is some very incriminating, damning things on those tapes.”

Moore also said there are text messages that Rogers has kept that also shine a bad light on two programs in particular — Auburn and Tennessee.

“The bottom line is these numbers that we keep hearing about — this $150,000 offer from Tennessee, this $180,000 from Auburn — those came from Cecil Newton (to Rogers on the tapes).  They didn’t come from Auburn or Tennessee, they came from Cecil Newton.  He’s the one that said these offers were made to him.”

Moore said that he never heard anything on the tapes “that would implicate Mississippi State.”

“What I’ve heard is offers… (Newton) saying on these tapes that these offers were from Tennessee for $150,000 and a $180,000 offer from Auburn.  I heard him say that, I’ve seen the text messages.  And they exist, that’s the bottom line.”

Interestingly, Moore said there are “several tapes” from “several different people.”


First things first, once again, we’re hearing someone talk about the tapes and not the tapes themselves.  Is Moore going to make this up?  You certainly wouldn’t think so.

Second, we have to wonder if the tapes are real.  It’s hard to imagine why Kenny Rogers would manufacture false tapes unless he plans to sell them off at some point in the future.  It’s unlikely he would go to such lengths, but I saw a recent, poorly done documentary claiming the whole 1960′s “Paul is dead” ruse was real… just the other night.  There are nuts out there who will go pretty far to make a buck.  But the odds that Rogers (and others) faked phone calls and text messages?  Tinier than tiny.

Third, until we hear the tapes and see the messages, we have to wonder if Newton is simply talking big.  Just because he said it, it doesn’t mean it’s true.

As Moore says: “You get back to Cecil Newton coming to these guys in Mississippi and saying, “Hey, I got an offer from Tennessee for $150,000… I have an offer from Auburn for $180,000… Hey, Mississippi State, what are you gonna do?’”

It’s certainly possible Newton was trying to drive up a price from Mississippi State, the school his son wanted to attend in the first place.

But that’s enough of the “possible explanation” stuff.  If Moore is correct, this sounds awfully damning for Auburn and Tennessee.

Which is why one has to wonder just how much the NCAA has talked to — or attempted to talk to — Rogers.  The NCAA has been looking into Auburn but has yet to send a formal letter of inquiry announcing an investigation.  (There’s usually preliminary digging before the investigation is made official, but still, the NCAA hasn’t found/heard enough yet to dive in with both feet.)  The NCAA also just wrapped an investigation into Tennessee and Lane Kiffin.  Judging by the accusations they’ve shipped off to LA, it’s clear that the NCAA would love to get their hands around Kiffin’s neck.  If they had access to or knowledge of credible information showing that Kiffin made a $150,000 offer to the Newtons, it’s quite likely UT’s letter of allegations would have been considerably more brutal.


UPDATE – One more quote from Moore in summary:

“(Newton) went to Mississippi State and said, ‘Hey, what can you guys do for us?’  I mean that’s a fact.  That’s what he did.  And you know Mississippi State came back and said, ‘Listen, we’re not gonna do anything for you, but if you go to Auburn, we’re gonna turn you in.’  And that’s what happened.”


ANOTHER UPDATE TO THE STORY HERE.


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NCAA Prez Wants To Change Rules To Prevent Future Newton Rulings

We’ll start with Cam Newton this morning… and hopefully be done with him from an off-field sense for the day.

After the NCAA ruled on Newton Wednesday, this site (and nearly everyone else on earth) said that the NCAA had created a pretty large loophole in its own rulebook with its decision.

There were a few writers out there — misguided it seems — who disagreed.  Some went so far as to say that those of us talking about loopholes, precedents and slippery slopes were only trying to scare Auburn fans.  Some Auburn fans, naturally, suggested that we were just being anti-Auburn.

Well, as we noted yesterday, none other than Mike Slive himself admitted that a loophole was created by allowing someone to go unpunished even though his father had solicited money from a school’s boosters/coaches.

And now you can add NCAA president Mark Emmert to that chorus as well.

“We recognize that many people are outraged at the notion that a parent or anyone else could ‘shop around’ a student-athlete and there would possibly not be repercussions on the student-athlete’s eligibility,” the new president said on the NCAA’s website.

He also said that the NCAA is committed to “further clarifying and strengthening our recruiting and amateurism rules so they promote appropriate behavior by students, parents, coaches and third parties.”

Finally, Emmert said that the NCAA will “work aggressively with our members to amend our bylaws so that this type of behavior is not a part of intercollegiate athletics.”

Hmmm.  So I guess 99.5% of the world was right on this one… while Auburn fans — excuse me, some Auburn fans — simply took their guy’s side (and took aim on anyone questioning the NCAA’s ruling). 

And then there were those columnists and writers who were among that .5% of the world that was wrong.  Ah, we all burn the biscuits now and again.

Slive.  Emmert.  SEC.  NCAA. 

All now admit a loophole was created with the Newton ruling.  All say they have to work quickly to close it.

With that, we close the case on this “argument.”


Other notes:

* I want to make it clear that no one here at MrSEC is “outraged” by the NCAA’s ruling on Newton.  A loophole was created and Newton was given a benefit of the doubt that previous student-athletes have not been given.  That’s odd.  It’s our job to point that out.  But we’re glad he is eligible to play tomorrow — as he’s the most entertaining player in college football — and if Auburn defeats South Carolina we’ll be excited to watch an Auburn-Oregon shoot-em-up featuring Newton behind center. 

* George Lawson, the attorney for the Newton family, told WSB-TV in Atlanta that “Cam’s father participated in the investigation truthfully and honestly in terms of what he knew and what he didn’t know, regardless of the consequences.”  He also said that he “would hope” the investigation is over, “but if it is not at an end, Cam and his family will continue to participate.”  So please stop emailing me notes saying that this was all Kenny Rogers and that there’s no proof Cecil Newton did anything wrong.  Cecil Newton met with the NCAA.  The NCAA said he was in on asking for cash.  He and his lawyer aren’t arguing that point.  For a reader (fan) to argue what Newton is not is simply childish and closed-minded.

* We still believe a simple one-game retroactive suspension (and forfeiture of the Arkansas State game) would have penalized the Newton family fairly and would have allowed Auburn to still compete for the SEC and BCS titles.

Finis.  (Hopefully.)

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More Cam Newton Headlines

1.  Attorney Donald Jackson — long an NCAA fighter — says the Cam Newton ruling shows that the NCAA “determined that a solicitation alone is not a violation that rises to the level that affects an athlete’s eligibility.”

2.  Months of madness ended with a whimper.

3.  This writer believes the timing of the Newton announcement was all a push to turn the focus to the SEC’s title game.  (Again, think of Mike Slive’s influence.)

4.  Newton is now ready to finish his season…

5.  But the investigation is ongoing.

6.  And apparently things could change at any moment.

(Before someone screams about anti-Auburn bias, those last two links are to The Opelika-Auburn News.)

7.  The NCAA made short work of a sticky situation.
 
8.  This writer expects someone to abuse “the-Dad-knew-but-the-kid-didn’t-loophole.”

9.  Mississippi State’s Scott Stricklin sent Kenny Rogers a letter letting him know just how disassociated he was from his alma mater.  (Rogers’ lawyer points out this client never asked for money, he simply passed along a message from Cecil Newton.)

10.  The NCAA’s ruling included the very important words: “at this time.”

11.  This writer says the NCAA is 100% right and everyone else is completely off-base.  (Tiger fans… send bouquets to Jeff Schultz, c/o The Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

12.  Could the NCAA’s ruling on Newton be right… for the wrong reasons?

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State Of Mississippi Gets In On The Newton Investigation Industry

Thayer Evans of FoxSports.com is reporting that Mississippi State booster Bill Bell was interviewed last Wednesday by the Mississippi secretary of state’s office as part of its investigation into former MSU player Kenny Rogers.

As you know:


* Rogers now says — after initially issuing denials — that he tried to help Cecil Newton procure $100,000 to $180,000 from State boosters for his son’s signature on an MSU letter of intent.

* Bell — who also played at MSU — says that he was approached by Rogers and that he spoke (more than twice, less than a “handful” of times) with the elder Newton.

* Evans is the writer who claims Newton was on the verge of being booted from the University of Florida after numerous charges of academic cheating had been brought against him.  A criminal investigation could result from Evans’ “academic cheating” story (meaning: Who leaked Newton’s federally protected academic records to Evans?).


A source tells Evans that Mississippi officials (the state, not the school) are “investigating whether Rogers violated state agent laws by acting as an intermediary between Bell and Newton’s father.”

The NCAA and FBI are also investigating Newton’s recruitment.  The NCAA wants to know if Newton (or a representative for the quarterback) solicited or received payment for his signature.  The FBI, presumably, wants to know if any money changed hands illegally — laundered cash, across state lines, via phone/wire fraud, etc.  Now the state of Mississippi is targeting Rogers.

Amazingly, Newton could come out of this smelling like a rose while everyone around him — including those who tried to rat his papa out — could face legal issues of their own.

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Rogers In More Hot Water?

State officials in Mississippi want to talk to Kenny Rogers regarding possible violation of the state’s law regulating agents.  But his attorney Doug Zeit told USA Today that might state officials might not get their wish.  In fact, Zeit said he’ll decide whether or not his client will sit down with state agents.

A Secretary of State spokesperson declined comment to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger. 

When all this is said down, I’ve got the feeling a whole lotta people will regret every meeting Cecil Newton.  And Rogers may be at the top of the list.

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Bama GA (And Former MSU Aide) Talks To NCAA About Newton Case

The Tuscaloosa News reports today that Alabama graduate assistant Jody Wright — a former football operations assistant to Dan Mullen at Mississippi State — has been interviewed by the NCAA with regards to the Cam Newton case.

Depending on his capacity at MSU, Wright could be one of the “recruiters” that ESPN’s Joe Schad referred to in a story last week.  Graduate assistants and a few other personnel can recruit by phone for a school. 

Alabama officials said only: “Any questions regarding NCAA activities should be directed to the NCAA.”
 
The NCAA has now spoken with MSU alums John Bond, Kenny Rogers and Bill Bell as part of their investigation.  Sources say members of the Newton family have also spoken with the NCAA.  And now Wright has been interviewed.

It looks like the NCAA wants to clear this mess up ASAP.

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Auburn’s Fairley Getting What He Deserves

Auburn defensive lineman Nick Fairley has made a lot of money this fall.  Don’t worry, Tiger fans, there’s no Kenny Rogers connection here.  What I mean to say is that Fairley’s tremendous season has caused him to shoot up NFL draft boards across the league.  He’ll make some big cash when he lands in the pro game.

Fairley has become a strong candidate to take home SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors at season’s end.  Such talk is deserved.

But so is all the talk of Fairley playing dirty on Saturday. 

Against Georgia, Fairley was guilty of a number of borderline hits.  CBS’s Gary Danielson even called him out at one point.

His shot to Aaron Murray’s knee late in the fourth quarter actually led to Georgia’s attempted retaliation — not smart, either — and the fisticuffs that brought the suspension of two of Fairley’s teammates.

Auburn fans might not want to hear it, but Fairley took some flat-out cheap shots on Saturday.

Watch this video and try to argue otherwise:



A helmet to the back is a dirty play.  Especially when the player lowers his helmet and targets the opponent’s back.  There was no accident here.  This was simply a dirty play.  No way around it. 

Fairley has been so dominant between the whistles this season that it’s completely unnecessary for him to give anybody the business after the whistle.  That’s the disappointing thing in all of this.  All season, Fairley has been building up his reputation as a top-notch defender, but with some poor choices on Saturday, he sullied his reputation and gave writers/talking heads across the country reason to call him a cheap shot artist.

If he’s smart, he’ll learn his lesson (hopefully with the prompting of Gene Chizik) and work on turning the focus from his dirty play back to his outstanding play when the Tigers face Alabama next Friday.

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Morning Newton Reaction

Our take on the latest Cam Newton bombshell will come just a little bit later this morning, but we first wanted to bring you all the Newton-related headlines from across the web.

Here goes…

1.  As you know, former MSU player Kenny Rogers went on the radio yesterday, reversed field, and claimed that Cecil Newton told two Mississippi State coaches that it would take “anywhere between $100,000 and $180,000″ to sign his son.

2.  MSU booster Bill Bell also told ESPN last night that Newton’s father had asked for money.  “That’s all I want to say about it at this point.”

3.  Tony Barnhart of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes this morning that the Newton story is reaching critical mass.

4.  Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News reports that “two people with extensive experience in dealing with the NCAA on eligibility matters” told him that Auburn should continue to play Newton.

5.  Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com writes that cheating is worth it – if you get away with it.

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Kenny Rogers: Cecil Newton Shopped Son To Mississippi State

Cecil Newton, Cam Newton’s father, gave a price to two Mississippi State coaches last fall in order to sign Newton, according to Kenny Rogers.

Rogers, a former Mississippi State wide receiver who ESPN reported allegedly sought money for Cam Newton to sign with the Bulldogs, appeared on ESPN 103.3 in Dallas on Thursday.

When Rogers was asked if Cecil Newton ever stated how much money it would cost for Cam to sign with Mississippi State, Rogers responded, “Yes he did.” Asked how much, Rogers said: “Anywhere between $100,000 and $180,000.”

Rogers said Newton gave that price to two Mississippi State coaches during Cam’s official visit to Starkville, Miss., on Nov. 27, 2009. The conversation took place inside the Hilton Garden Inn in Starkville, according to Rogers.

Click here to listen to the interview with Rogers in its entirety. ESPN.com has a full report on the story.

Rogers told ESPN 103.3 he was only involved with Cecil Newton in regards to Mississippi State. Rogers said he had no knowledge of Cam Newton’s recruitment at Auburn. Rogers said he had “no idea” why Newton chose Auburn.

Newton could be ruled ineligible whether he actually received improper benefits or not. NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn told the Birmingham News that “the solicitation of cash or benefits by a prospective student-athlete or another individual on his or her behalf is not allowed under NCAA rules.”

Mississippi State officials declined to comment on Rogers’ interview when reached by ESPN on Thursday.

Auburn declined comment through spokesperson Kirk Sampson, according to ESPN.com.

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Is Auburn Guilty?

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Well, crap.

We haven’t waded into the murky depths of the Cam Newton scandal for the following reasons:

  • This is the sort of thing that brings the whole conference down. Has no one learned from the SWC? No one comes out of this unscathed in the entire conference. When the Albert Means scandal raged, yes, Alabama went on probation, but the national story was partly that “the whole SEC is corrupt.” Scandals like this make us all look bad. I don’t rejoice at any SEC program getting caught cheating.
  • I realize LSU benefits if Auburn has to vacate wins or if Newton is ruled ineligible from this day forward, but the NCAA isn’t known for working fast. There’s not a great chance the NCAA actions comes in time. Even if the NCAA does move fast, it’s beyond cheap. Auburn beat us on the field fair and square. Yes, Newton may have taken illegal benefits, but let’s not whine about what happened on the field. If you lose, don’t try and reverse the result with your lawyers.
  • It was all rumor and innuendo and until last night, it didn’t directly involve Auburn. Now, ESPN’s reporting does link Auburn. It’s now a legit story. There’s not just smoke now, there’s fire.
  • It’s just icky.

But the recent ESPN story puts this firmly in our crosshairs.  We can’t ignore this anymore.  TET is currently whistling past the graveyard while RBR is cackling with delight, but we’re taking a more cautious take on this.

First and foremost, someone owes an apology to Joe Schad.  We take our shots at the pundit class all of the time, but actual reporting is a hard job.  We attack poor analysis and lazy tropes, but actually investigating a story is a different beast entirely.  I’m not sure what Joe Schad has done, but he has a great story with two anonymous sources with details that check out with what is in the public record.  This is not a hit job.  Joe Schad has no interest in tearing Auburn down.  He wants a good story, of course, but every detail he’s revealed so far has eventually checked out.  His reporting gets the benefit of the doubt right now.  This is a big story, and kudos to Schad for breaking it.    

Now, I don’t want Cam Newton to be guilty.  I want a player of his caliber to be clean.  I honestly want the story to be “quarterback makes the most out of a second chance.”  I don’t like Auburn, but its apparently not at Bama levels of hate.  I don’t want Auburn to go on probation.  Again.  I want to beat them straight up.

But it’s becoming harder and harder to think that there isn’t something seriously wrong.  We can all pretty much agree at this point that Kenny Rogers asked Mississippi State for cash in exchange for Newton’s commitment.  We probably lose Mississippi State fans and no one else when we assume that Mississippi State actually offered the cash, and we can also safely assume that Rogers was acting on the Newton family’s behalf. 

So, where does that leave us?  Why on earth would Cam Newton turn down the Mississippi State cash and go to Auburn?  Either Gene Chizik is a great recruiter or something really fishy is going on down on the Plains.  There’s just too much smoke not to be fire.  There hasn’t been that solid piece of evidence yet, but this story isn’t that old.  It still might come.

EDITED TO ADD FROM THE COMMENTS:  To be fair, here is the Newton defense from the comments:

The NCAA and SEC were each put on notice of the claim in Jan, yet as of today “A person familiar with the situation has told The Associated Press that the university has received no letter of inquiry from the NCAA and that an internal review of phone and e-mail records showed no contact with Kenny Rogers, whom ESPN.com cited as the man who approached Bond…. the university also found nothing improper in the personal and church bank records of Newton’s father, an Atlanta pastor.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who also recruited Newton out of Blinn, said he saw “nothing at all” out of the ordinary during that process.”

Don’t know the truth, but this seemed important.

Zimm is absolutely right.  There are plenty of denials out there.  There is plenty of evidence that Rogers was not acting on the Newton’s behalf and that MSU, especially, acted appropriately by reporting this right away to the NCAA.  Auburn didn’t report the matter, but until last night, there was no evidence linking Auburn to Rogers.  This very well could be one nefarious guy, Rogers, acting alone and being promptly turned in.  But, as I mention in the comments, that’s also pretty bad.  

I hope we’re wrong.  But I don’t think we are.  Auburn, a program that’s all too familiar with the NCAA’s Infraction Committee, doesn’t exactly have the credibility to say “Trust us.  We’re on the level.”  Auburn’s only familiarity with the NCAA rulebook is on looking for loopholes to get around it. 

Maybe this is the time they are telling the truth.  I’d like for that to be true.  I ‘d like for the SEC to show off its dominance by winning its fifth consecutive title from four different teams.  I even would like for Newton to win the Heisman and be a feel-good story and not a cautionary tale.

This can have a happy ending.  But I don’t think it will.  I don’t even think Auburn fans do.  I want Auburn to lose on the field, but that’s the extent of it.  Auburn losing games making me happy.  But if they are guilty of these kind of infractions, well, that’s just sad.

No one wins if that’s true.         


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