By MATTHEW STEVENS
While Mississippi State attempts to denounce any further relationship with alleged booster Kenny Rogers, the NCAA has ruled Auburn junior quarterback Cameron Newton eligible to play in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference championship game.
In a letter sent yesterday by MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin, the Mississippi State athletic department has prohibited Rogers, who has been admitted to being the middle man in the solicitation of money by Newton’s father Cecil in a rejected pay-for-play scenario, from participating in a list of school-related activities that includes involvement in any group that is sponsored by the university, further assisting in the recruitment of any student-athlete, providing assistance to any current student-athlete or the making of a financial donation to State’s athletic department.
“This is a notice to you that while we do not believe you at are a representative of the University’s athletic interests as defined by NCAA by-line 13.02.14, the University intends to ensure that you do not become it’s athletic representative at any time in the future,” Stricklin wrote.
Stricklin had no further comment when contacted Wednesday on either the NCAA ruling on Cameron Newton or the letter sent to Rogers.
At the same time of this MSU letter being sent to the media, the NCAA sent out a release stating while they did acknowledge his father committed amateurism recruiting violations in his admitted solicitation attempt, the evidence did not currently warrant a suspension of Cameron Newton for Saturday’s contest against South Carolina in the Georgia Dome.
The NCAA did acknowledge a violation of amateurism rules occurred, therefore Auburn University declared Newton ineligible for one day for violations of those rules.
According to facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff, Cecil Newton and Kenny Rogers worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton’s commitment to attend college and play football.
“The conduct of Cam Newton’s father and the involved individual is unacceptable and has no place in the SEC or in intercollegiate athletics,” Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive said. “The actions taken by Auburn University and Mississippi State University make it clear this behavior will not be tolerated in the SEC.”
Auburn University has limited the access Newton’s father has to the Tigers’ athletics program and Mississippi State has disassociated itself in writing to Rogers.
ESPN.com first report MSU booster Bill Bell handed over text messages and voicemails to the NCAA from Rogers that laid out a payment plan designed to bring Cameron Newton to Mississippi State.
“In determining how a violation impacts a student-athlete’s eligibility, we must consider the young person’s responsibility,” said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs. “Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement.
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 numerous reports, Bell has met with not only NCAA investigators but also with state of Mississippi officials.
Multiple phone messages to the Montgomery, Ala., office of Bell’s attorney Dennis Bailey were not immediately returned.
Nearly a month ago, Stricklin acknowledged in a statement that the university “was approached with an offer to provide an extra benefit" and that the school refused.
Rogers’ attorney Doug Zeit, a lawyer based in Waukegan, Ill., previously confirmed to the Starkville Daily News 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.
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, 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 2009 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.
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, eventually in December picked Auburn over Mississippi State and now has the Tigers in the top spot in the Bowl Championship Series standings, No. 2 in the coaches poll and No. 2 in the Associated Press poll.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound quarterback currently leads the SEC in rushing, pass efficiency, scoring and is the likely frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.
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.
If Auburn were to win Saturday, they would likely play for the national championship in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 8 and the NCAA has reversed the right to continue its investigation leaving the door open for more evidence to be revealed this month that could affect his eligibility.