A former Mississippi State quarterback has said a person associated with Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton or his family solicited money in order to get him to sign a national letter-of-intent to that institution.
John Bond, who played quarterback at MSU from 1980 to 1983 and now lives in Madison, released a statement through his attorney that the player who’s led Auburn to an undefeated nine-game start to the 2010 season and is leading front runner for the Heisman Trophy would require a financial payment if Mississippi State wanted to sign him last winter.
“During the 2009 football season, I was contacted by a former football teammate, who represented to me that he was speaking for the Newton camp,” Bond said in the statement. “He told me that Cam Newton wanted to play at Mississippi State, but that a specified payment would have to be made. I reported the conversation to the Mississippi State Athletic Department. I was told by the Athletic Department that Mississippi State would not respond to the overture that was made to me, and that Mississippi State would continue to recruit Cam Newton as it does any other football recruit.”
After the news broke by ESPN.com and The New York Times, all contact with Bond now goes through Phil Abernethy, an attorney who specializes in construction law, construction litigation, commercial litigation, product liability and business tort law at the Jackson-based law firm of Butler-Snow.
“Despite many inquiries from numerous news outlets, we advised John not to make any statement until he had been interviewed by representatives of the NCAA,” Abernethy wrote in a statement to the media. “Since that interview has now occurred, we advised John that he was free to make a statement, which he has wanted to do because he acted entirely appropriately throughout this matter. We have advised John to make no further comment at this time.”
An ESPN.com report says a teammate of Bond’s at Mississippi State in the early 1980s contacted Bond soon after Newton’s official visit to Mississippi State during the Bulldogs 41-27 victory over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl last November.
Bond told ESPN.com the former teammate told him other schools had already offered $200,000, but since Newton really liked Mississippi State and Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen dating to when both were at Florida, Mississippi State could get him for the discount price of $180,000.
“I have no agenda other than protecting Mississippi State,” Bond told ESPN.com. “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.”
Mullen has declined to comment on the situation but made several references to “free agency” in statements last week when asked specifically about the tradition of the cowbell at Mississippi State.
“In pro football, guys jump and change teams,” Mullen said after practice last Tuesday. “Most schools don’t have free agency in college football. I can’t say all, but most don’t have free agency in college football.”
ESPN.com has identified this teammate through unnamed sources as Kenny Rogers, who played at Mississippi State from 1982-85. Rogers operates a Chicago-based company called Elite Football Preparation, which holds camps in Chicago, Alabama and Mississippi.
According to a New York Times story, Rogers has financial ties to NFL agent Ian Greengross. Court records obtained by The New York Times showed that Rogers and Greengross share a joint bank account under the name “Greengross Athletic Management Enterprises,” which was overdrawn by $11,664 as of last April, and Rogers told ESPNChicago.com in September that Greengross, who has not yet been linked to the Newton investigation, pays him $2,000 a month.
When asked to comment directly about the matter by the Starkville Daily News, both Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin and MSU’s director of compliance Bracky Brett referred to the statement sent out by the university media relations staff.
“We are comfortable that representatives of Mississippi State University’s interests conducted themselves appropriately and in compliance with all NCAA by-laws,” the statement reads. “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.”
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik refused to get into specific details but did address the situation Thursday night on his weekly radio show.
“I will say this, very loud and very clear,” Chizik said. “Cameron Newton is eligible at Auburn University. Period. End of story.”
Cameron Newton’s father, Cecil, is the pastor of the Holy Zion Center of Deliverance, a church in Newnan, Ga., not far from College Park, where Cam Newton grew up. He played football at Savannah State.
Over the past year, the city of Newnan officials threatened to demolish it because it did not comply with building codes. Last week The Times-Herald in Newnan reported that the church had completed its work and was in compliance.
According to ESPN.com, the NCAA contacted Cecil Newton about a month ago, requesting financial documents. The elder Newton has already told multiple news outlets that he submitted bank statements and other records related to the church.
“It’s not true,” Cecil Newton told Auburn Undercover, the 247Sports.com affiliate for the Tigers program. “The allegations are completely unfounded, and we’ve retained an attorney. That’s all I can say at this time.”
When interviewed by ESPN.com Thursday at the family’s home in Atlanta, Cecil Newton denied any wrongdoing.
“If Rogers tried to solicit money from Mississippi State, he did it on his own, without our knowledge,” Cecil Newton said.
Cam Newton, who was seen as a likely candidate for Mississippi State after the recruit was seen ringing a cowbell at the end of the 2009 Egg Bowl contest, would eventually in December pick Auburn over Mississippi State and now has the Tigers ranked No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series standings, No. 2 in the coaches poll and No. 3 in the Associated Press poll.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound quarterback currently leads the SEC in rushing (1,122 yards), pass efficiency (176.2), scoring (90 points) and is second in total offense (299.4 yards per game).
Newton left the University of Florida for Blinn College, a junior college in Texas, after the 2008 season and in the wake of his being charged with burglary, larceny and obstruction of justice.
Auburn hosts Football Championship Subdivision opponent Chattanooga today for a noon kickoff on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium and AU officials have only stated publicly that Newton will be eligible to play in that contest.