Another day, another statement coming from the Mississippi State athletic department. In an e-mail just sent out, MSU AD Scott Stricklin writes the following:
"During the recruitment of a football prospective student-athlete, Mississippi State was approached with an offer to provide an extra benefit. This offer was refused.
"MSU alerted the Southeastern Conference about the offer. MSU did not have any specific incriminating information about any other school, and thus could not provide any.
"As Commissioner Slive mentioned today, the SEC is not an investigative body. MSU has cooperated fully and completely with the NCAA from the time it began asking for our assistance, and looks forward to providing any and all help in this ongoing investigation."
Nothing overly surprising there, mind you, but it is confirmation on behalf of Mississippi State that indeed an offer was made to them in a pay-to-play scheme. Obviously they don't name names, but clearly that is a confirmation of all the recent allegations made regarding Cam Newton.
We'll see what happens from here. For what it's worth, Newton boarded the team bus and is apparently staying at the team hotel in Montgomery tonight. As we found out in the Marvin Austin saga, NCAA rules do not allow teams to pay for travel and lodging expenses to road games for ineligible players (which I suppose extends to out-of-town hotel stays the night before home games ) -- though they can receive tickets from the university, and I'm sure they could pay for those expenses on their own if they so choose -- but honestly I figure Auburn hasn't officially ruled him ineligible just yet even if they do indeed plan to do so before kick-off tomorrow afternoon against Georgia. Even if they were going in that direction, I'd bet they wait until pre-game warm-ups to make it official. One way or the other, we'll find out for sure at about 2:00 PM tomorrow.
Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow, however, clearly it's another issue entirely if he can remain eligible throughout the Iron Bowl given the torrid pace of all of the allegations that have emerged in the past eight days. If he does not play tomorrow you can probably forget about him playing against us, but even if he does play tomorrow that is far from a guarantee he'll take the field in Tuscaloosa in two weeks time.
Update: As mentioned in the comments, WSBT out of Atlanta -- the ABC affilliate in the greater Atlanta metro area -- is reporting that Cecil Newton has admitted having conversations regarding a pay-for-play scheme with a former MSU player, though he denies that any money changed hands or that his son had any knowledge of what was going on:
A source close to the situation exclusively told Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Mark Winne that the player's father, Cecil Newton, has admitted having conversations with an ex-Mississippi State University player about the possibility of under-the-table money if Cam Newton signed to play football at Mississippi State, though he's steadfastly maintained that no money ever changed hands and said no official at Mississippi State ever made such an offer.
According to Winne’s source, Cecil Newton said his son’s hands are clean, and has made it clear that Cam Newton himself and his mother knew nothing about the money discussions, nor did Auburn University, with whom the Westlake High School grad from College Park eventually signed with out of junior college.
Who knows if this report is accurate? I'm usually pretty suspicious of local TV reports, but then again this affiliate covers the greater Atlanta area, including the hometown of Cecil and Cam Newton. If anyone in that capacity would legitimately know such a thing, it would be someone like this. I suppose we'll find out soon enough if some other organizations confirm.
One way or the other, if true, this one has to qualify as the backbreaker in this whole ordeal. Even if it is true that Cam Newton himself had no knowledge of the pay-for-play scheme, considering it was his own father directing his recruitment and the pay-for-play scheme, that fact won't mitigate any potential impact on his eligibility. Furthermore, I don't think anyone would ever rationally believe -- I'm by that I'm not including any Auburn fans -- that we have all of this much smoke and then have Cecil Newton himself admit to pay-for-play conversations yet somehow there was still not a dime ever change hands. That one doesn't even come close to passing the smell test.
These latest reports may not be accurate and I would urge a bit a caution until some more credible sources report the same thing, but having said that, if true, I think it's clear that this is the end of the road for Cam Newton.