AUBURN - OCTOBER 16: Quarterback Cam Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 16 2010 in Auburn Alabama. The Tigers beat the Razorbacks 65-43. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
There have been some Internet rumors circling about this one for a few weeks, but it's official now per every college football source in the country: The NCAA is investigating the recruitment of Cam Newton regarding allegations of a pay-for-play scheme where it is alleged that a six-figure sum was required for the signature of Newton. From what I can tell, Pete Thamel of the New York Times broke the story.
The best summary of the facts to date I have found comes via ESPN in an article authored jointly by Pat Forde, Chris Low, and Mark Schlabach:
During the height of star quarterback Cameron Newton's recruitment out of junior college last year, a man saying he represented Newton allegedly was soliciting a six-figure payment to secure his signature on a national letter-of-intent, ESPN.com has learned. Former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond told ESPN.com that a teammate of Bond's at Mississippi State in the early 1980s contacted him soon after Newton's official visit to Mississippi State during the Ole Miss game in December, and said he was representing Newton. "He said it would take some cash to get Cam," Bond said. "I called our athletic director, Greg Byrne, and he took it from there. That was pretty much it." Multiple sources told ESPN.com that Mississippi State called the SEC office with Bond's information shortly after he brought it to the attention of the school.
For what it's worth, the basic fact pattern that has been alleged in all of the recent Internet rumors is given as the back-story in that article.
Now, stating the obvious, this could be a huge story of Albert Means / Reggie Bush proportions. In all fairness, though, it could be all a bunch of hot air and half-baked allegations. We'll see in due time, so no use rushing to anything now. If this story is legitimate and if there indeed was a pay-for-play scheme, then I'm sure all of it will come to light in due time. If not, it'll rightly become a moot point.
Obviously this story is very big news and it potentially has far-reaching implications for Alabama, so we're going to post it here, but please no incessant rumor-mongering or conspiracy theories and the like. Leave that for the tin foil Auburn fans speculating about the evil REC. For now, at RBR, we'll update with more facts as they become available.
Update I: The following is the official statement released by Auburn University:
"We have been made aware of the allegation. Unfortunately, we cannot comment at this time. However, Cam Newton is eligible to play football at Auburn."
Update II: The following is the official statement released by Mississippi State University:
"We are comfortable that representatives of Mississippi State University’s interests conducted themselves appropriately and in compliance with all NCAA by-laws. Mississippi State is committed to operating our athletics programs within the rules of the NCAA and Southeastern Conference, and we expect those affiliated with our program to continue to do the same."
Update III: Pete Thamel of the New York Times has his latest column up, and it includes at least four new (at least to my knowledge) pieces of information regarding the investigation: (1) John Bond makes the explicit allegation that Kenny Rogers made the representation to him that he represented the Newton camp; (2) court documents show that Kenny Rogers has financial ties to NFL agent Ian Greengross via a shared bank account; (3) Newton's father, in addition to being a preacher, also owns a construction company; (4) Roger's company specializes in players who are transferring and players who have been kicked out of school.
Update IV: Per the Opelika-Auburn News, while Cecil Newton claims that any possible solicitations were the result of Rogers acting alone with no knowledge or impetus by the Newton family, he does confirm that he has known Rogers for two years now, that he did speak with Rogers several times "to find out more about Mississippi State," and that he met him when Cam Newton took his official visit to Mississippi State last year. This doesn't prove anything affirmative, of course, but at the very least does confirm that Rogers and the Newton family had a legitimate relationship. That is not anything particularly damning now, but if the NCAA does find that Rogers did make solicitations, then good luck to Newton and company trying to convince the NCAA that they were completely oblivious to all of it.