The apparent go-between figure in the Cam Newton situation has publicly stated Newton’s father Cecil not only knew about but also initiated the play-for-pay scenario with Mississippi State.
Former Mississippi State player Kenny Rogers stated in an radio interview with ESPN 103.3 in Dallas, Cecil Newton told him it would take “anywhere between $100,000 and $180,000” for his son to sign with Mississippi State.
Rogers, who was doing the interview with his attorney Doug Zeit, said he was present for a meeting that involved him, Cecil Newton and two unidentified MSU coaches on the night of November 27, 2009.
On that evening, which was the night before MSU’s 41-27 victory over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, Rogers claimed that was when Cecil Newton appeared to bring up a payment for Cam Newton at the Hilton Garden Inn in Starkville.
“One of the coaches was like, ‘No, no, I don’t want to hear that,’” Rogers said before refusing to identify the two State coaches who he said were present during the discussion.
However, Rogers and his attorney completely denied he was the one who informed former MSU quarterback John Bond via phone that it would take money for Cam Newton to sign a national letter of intent.
When interviewed by ESPN.com last 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 to ESPN.com.
Rogers said he did the second radio interview to “clear the record with me.”
“When it made it look like the Newtons didn’t know anything about anything and here I am looking for money – that’s another thing that’s been bothering me for six, seven, eight days,” Rogers said in the interview.
During the radio interview Rogers stated that a Mississippi State booster named Bill Bell, who was a four-year letterman at State and played with both Rogers and Bond from 1978-1981, as the individual who called Bond about the alleged $180,000 offer for Cameron Newton to sign with Mississippi State.
“Bill Bell is a former teammate that played with us in the 80s, who is the person that called John Bond – not me,” Rogers said in the interview.
Bell, who is listed as the president of Bel-Mac Roofing in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., was not available when asked for comment Thursday.
Bond strongly refutes that claim and maintains that Rogers was the one that called him about the offer for Newton.
“I’m standing by my statement and did what was right for my University….more to come,” Bond said in a text message to the Starkville Daily News.
Mississippi State had no comment on the Rogers interview Thursday and referred all calls to its previous statement sent out the day before.
Bond is scheduled to talk with FBI on Tuesday and plans to turn over any records he has involving this situation during that meeting.
SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said Wednesday evening that there was also no mention of the reported play-for-pay conversations in either of the school's reports to the league office.
However, Mississippi State officials released a statement Wednesday saying that shortly after the call from Bond was received, the conference office requested specific information to include interviews with involved staff from MSU but due to State’s compliance office “dealing with ongoing and time-consuming eligibility issues involving non-football matters in the winter and spring of 2010”, which could be interpreted as the pair of basketball cases involving Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost, the specific SEC request went unfulfilled. “Some additional information was provided to the SEC during July of 2010,” the university statement reads. “Once the NCAA enforcement staff became involved, Mississippi State University cooperated fully with its investigation.”
Rogers went on in the interview to describe a scenario where he and Cecil Newton followed each other out of Starkville the day after the Egg Bowl and at a Shell station off Highway 82 Newton asked him ‘What do you think is going to happen? You think it's going to go through?’
“I said ‘I can’t answer that – I’ll just call Bill Bell,” Rogers said in the interview. “I left Bill a message saying ‘Bill, I’m with Mr. Newton – he just wants to know if the deal is going to go through.”
In an e-mail to ESPN.com, an NCAA spokeswoman said: "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."
Montgomery-based attorney Don Jackson, who has experience dealing with NCAA eligibility issues and represented Renardo Sidney this past year, disputes that claim saying in his opinion the NCAA would not necessarily penalize an institution or individual for being asked to provide benefits.
“I don’t think that type of situation would warrant a violation because quite frankly that happens all the time,” Jackson said in a phone interview with the Starkville Daily News. “The only way that would cause a violation is if there’s proof that anyone whether it be a booster or whoever provided the extra benefit.”
Earlier this week, Auburn coach Gene Chizik was adamant that Newton would play this Saturday against Georgia, and would not comment publicly about the newest reports or a change in Newton's eligibility Thursday.