By MATTHEW STEVENS
Former Mississippi State football player Bill Bell has met with NCAA investigators and according to an ESPN.com report has handed over text messages and voicemails from Kenny Rogers that laid out a payment plan designed to bring Cameron Newton to Mississippi State.
Bell said he told the NCAA that Rogers sent him a text message outlining a payment schedule. Bell said the text included a request for $80,000 the day after Cam Newton signed with Mississippi State, $50,000 30 days after that and another $50,000 30 days later.
"When he asked for it, it was like 'Bam!'" Bell said to ESPN.com. "He told me this kid's dad is going to want money and the next day he sent me a text message. He didn't say anything other than 'This is what I want and I want it in three installments.'”
According to the report, Bell told ESPN.com that the man identified as representing the interests of Cecil Newton, Cam’s father, was former Mississippi State football player Kenny Rogers.
“He said it was going to take more than just a relationship with (Mississippi State head coach) Dan Mullen and that Cam's relationship with Mullen wasn't what Mullen thought it was," Bell told ESPN.com. "That's when he said, 'Dan Mullen is going to have to put a smile on my face if he thinks he's going to get my son.'”
Last Thursday, Rogers told ESPN 103.3 radio in Dallas that Cecil Newton told him it would take "anywhere between $100,000 and $180,000" for his son to play at Mississippi State.
Friday, Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin acknowledged in a statement that the university “was approached with an offer to provide an extra benefit" and that the school refused. Stricklin and MSU officials have had no comment about either today’s report regarding Bell’s comments and/or confirming NCAA investigators were on the Starkville campus this week.
Rogers’ attorney Doug Zeit, a lawyer based in Waukegan, Ill., confirmed to the Starkville Daily News Wednesday afternoon that he met with NCAA investigators but would not say where the meeting took place and who was present.
“The only thing I can say at this time is I met with the NCAA (Tuesday) for a substantial amount of time,” Zeit said.
In the ESPN.com report, Zeit apparently identified NCAA enforcement representative Jackie Thurnes as participating in the meeting in person and NCAA enforcement representative Marcus Wilson also participated in the interview via telephone.
Rogers said last week that on Nov. 28, 2009, he and Cecil Newton followed each other out of Starkville after State’s 41-27 victory in the Egg Bowl.
During the radio interview, Rogers claimed that was when Cecil Newton appeared to bring up a payment for Cameron 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.
On ESPN radio in Dallas, Rogers stated that Cecil Newton asked him the next day at a Shell station off Highway 82: "What do you think is going to happen? You think it's going to go through?"
Rogers then claims he left Bell a message telling him he was with Cecil Newton, who wanted to know if the deal was going to happen.
John Bond, who played quarterback at Mississippi State on the same teams with Bell and Rogers, has confirmed to multiple news outlets that Rogers also contacted him about an alleged pay-for-play scheme. Bond has already talked with NCAA investigators and Bond’s attorney Phil Abernethy confirmed to the Starkville Daily News that his client met with FBI officials Tuesday.
“John Bond has been interviewed by a State regulator and Federal law enforcement,” Abernethy’s statement read. “He has fully cooperated with both agencies and has provided them all facts known by him. Due to the ongoing nature of these matters, he can not comment further about either interview.”
Several attempts were made to reach John Bond by the Starkville Daily News Wednesday but messages were not returned.
Mississippi State officials have released two statements on the matter both saying they attempted to inform the Southeastern Conference of the denied request during Newton’s recruitment. In MSU’s second statement released last Friday, State officials said the compliance office was “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 and therefore the specific SEC request for more information 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.”