Courtesy of our old buddy Gentry Estes, the Mississippi State Athletic Department has released an official statement to clarify their role in the ongoing Cam Newton saga:
Mississippi State University acknowledges that it contacted the Southeastern Conference office in January of 2010 regarding an issue relating to its recruitment of Cam Newton.
Shortly after the initial call, the SEC office requested specific information to include interviews with involved staff from MSU.
Due to MSU dealing with ongoing and time-consuming eligibility issues involving non-football matters in the winter and spring of 2010, the specific SEC request went unfulfilled. Some additional information was provided to the SEC during July of 2010. Once the NCAA enforcement staff became involved, Mississippi State University cooperated fully with its investigation. MSU is confident the SEC office has managed this process consistent with its established procedures and the university is committed to the conference’s ongoing efforts to ensure compliance with SEC and NCAA rules.
The emphasis is mine. Read the bold portion of that statement again.
Mississippi State confirms that they in fact contacted the SEC office regarding Cam Newton in January. However, they also claim that, due to other other obligations that arose in the interim (likely regarding the NCAA investigation of improper benefits in the recruitment of MSU basketball signee Renardo Sidney), they did not actually fulfill the SEC request for specific information until July. In other words, while the allegations of impropriety in the Newton recruitment were made in January, the evidence supporting those allegations was not provided until sometime in July, just weeks before the kick-off of the 2010 football season.
And, admittedly, that's a bit of a gamechanger. If nothing else, it largely blows out of the water the long-held Auburn claim that they looked into these allegations back in January and found nothing to substantiate them. After all, it's easy to find allegations unsubstantiated when the school making the allegations has not produced any evidence to support them, isn't it?
It's going to be fun to see where this one goes next. We still do not know exactly when the NCAA began investigating these allegations, nor do we know for certain the SEC began investigating these allegations immediately when they received the requested information from Mississippi State. Remember, July was the dawn of Agentgate, and for more than the next two months the SEC had their hands full with immediate eligibility questions surrounding the status of Weslye Saunders, Marcell Dareus, A.J. Green and others. It's entirely possible that the SEC, in fact, may not have embarked on any substantive investigation until the past several weeks.
One way or the other, though, if you take as truth what Mississippi State claims today in their official statement -- and I have no real reason to think otherwise -- Auburn does have some more investigating to do and perhaps even a bit more explaining. Their previous defense that they had investigated these allegations in January and found them to be baseless rings fairly hollow so long as the details of this statement by Mississippi State are accurate.
Note: hat tip to Doc Fumbles for his fanshot touching on this earlier.