Auburn: No comment on Cam Newton
Two days after Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Cam Newton will start Saturday, athletic director Jay Jacobs said "we're not commenting" when asked about the embattled quarterback's status against Georgia.
Newton's father, Cecil, was accused Thursday by Kenny Rogers, a former Mississippi State player who has worked for a Chicago-based agent, of asking for anywhere from $100,000 to $180,000 for his son to sign a letter of intent with Mississippi State. According to an NCAA spokeswoman, "the solicitation of cash or benefits by a prospective student-athlete or another individual on his or her behalf is not allowed under NCAA rules."
Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin acknowledged in a statement Friday that the school "was approached with an offer to provide an extra benefit" and that the school refused.
Auburn has contended for the past week that Newton is an "eligible student-athlete" in light of reports that Rogers, acting on behalf of Cecil Newton, told two Mississippi State representatives that it would take money to get Newton to play at their school.
The Birmingham News reported Friday that Newton practiced with Auburn's first team Thursday night and is on track to start Saturday.
Chizik said Wednesday, "I want to get this off the table up front: Cameron Newton will be playing Saturday against the Georgia Bulldogs."
Newton boarded the team bus Friday evening to head to the hotel in Montgomery, where the Tigers stay the night before home games. Dozens of fans attended the send-off, with one group holding up signs spelling out "Lean on us Cam [nbr]2."
SEC commissioner Mike Slive, in an interview with The Birmingham News, said Friday that Newton's status is up to Auburn.
"The only thing we made clear is a decision about his eligibility is a decision that has to be made by the institution," Slive told the paper.
Slive also asked the public and Heisman Trophy voters to hold judgment on Newton until all facts have been established.
"I hope that people will reserve judgment in fairness to the SEC, in fairness to the institutions and most importantly in fairness to the young man," Slive said. "I hope people will exercise thought and patience before making those decisions. I'm concerned about fairness. This has to do with fairness."
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said Friday that the NCAA doesn't talk about "current, pending or potential investigations" when asked whether the governing body had advised Auburn of eligibility questions involving Newton.
Slive told The Birmingham News that the conference's role is to "wait out the investigation."
Slive and Mississippi State have gone back and forth recently about why it took the school six months to file a detailed report after initially notifying the SEC in January that a request for extra benefits had been made during the recruitment of Cam Newton.
Mississippi State followed up with more information in July. The school said in a statement Wednesday that the delay was because its compliance office was busy with other "time-consuming eligibility issues."
Slive made it clear Friday that the SEC was not the cause of the delay.
"There was timely follow-up from our office between January and July," Slive told The Birmingham News. "As Mississippi State indicated, these requests were not fulfilled. We followed up in a timely way. Given the need for people to have a month or more to do that, we asked again. In six years, we've never had a problem with that."
Mississippi State responded to Slive on Friday in the school's statement.
"MSU alerted the Southeastern Conference about the offer," Stricklin said. "MSU did not have any specific incriminating information about any other school, and thus could not provide any.
"As Commissioner Slive mentioned [Friday], 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."
Top-ranked Auburn is on pace to play in its first BCS National Championship Game, but Newton's eligibility could bring its place in that game into question.
However, BCS executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN college football analyst Brad Edwards that any decision will be up to the NCAA.
"The BCS doesn't have an investigative arm. That part is left to the NCAA," Hancock said Friday. "And unless there's an official announcement from the NCAA that might change what's happened on the field this season, there is nothing for the BCS to react to."
Hancock also said that if the NCAA were to penalize a school or a player, the conference commissioners would meet to determine how to handle the situation, and that decision probably would not be made until after any appeals process.
On Tuesday, Chizik dismissed a report that Newton had been involved in an academic cheating scandal at the University of Florida as "pure garbage" in an emotional 4-minute, 25-second rant.
"I'm standing up here on a very important week trying to defend something that's garbage," Chizik said.
Chizik described Newton as a "great human being that comes from a great family" and backed up his quarterback's Heisman credentials as well as his character.
"He's one of the leaders in the Heisman race because he deserves it. That's fact," Chizik said.
Jacobs, in a statement Tuesday after the FoxSports.com story about academic issues at Florida, said: "Cam has been and continues to be completely honest with us. Cam is, by all accounts, a great kid."
ESPN.com reported last week that a man who said he represented Newton allegedly was soliciting a six-figure payment to secure the quarterback's signature on a national letter of intent.
John Bond told ESPN.com that a teammate at Mississippi State in the early 1980s contacted him soon after Newton's official visit to Mississippi State during the Ole Miss game last season, and said he was representing Newton. That man was identified as Rogers, who played at Mississippi State from 1982 to '85.
Rogers denied talking to Bond. Bond told ESPN.com on Thursday: "My story hasn't changed. I absolutely talked with Kenny Rogers, and there are phone records that will show that."
Bond confirmed Friday that he will meet with the FBI on Tuesday. When asked why the meeting was necessary, Bond said, "They don't want people shopping children around for thousands of dollars." On Thursday, Rogers told ESPN 103.3 in Dallas that he had left a message for Mississippi State booster Bill Bell, telling Bell he was with Cecil Newton, who wanted to know whether the deal was going to happen.
Bell, contacted Thursday night by ESPN.com, confirmed Cecil Newton did ask for money in exchange for Cam Newton to sign with Mississippi State. Bell said he was contacted by the NCAA about the matter and spoke to an investigator earlier this week.
"That's all I want to say about it at this point," Bell said.
Also in the interview with ESPN 103.3, Rogers said he and Cecil Newton first talked after Cam Newton left the Florida Gators following the 2008 season. In the course of their conversations, he said Cecil Newton told him, "It's not gonna be free this time."
Rogers said he didn't know whether Cam Newton knew about the request for money.
Rogers' attorney, Doug Zeit, told The Associated Press that the NCAA wants to meet with his client but that the meeting had not taken place. Zeit said Rogers hopes the meeting "will happen sooner rather than later." Zeit said Rogers has not been contacted by the FBI.
Zeit also told ESPN's Joe Schad on Friday that Rogers might have had contact with Auburn coaches, but "if he did, it wasn't about Cam Newton. Kenny talks to coaches across the country."
According to a report in The Birmingham News, Auburn checked thousands of phone records and determined no contact between Rogers and anyone affiliated with the university.
When interviewed by ESPN.com on Nov. 4 at the family's home in Atlanta, Cecil Newton denied any wrongdoing.
Rogers has a company called Elite Football Preparation, which holds camps in Alabama, Chicago and Mississippi, and matches football prospects with colleges.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com's Pat Forde, Mark Schlabach and Chris Low is included in this report.
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