Cash sought for Cam Newton
During the height of star quarterback Cam Newton's recruitment out of junior college last year, a man who said 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 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.
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Sources told ESPN.com the former teammate is Kenny Rogers, who played at Mississippi State from 1982 to '85. Rogers operates a Chicago-based company called Elite Football Preparation, which holds camps in Chicago, Alabama and Mississippi. A Lexis search for that business lists Kenneth Rogers as the contact and his title as "agent." A Birmingham News story from 2008 said Elite Football Preparation "matches high school athletes with college programs."
Bond said the former teammate told him other schools had already offered $200,000, but since Newton really liked Mississippi State and had a relationship with head coach Dan Mullen dating to when both were at Florida, Mississippi State could get him for $180,000.
"I have no agenda other than protecting Mississippi State," Bond said. "We've done what we were supposed to do from the very beginning. Mississippi State has done nothing wrong, and I've done nothing wrong. It's been handed off to the NCAA, and it's in their hands now. I don't know what happened at Auburn. I don't know why he went to Auburn. That's not my concern. My concern is Mississippi State and making sure this doesn't cause us any trouble."
Bond said an NCAA investigator came to Mississippi to meet with him in early September, as well as with Mississippi State officials.
When interviewed by ESPN.com Thursday at the family's home in Atlanta, Cecil Newton, Cam's father, denied any wrongdoing.
"If Rogers tried to solicit money from Mississippi State, he did it on his own, without our knowledge," Cecil Newton said.
Cecil Newton said he first met Rogers two years ago, when Cam Newton left Florida. He said he talked to Rogers on several occasions to find out more about Mississippi State, but never met Rogers until Cam Newton's official visit to Starkville, Miss.
Cecil Newton said the family received a letter from the NCAA "about a month ago" asking for financial statements. He said he submitted bank statements and records for the church where he is pastor, Holy Zion Center of Deliverance in Newnan, Ga., along with other records.
The church has been in the news in Coweta County, Ga., often in the past year. According to stories in The Times-Herald newspaper, Cecil Newton's church was in danger of being demolished by order of the Newnan City Council in 2009 for failing to meet the city's building code. One story said Cecil Newton told the council last September the building would be brought to code "inside of six months." After numerous delays, extensions and compromises from the council, renovation work began last spring and The Times-Herald reported last week that the church is in compliance with Newnan's building requirements.
"If you've ever seen our church, you'd know we don't have any money," said Cam Newton's mother, Jackie. "We have nothing."
Holy Zion Center of Deliverance is not the only church Cecil Newton is involved in overseeing. Cam Newton told ESPN.com last month that his dad is a bishop to five churches in Georgia.
"I'm just trying to protect my son's interests, because he's fought very hard to get back where he is," Cecil Newton said. "It's a hell of a fight when people give up on you and think they'll never see you or hear from you again."
NCAA officials declined comment on the allegation involving Newton on Wednesday.
"We do not comment on current, pending or potential investigations," said Stacey Osburn, the NCAA's associate director for media and public relations.
Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA's new director of enforcement, said it is the association's policy to neither confirm nor deny an investigation.
SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey, who oversees conference compliance, said the league received "specific information" regarding the Newton allegation in late July of this year.
"When we get information, we share it with the institution when it is involved," Sankey said.
Without specifically addressing the initial call from Mississippi State, which came several months earlier, Sankey said what the SEC originally was told about the allegation was "limited information."
"We don't deal in rumor and innuendo," Sankey said. "We deal in facts."
He said the SEC is not an investigative body, adding that it can share information with NCAA enforcement as needed. He declined to say whether the Newton allegation was shared with the NCAA.
Sankey also would not directly comment on whether the league office considers this an ongoing issue or a closed case.
"We're attentive to a variety of issues at any given time," he said. "We pay attention to a lot."
"We are comfortable that representatives of Mississippi State University's interests conducted themselves appropriately and in compliance with all NCAA by-laws," Mississippi State said in a statement to ESPN.com. "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."
Sources said Mississippi State refused to get involved with Rogers, whose association with Chicago-based agent Ian Greengross has come under scrutiny from the NFL Players Association and the NCAA.
NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis told ESPN.com on Thursday the organization is "in the process of investigating [Greengross and Rogers] as we speak for violations of our rules and regulations."
A voice message left with Greengross by ESPN.com was not immediately returned. Attempts to reach Rogers, who also played for the Miami Dolphins during the 1987 strike, were unsuccessful. The voice mailbox at Elite Football Preparation was full Thursday.
At the time of Rogers' alleged solicitation, Mississippi State was perceived to have the inside track because of Newton's relationship with Mullen, who was the offensive coordinator at Florida when Newton was a backup to Tim Tebow. Newton later left Florida and went to Blinn College, a two-year school in Brenham, Texas.
After his official visit to Starkville, Newton took visits to Oklahoma on Dec. 11 and Auburn on Dec. 18.
On Dec. 31, 2009, Newton publicly committed to Auburn, where this season he has led the Tigers to a 9-0 record and No. 2 ranking in the BCS standings. Along the way, Newton's dazzling running and passing have elevated him to Heisman Trophy favorite status.
"We have been made aware of the allegation. Unfortunately, we cannot comment at this time," Auburn assistant athletic director, media relations Kirk Sampson said. "However, Cam Newton is eligible to play football at Auburn."
Auburn coach Gene Chizik reiterated that during his Tiger Talk radio show Thursday night.
"Unfortunately, I can't comment on it," Chizik said. "But here's what I can and I will this say very loud and very clear: Cameron Newton is eligible at Auburn University, period. End of story.''
Multiple media reports this fall have said Cam Newton preferred going to Mississippi State, but his father preferred Auburn. According to a story in Sports Illustrated last week, Cam Newton left the final decision to his father, who declared to the family last Dec. 23 that his son would attend Auburn.
Pat Forde, Chris Low and Mark Schlabach are college football writers for ESPN.com.