Newton saga still building
By MATTHEW STEVENS
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The drama surrounding Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton continues to come at a rapid pace.
In the last 24 hours, the Tigers signal caller has been linked to academic fraud allegations, an apparent FBI investigation and a new allegation that includes a play-for-pay situation.
During the Southeastern Conference media teleconference, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik was firm in his statement that Newton would be in the lineup Saturday when his undefeated Tigers traveled to play at Georgia.
âCameron Newton will be playing Saturday against the Georgia Bulldogs and I want to get that off the table," Chizik said before being asked any questions.
The new development in that game is that some Las Vegas sports books have stopped taking bets on the contest game amid uncertainty about Newtonâs status.
Jay Rood, sports book director at the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas, said the game was taken off the board when increased betting on Georgia was spotted.
âWe want to make sure the market value is right,â Rood said in an interview with Bloomberg News. âWe donât want to be looking back on it Saturday as something that we were giving away like a blue-light special.â
Late Tuesday evening, an ESPN.com report written by Joe Schad citing multiple unnamed sources alleges that Cecil Newton and his son Cam admitted in separate phone conversations to a play-for-pay plan.
Schadâs article, which has five unnamed sources in the first four paragraphs without any new relevant information, uses the phrase âTwo sources who recruit for Mississippi Stateâ - in the first sentence. Under the guidelines of the NCAA rulebook a certified ârecruiterâ must be a coach on staff or an official given that status by the NCAA Clearinghouse.
The second paragraph of the ESPN.com report includes this line: âMississippi State compliance officials relayed the alleged conversations to Southeastern Conference compliance officials in January, according to two other sources close to the football program.â
Late Wednesday afternoon, Mississippi State University released a statement confirming the school contacted the Southeastern Conference office last January about the matter.
âDue to MSU dealing with ongoing and time-consuming eligibility issues involving non-football matters in the winter and spring of 2010, the specific SEC request went unfulfilled,â the universityâs statement reads. âSome additional information was provided to the SEC during July of 2010.Â Once the NCAA enforcement staff became involved, Mississippi State University cooperated fully with its investigation.â
Southeastern Conference officials had no comment on Mississippi Stateâs statement.
Early Monday afternoon a report from Fox Sports.net citing one unnamed source that Newton had three different instances of academic cheating while attending the University of Florida and faced potential expulsion from the university.
This leak of an academic fraud charge caused Chizik to open his media session Tuesday with a comment defending his quarterback.
âI want to make this very clear, because Iâm wasting my time addressing allegations that completely, to be frank, blow my mind that theyâre even out there because there are federal privacy laws that dictate that these things donât even get out in public,â Auburnâs second-year head coach said. âBut Iâm standing up here on a very important week trying to defend something that quite frankly is garbage. Is there a wizard behind the curtain? I donât know. Is there one? Is there two? Are there 10? I donât know, and I donât care.â
This speech from Chizik caused Florida head coach Urban Meyer to be a suspect of who leaked the information Newtonâs academic issues while at UF but Meyer refuted those claims in this statement released through the Gators athletic department.
âOur entire focus right now is on preparing for our biggest game of the year against South Carolina,â Meyerâs statement read. âFor anyone to think that I or anyone on our staff may have leaked information about private student records to the media doesnât know us very well. Itâs a ridiculous claim and simply not true.â
Later on Tuesday afternoon, TMZSports.com had a report that the attorney of John Bond confirmed the FBI has requested a sit-down meeting with his client. Minutes after that report was published, The Starkville Daily News asked Bondâs only attorney Phil Abernethy and the Jackson-based lawyer couldnât comment on the TMZSports.com article other than to say âthat information came from another source.â
After Tuesdayâs practice, the Starkville Daily News got a response from Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen on the newest information that has surfaced.
Hereâs what the Bulldogs second-year head coach said about the situation
âIâm a big Cam Newton fan,â Mullen said. âI care about Cam Newton a lot. He was one of my former players. For me to leak out, what do I have to gain on any of this? Itâs absolutely ludicrous. We have more issues on our hands getting ready to play Alabama than whatever is going on with everybody else.â