By now you've heard the latest, I'm sure, courtesy of TMZ:
According to sources connected to the probe ... FBI agents looking into the Newton recruiting controversy are also asking about Milton McGregor -- a dog track owner arrested last month for allegedly bribing Alabama politicians to vote pro gambling.
We're told agents asked someone connected to the Newton case if he was familiar with McGregor or the bribery scandal.
Expect the rumor mill to go nuts over this one.
There has been a lot of speculation the last few days on 'Bama sites regarding why the FBI seemingly entered this investigation so early -- the FBI was in on this one three business days after the original Newton story broke, while it took them 17 days to enter the fray after the initial publication of the Albert Means rumors by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal -- specifically with the consensus arguing that the early-entry by the FBI was because they had learned of a pay-for-play scheme earlier in the year as a result of the wiretaps and phone interceptions of conversations involving Milton McGregor and Robert Geddie, both of which were arrested last month apparently due in large part to what turned up on those phone calls overheard by the FBI. Some speculate further that the money was channeled to Cecil Newton in the pay-for-play scheme the same way it was channeled to Larry Langford, under the guise of otherwise legitimate "winnings" on slot machines at VictoryLand.
Now is there any legitimate basis to all of that? Obviously we don't know now, and frankly we may never know for certain. It's a possibility, admittedly, and it certainly could have worked that way, but having said that there are literally thousands of other possibilities as well, and while this speculation is certainly feasible, at this point we really have no concrete evidence leading us in a direction that would confirm any of this.
And really, I'm not sure this news really pushes us any further in that direction, either. It possibly could, but then again if Cam Newton did get paid to sign at Auburn, it was almost certainly the result of a payment from an Auburn booster, and in that regard it's only common sense that the FBI would want to talk to someone in McGregor's position. Maybe they have direct evidence or at least some indications of wrongdoing here, maybe they don't and they are just chasing this on a wing and a prayer, but either way it would seem reasonable that they would at least want to question McGregor. In that sense, this latest news doesn't necessarily tell us anything definitive.
One way or the other, though, rest assured the rumor mill will explode after this one. This is tantamount to throwing gasoline on an already raging inferno.
For Auburn, though, the bad news here really has little, if anything, to do with McGregor. The issue for Auburn now clearly becomes that the FBI is searching for someone on Auburn's end who paid for Cam Newton. Much to the contrary of what some Auburn homers have tried to claim, this is not just an investigation narrowly focusing on the validity of the alleged pay-for-play offer Cecil Newton made to Mississippi State employees and boosters, it's much wider than that. It seems that the FBI has taken the fairly common sense position that if there was indeed a legitimate offer made to Mississippi State, Newton and his family were likely paid by someone associated with Auburn in order for him to sign with the Tigers, and now it seems they are actively searching for exactly who paid the price that put Newton in orange and blue. With the FBI having subpoena power and the ability to indict anyone who is not being truthful with them, that is the bad news for Auburn.
Update I: Bill Bell claims he has voice and text messages of Kenny Rogers asking for money, and also claims the specifics of exactly how the pay-for-play scandal would go down. Having said that, while some people are treating this as huge news, to me it's old news. Auburn knew of these allegations last weekend and decided to ignore them then. The only difference that I can see now is that we are just now getting the specifics publicly. The only real "news" I see here is that Kenny Rogers' attorney confirms that indeed was the payment plan.
Update II: Kirk Herbstreit said the following on Paul Finebaum (click here for the mp3, it's at the 7:45 mark) about where the Newton melodrama goes next. It certainly sounds like he knows something else is on the way:
I think that stories like this and other stories probably going to break later tonight or tomorrow.