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Saturday, Nov. 05, 2011

Auburn football: NCAA investigation documents reveal Cam Newton was suspended twice last season

- jerickson@ledger-enquirer.com
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AUBURN, Ala. -- Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was ineligible twice last season, instead of just once, as had been previously reported, in the wake of his father’s bid to have Mississippi State pay for Newton’s enrollment, but he was reinstated both times.

Newton was declared ineligible Nov. 10, 2010, in the week leading up to the Georgia game, an Auburn official confirmed Friday, before Auburn’s compliance office worked with the NCAA to get Newton reinstated.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik opened his portion of the SEC teleconference on Nov. 10 by saying that Newton would play against Georgia that week.

Newton was also briefly ineligible before the SEC title game and subsequently reinstated.

On both occasions, Auburn argued that former Mississippi State football player Kenny Rogers was not acting as Newton’s agent or athletic scholarship agent, according to 32 pages of documents released by the university Friday.

Newton was cleared of all wrongdoing on Oct. 11 of this year.

The documents detail the NCAA’s investigation into the pay-for-play scheme devised by Rogers and Newton’s father, Cecil, to obtain payment for Cam Newton’s enrollment at Mississippi State.

Rogers, who runs Elite Football Preparation, a business that tries to help high school and college football players obtain scholarships, exchanged approximately 275 calls and texts with Cecil Newton between March 2009 and January 2010. The two men had approximately 200 contacts before a pay-for-play scheme began to develop.

According to the documents released, Rogers and Cecil Newton began discussing the possibility of obtaining cash payment for a sum between $120,000 and $180,000 from Mississippi State representatives Bill Bell and John Bond in return for Newton’s enrollment in Starkville.

During Newton’s official visit to Mississippi State, according to the released documents, Rogers and Cecil Newton met with members of Mississippi State’s coaching staff in the lobby of the Newton family’s hotel. Cam Newton was not present.

At that meeting, Rogers said Newton’s father suggested that Mississippi State needed to pay Cecil Newton to get Newton on campus.

Rogers told Bell that if there was no cash payment, Newton “likely would commit to the University of Oklahoma and take a visit to the University of Tennessee.”

In addition to Mississippi State, Rogers called coaches at Oklahoma, Kansas State and Tennessee to talk about Newton’s recruitment and sent an email to North Carolina assistant coach John Blake, although he did not accompany the Newtons on any more campus visits. Between August and December of 2009, Oklahoma assistant coach Josh Heupel and Rogers talked 17 times, and Kansas State assistant coach Ricky Rahne spoke to Rogers twice.

Both Oklahoma and Kansas State said the schools were already recruiting Newton before Rogers’ involvement.

Auburn had no contact with Rogers during Newton’s recruitment.

Rogers discussed a cash payment for Newton’s signature with only Mississippi State representatives. In the documents, it is clear that Rogers wanted to deliver Newton to his alma mater and prevent him from attending other institutions.

Cam Newton himself said he knew Rogers as a Mississippi State alum who only provided information to Cecil Newton “on being an African-American male in Starkville, Mississippi.” After Cam Newton decided to go to Auburn, Rogers and Cecil Newton contacted each other approximately 15 times.

Cecil Newton said those communications were informal greetings and well-wishes to the family.

The NCAA requested Auburn to provide a series of documents regarding Newton’s recruitment Oct. 5, 2010. Auburn provided copies of Cam Newton’s cell phone and text message records, copies of Cecil Newton’s emails, plus cell phone records, text messages and emails for Auburn coaches Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn and Curtis Luper.

In addition, the NCAA requested bank records for Cam Newton, his parents, and his father’s church, the Holy Zion Center of Deliverance, from Dec. 1, 2008, to Sept. 1, 2010.

During the separate investigations by Auburn and the NCAA, Newton was briefly ineligible twice for a possible violation of NCAA Bylaws 12.3.1 and 12.3.3, which both address whether or not Rogers acted as Newton’s agent by trying to set up the pay-for-play scheme or as his athletics scholarship agent by speaking to other institutions.

On Nov. 30, 2010, the same day Auburn sent its request for Newton’s reinstatement to the NCAA, athletic director Jay Jacobs also sent a letter banning Cecil Newton from Auburn athletic events, although Newton was present at the BCS National Championship Game.

There are no documents related to Newton’s suspension in the week leading up to the Georgia game because Auburn’s compliance office handled the matter over the phone.

In both cases, Auburn successfully argued that neither bylaw was violated by establishing Cam Newton was not aware of the scheme devised by Rogers and his father, had not agreed with either man to act as his agent, received no benefits from Rogers and did not pay Rogers to help his recruitment. Rogers also would have received no compensation if Mississippi State’s representatives had paid Newton.

In its conclusion, Auburn stated that “Newton should not be punished for the conduct of others,” a statement the NCAA upheld by clearing Newton last month.

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