AUBURN, Ala. — Kenny Rogers, the former Mississippi State player who allegedly sought money from his alma mater to deliver Cam Newton’s services last year, said on a radio show Thursday that it was not him, but the quarterback’s father, Cecil, who put a price tag on his son during the recruiting process.
Rogers said Cecil Newton told him it would take “anywhere from $100,000 to $180,000” to get the quarterback to sign with Mississippi State.
Rogers said he relayed the request to Bill Bell, a Mississippi State booster. Bell confirmed to ESPN.com Thursday night that Cecil Newton did ask for money. He said he spoke to an NCAA investigator about the matter earlier this week.
According to the NCAA, a violation is committed the moment an athlete or athlete’s family solicits extra benefits.
Cam Newton ultimately signed with Auburn on Dec. 31.
Auburn has maintained all week that its Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback remains eligible for Saturday’s game against Georgia. NCAA rules say a school must make a determination about whether a student-athlete is ineligible.
Rogers said he did not have any involvement with Auburn and said he had “no idea” if similar requests were made of the school or if anyone acted on them.
Auburn declined comment through spokesman Kirk Sampson. Cecil Newton could not be reached.
Coach Gene Chizik was not asked about the Cam Newton situation during his weekly Tiger Talk radio program.
It’s the latest twist in the Cam Newton saga, which began eight days ago when ESPN.com reported ex-Mississippi State quarterback John Bond said a former teammate claiming to represent the Newton family’s interests told him it would take $180,000 for the quarterback to sign with the Bulldogs. ESPN identified that person as Rogers.
Cecil Newton denied any wrongdoing last week, saying if Rogers requested money, he did it on his own.
Rogers told a different tale Thursday, saying he didn’t ask for money. He said Cecil Newton requested the payment and he relayed the request to Mississippi State boosters who would have it. Last week, on the same radio show, he said he had no idea how his name got involved in the accusations.
“I’m trying to clear the record with me,” he said Thursday with a lawyer by his side on ESPN 103.3 in Dallas. The news comes on the heels of Wednesday’s ESPN.com report by Joe Schad that said Cam Newton and his father spoke to “two sources who recruit for Mississippi State” about a pay-for-play plan during separate phone calls last year.
According to the report, Cecil Newton told one of the recruiters it would take “more than a scholarship” to bring his son to Mississippi State.
Another source said a recruiter claimed Cam Newton told him he wanted to play for the Bulldogs, but his father had chosen Auburn University for him because “the money was too much.”
Mississippi State made the unusual move of releasing a statement Wednesday saying it contacted the SEC offices last January regarding an issue with Cam Newton’s recruitment. Because of what it termed “ongoing and time-consuming eligibility issues involving non-football matters” throughout the winter and spring, the SEC did not interview MSU officials until July.
SEC spokesman Charles Bloom told The Associated Press that there was no mention of the phone conversations from Wednesday night’s ESPN.com article in either of the Mississippi State reports to the league.
The conference relayed the information it obtained to Auburn, which conducted its own investigation and determined no wrongdoing on its part. Unnamed sources in the school’s compliance department have said Auburn has not received an NCAA letter of inquiry.
Rogers works for Elite Football Preparation, a business that connects college athletes with schools. He has said he specializes with junior college transfers.
He said he didn’t meet Cam Newton until the quarterback’s official visit to Mississippi State beginning Nov. 27, 2009, but he first spoke with Cecil Newton after his son left Florida for Blinn College following the 2008 season.
Rogers said at some point Cecil Newton told him his son’s recruitment is “not going to be free this time,” later telling him the $100,000-$180,000 figure. Rogers said he didn’t know if Cam Newton knew about the money request.
On the first night of Cam Newton’s official visit to Starkville, Miss., Rogers said he, Cecil Newton and two Mississippi State coaches met at the Hilton Garden Inn, the night before the Bulldogs played Ole Miss.
“I can’t really remember how Mr. Newton stated this, but however he said it, one of the coaches was like, ‘No, no, I don’t want to hear that,’ as if money was brought up or it was going to take money to get him,” said Rogers, who did not identify the coaches.
Rogers said he didn’t know if Mississippi State was prepared to pay.
On that Sunday, Rogers followed Cecil Newton out of Starkville on Highway 82 to a Shell gas station. At that point, Rogers said Cecil Newton asked him, “What are you thinking is going to happen? Is it going to go through?”
Rogers said he phoned Bell, a former teammate of his from the early 1980s who is currently president of Bel-Mac Roofing in Santa Rosa, Fla., and left a message asking if the deal was going to go through, meaning money from Mississippi State.
“Mr. Newton asked me. I told Bill. Bill supposedly told John (Bond),” Rogers said. “Somebody’s asking for that kind of money, I don’t have it. So I just called somebody who knew somebody who had it.”
Last week, Rogers said he didn’t know which former teammate relayed a monetary request to Bond, saying he “didn’t even want to go there.”
Bond, who last week on the radio said there were intermediaries between him and the former teammate soliciting money, told ESPN.com Thursday that he spoke with Rogers directly. He said he is scheduled to meet with the FBI on Tuesday and plans to turn over phone records.
“My story hasn’t changed,” he said. “I absolutely talked with Kenny Rogers, and there are phone records that will show that.”
Bond told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that Auburn has no involvement in the matter.
“This has nothing to do with Auburn,” he said. “Absolutely nothing to do with Auburn.”
Rogers’ attorney Doug Zeit said his client has been contacted by the NCAA but not the FBI.
“There are no circumstances and at no time was there any discussion regarding Kenny Rogers getting any money whatsoever,” Zeit said. “And there was never a discussion between Kenny and anybody else that he was getting a piece of the action or a percentage or points or anything whatsoever regarding the money that Mr. Newton seemed to be requesting.”