Isn't this fun? Again, it's a lot more enjoyable than doing a postmortem on how the hell we managed to lose to Les Miles or sitting around on pins and needles over a game with Mississippi State.
With that in mind, as we all now know, Kenny Rogers went on ESPN Radio this afternoon and with his attorney, Doug Zeit, by his side he let loose on the Cam Newton saga. The money exchange of the whole interview:
Ian Fitzsimmons: Cecil Newton, in this process, in recruitment of his son, did he ever tell you flat-out, "This is what it's gonna take for any school to get my son to go sign a letter of intent and play for them?"
Kenny Rogers: Yes, he did.
Ian Fitzsimmons: How much was it?
Kenny Rogers: Anywhere between a hundred and a hundred eighty thousand.
To be honest, this all comes to me as a total shock. I honestly figured all along that Rogers was the middle man in the transaction that helped transfer money between a school / booster and the Newton family, so I have expected all along that Rogers would deny everything and refuse to say anything of substance while ignoring the NCAA entirely. For him to come out openly discussing the dirty dirty comes as a major surprise to me.
With Rogers coming forward, though, to paraphrase our vice president, this is a big f'n deal. After days of listening to Auburn fans expound upon the horrors of anonymous sources, we finally have an identified source who has gone on the record with a first-hand, eyewitness account to claim that Cecil Newton himself was attempting to orchestrate a pay-for-play scheme in order to procure the signature of his son.
Now, the big issue with Rogers becomes credibility. After all, just last week Rogers was claiming that he only discussed the "culture of Starkville" with Cecil Newton. With that in mind, naturally, the latest Auburn meme is that anything Rogers says is irrelevant because he is a not a credible source. That's interesting, Floyd, but the reality of it is that anyone even remotely involved in an attempt to shop a prospect to a school for a six-figure sum will always have serious credibility issues. However, that alone does necessarily prove fatal to their claims. If that were true, nothing would have ever came of the Albert Means scandal, so clearly that is largely an argument based more on convenience rather than accuracy. Rarely do you have angels descending from the heavens to tell the truth, you simply have to take the accounts of the flawed, questionable individuals that you have and move forward with them.
Furthermore, the allegations that Rogers aired this afternoon are not the type of things you just randomly make up and announce to the world. These are very serious allegations, and if there indeed was a pay-for-play scheme at work, Rogers himself could soon be on the wrong end of an indictment alleging several violations of federal law. You would not go on the record with this any more than you would broadcast to the world, "Yeah, I walked into that bank with my buddy, and he robbed, but I was just there with an unloaded gun trying to make a withdrawal from my savings account, I didn't do anything wrong." These are serious issues, and there is a reason why Rogers had his attorney sitting right by him throughout the entire interview.
Moreover, let's not kid ourselves, legal issues notwithstanding, Rogers probably just ended his career with this latest interview. I figure his "business" is a shady-at-best enterprise, but even so the point remains that aligning transfer students with new schools is how he puts food on the proverbial table. And with him admitting that he was an accessory to a pay-for-play scheme, Elite Football Preparation may as well go ahead and close shop. No even halfway rational football player will risk coming within a mile of Rogers after all of this, so he lost quite a bit coming forward today.
Regarding credibility, I think it's an issue, but personally I tend to figure that if Rogers were lying about anything in this most recent interview, he's likely lying about his financial stake in this pay-for-play scheme. Am I really supposed to believe that Rogers was willing to potentially subject himself to criminal liability just to charitably help Cam Newton find a new collegiate home? Anyone who buys that theory should e-mail me about this bridge I have for sale over in Brooklyn. I honestly figure he's lying, but I think he's probably lying regarding the allegation that he had no potential financial gain from the transaction. I imagine he was the middle man in the transaction and that he was going to receive some financial compensation to help channel the money from a school / booster to the Newton family. It's hard to fathom a scenario in which he of all people would legitimately lie and falsely allege a pay-for-play scheme when he would have so much to lose from doing so.
For now, the interesting aspect of all of this is that questions over whether or not Newton was paid to sign or whether or not Auburn paid Newton for his signature become tertiary concerns. Regarding the immediate eligibility of Cam Newton, per Andy Staples, a violation is committed the moment there is a solicitation for extra benefits. As long as Cecil Newton legitimately did attempt to solicit money, it's probably the end of the road for his son.
One way or the other, keep your popcorn handy here. The NCAA has asked to speak with Rogers, and he expects to meet with them early next week. Meanwhile, John Bond -- who will be speaking with the FBI next week -- is not backing down from his story at all, and is still claiming vehemently that he spoke to Rogers directly:
"I absolutely talked with Kenny Rogers, and there are phone records that will show that."
Also, more than merely contending that a conversation took place, Bond is still bold in his claim that Kenny Rogers himself solicited Mississippi State for money:
Bond said he'll turn over to the FBI on Tuesday phone records and other information that will support his claim that agent Kenny Rogers sought money from Mississippi State to sign Newton.
Meanwhile, here's one for you that you guys may have seen. This comes from a seemingly random idiot on a TCU message board eight hours before the Joe Schad report broke on Tuesday night. The text is as follows:
Just called and got details. Bill in Destin, Florida is MissSt donor and has phone recording of Cam Newtons dad saying Auburn agreed to pay $200k but he would go to Miss for only $180. Very detailed conversation about method of payment and 3 installments of $60, first before signing and second on signing. Said he gave tape to NCAA last week after story started breaking. Already had death threats from Auburn fans.
Re-read that statement again today in light of everything that we now know. I don't know if that guy really knows anything or not, but at the very least he's incredibly damn lucky with his predictions, because he has largely nailed the allegations to date. I'll I can say is that if he just made all of that up and threw it all over the Internet, he should have capitalized on his good fortune by picking lottery numbers instead of posting on message boards. Either way, naturally, he hasn't posted anything since then.
One way or the other, don't expect this thing to die down any time soon. More will come out in the coming days, I'm sure, given all of the news organizations trying to investigate all of these allegations. Unless Auburn just comes out and says he's ineligible -- and I don't really know anyone who legitimately expects that to happen right now -- the two weeks preceding the Iron Bowl will feel like an eternity.
Finally, I'll close with two rhetorical questions for the readership:
(1) Does anyone legitimately believe that, if Cecil Newton was indeed shopping his son to Mississippi State, Cam Newton signed with Auburn without being compensated for doing so?
(2) What will we know tomorrow?