Here is a dot we will call Point A. There is a dot we will call Point B.
At Point A we have a unscrupulous agent runner known to misrepresent himself-slash-former Mississippi State player telling his former teammate at Mississippi State that he can bring Cam Newton to Mississippi State in exchange for $180,000. At Point B we have someone at Auburn paying the Newton family $200,000 for Newton to play at Auburn.
Here is the evidence we have connecting these two dots: the church where Cecil Newton preaches got its building up to code this spring. (Not “embarked on grand size-doubling expansion.” Went from “so ramshackle it couldn’t meet city building codes” to “met building codes.”) And Dan Mullen muttered some nebulous things about Newton’s recruitment on a radio show.
That is all. That is all the evidence to justify making the journey to Point B, of connecting these two dots.
The evidence against:
— Auburn’s compliance department was made aware of the situation in late July, launched their own investigation, and were so confident in their finding that the Newtons were clean that Cam never missed so much as a minute of practice. To believe that Newton is on the take, you must also believe that Auburn’s compliance team is either grossly negligent, corrupt, or utterly beholden to the whims of the football program. Again: the overwhelmingly likely course of action if Auburn even had any doubt regarding Newton’s eligibility would have seen him off the field. But he will play this Saturday.
— The complete and total unanimity of Auburn reporters, writers, insiders, sources, etc. that both Newton and Auburn are clean and will remain so. It is one thing for Auburn fans to leap to an angry knee-jerk defense of their player and program. It is another for everyone halfway connected to the program to do so.
— The declaration from Cecil Newton that his church had the money for the immediate repairs (as far as we know, the only improvements made to the church) before Newton had ever committed or before Auburn had even begun recruiting him.
— The continued recruitment of Newton by Mississippi State even after being made aware of Kenny Rogers’ request for money. Dan Mullen and State were in a far better position for far longer to know about any violations committed in Newton’s recruitment. They pursued him to the bitter end anyway.
— Cecil Newton submitted financial records to the NCAA a month ago. The NCAA has known about the allegations for far longer than that. But the organization has not stepped in to prevent Newton from playing, either before or after receiving the information from Newton the elder.
— Gene Chizik’s fiery insistence last night that Newton was eligible. Unlike what some people would have you believe, yes, that bloody well means something. If Newton is on the take, he is already ineligible whether we know it or not. (Reggie Bush was never eligible at USC as soon as he pocketed agent money. USC merely thought otherwise.) Chizik is stating unequivocally that he is not, in the only language the NCAA permits him to use. If Newton is later found out to be ineligible, then Chizik is either a liar or woefully misguided.
— As I’ve written this, an AP report that states that Rogers and Auburn were never in contact and that Newton’s eligibility “has at no point been in jeopardy.”
So: Point A. Point B. To get from one to the other, you are putting your faith entirely in a handful of church repairs and, as the SEC spokesperson himself said, “rumors and innuendo.” Standing in your way are all the points made above. Is that really enough to get all … the way … there? Is there really enough substance here to connect these dots? When you weigh up the evidence for and against, does it really stack up in favor of the Newtons finding someone at Auburn who’ll pay them $200,000 and the school totally missing it over some loser at Mississippi State trying to make a quick buck off his old school ties?
I am an Auburn fan. I wear a pair of burnt orange-and-navy blue glasses it’s impossible for me to take off. So I am not the first person to ask. But for the rational life of me, until/unless new details are revealed, I don’t see how.
— At this point, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think the biggest danger to Newton is from the Rogers-centric aspect of the investigation; it’s from what else the NCAA might turn up now that they’re on the scene. Remember, the NCAA didn’t start talking to A.J. Green because they’d heard he sold his jersey; they were looking into the Miami beach party. But that didn’t make much difference once they’d found out about his little memorabilia sale anyway.
I’d like to think Newton is completely, totally clean, and that there’s no skeletons — Rogers-related or otherwise — for the NCAA to find now that they’re digging around in his closet. But that I’m not entirely confident about.
— Pete Thamel can get bent for including the Mullen dissembling in his story — a move I’m convinced he made only to give his version something that wasn’t in the ESPN story, which scooped his by a couple of hours, Twitter feed be damned — but I can’t work up any real outrage at the trio of reporters at the WWL. Do I wish they’d waited until they’d been able to get Rogers on the record? Yeah. But if he won’t talk, he won’t talk, and they were in danger of getting scooped. Do I wish they’d made more of an effort to revel Rogers’ background rather than just telling us he was under investigation from the NFLPA? Yeah. Do I wish they made more of an effort to spell out, as David Morrison did, that neither Auburn nor their coaches are part of the scope of the investigation? Oh yeah.
But Newton is the Heisman front-runner, the star quarterback for a team ranked second in the BCS with only four weeks remaining in the season, and the single biggest figure in college football this season; the media spotlight comes as part of that job, and there’s no reason to think anything in the ESPN report wasn’t factual, or even germane. (Yes, the discussion of the church falls under “innuendo,” but if Cecil is sending reports of his church’s finances to the NCAA, it’s hard for me to argue the church’s finances aren’t also part of the story.) A better job could have been done, but this is not a “non-story,” and its writers have been careful to say afterwards that they are not accusing (and have not accused) Newton or Auburn of anything untowards. The bottom line: Auburn fans’ anger needs to be focused on the people who have chosen to connect the dots, not those whose job it was to establish them.
(I say that as an ex-journalist, but TWER’s other resident journo disagrees somewhat stridently. So grain of salt.)
— About the Meyer thing: I dunno, man. It’s so weird. It portrays Meyer as such an unbelievably petty, bitter human being. My gut reaction to it is that this is the aforementioned Auburn anger giving rise to a convenient scapegoat. But again: the Auburn people who would know are insisting this is the case. So I’ll say this: I’m happier about the prospect that Auburn could face Florida in Atlanta than I was yesterday.
— Assuming that Newton continues to play, it’s not going to cost him the Heisman. Of course there’s some dingbats like Bianchi looking for some quick attention by playing the KILL HIM card, but there’s 900 Heisman voters out there, and if Newton stays eligible and healthy, the majority of those guys (and gals) aren’t going to deny him what he deserves over unfounded allegations.
— That’s about it. It’s Auburn’s word against, well, someone else’s word, as soon as that someone else actually accuses Newton of something.
AP:” Auburn had no contact with Rogers”
No such thing as an ex-journalist, Jerry. Recovering, maybe. 🙂
But I spent 15 years in newspapers, including several as an assistant sports editor at a pretty good-sized paper, and this is absolutely a story. The problem is that people don’t look past the headlines, and even within headlines they notice only bold-face words like “Newton” and “investigation” and fill in the blanks and backstory between those words however they please.
But I’m with you — ESPN and Thamel absolutely have to report this story. And they did not, directly or even indirectly, accuse Auburn or Newton of anything. They just reported the facts — which are that some dude got a phone call from some other dude claiming to hold the keys to Cam Newton. No one has denied that, but that in and of itself is not a problem for Auburn or Newton. Here’s hoping it stays that way.
Thanks for your calm, rational (if, admittedly orange-and-blue-tinted) post on the issue.
Big A says
We still don’t know who the leak is. I know it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme as long as everything is on the up and up, but I really want to know.
The Thayer Evans article (if you could call it that, link here http://msn.foxsports.com/collegefootball/story/dont-vote-for-auburns-cameron-newton-for-heisman-trophy-110410) might be one of the worst excuses for journalism out there. It’s sickening. And I also can’t believe that they titled their newest article on the updated story as “Alleged Newton money man had no contact with Auburn?” with a frickin question mark. How biased can you get…
While I don’t have an issue with the fact the story is “absolutely a story”, it just seems poorly done… It seems to me that a lot of pertinent details were left out of the original story that should have been easily obtained and included in the story. (hell, I was able to dig up details using google)
Then again, I’m major league pissed right now, and I’m probably not seeing straight…
Thanks Jerry for popping back in to calm folks down. I was pretty uneasy this morning but once I really started thinking about it, I was at peace with it by lunch. Nothing to see here, move along. If folks want a real story to focus on, they need to be checking out that CFL game-winning kicked touchdown deal by Duval. Saw it on ESPN at lunch before I saw the story on there. That is some crazy, crazy stuff. Admittedly I don’t know much about the CFL rules, but that whole deal is just awesome.
Big A says
It will be interesting to see how the College Gameday crew handles the story. Herby has typically been pretty fair wtih us. Fowler, not so much. I would assume they will bring in one of the ESPN writers who broke the story as well.
nice post jerry. it’s helped me come down a little bit after my rage fueled morning spent praying for a demon to emerge from hell and rip out urban meyer’s soul.
Like a comment in the old Paul Newman movie…the story was accurate but was not true. ESPN and others used a few “facts” about Rogers and Bond and MSU to weave Auburn into the story and cast doubt on Cam without a single “fact” to indicate their either Cam or his father had ever discussed money with Rogers or MSU or Auburn. The entire set of “facts” were hear-say stories involviing MSU and two of its former players and there was no second source for anything.
I also have done newspaper work in my younger days and the ESPN and NYT stories are shameful…something you might expect during a political smear campaign.
I’m an ex, or recovering, journalist, too. I agree completely with the post, Jerry, and with your comment, Amorak. However, last I checked Thamel’s NYT story led with something along the lines of “the NCAA is investigating Auburn’s recruitment of Cam Newton.” So while he does not accuse AU of anything, he immediately makes Auburn the center of the story.
Another thing: I guess others have pointed this out, but I honestly can’t imagine why any coach or athletic department employee anywhere would pay for a player. There’s almost no way it’ll remain secret, and you risk wrecking your program for years. No single player is worth that, no matter who it is.
Thanks for the good work. WDE.
Foy Onion says
I found out about this story last night through the gleeful exaltations of bama fans on facebook. My wife walked in while I was reading the ESPN story and immediately thought a family member had died based upon the look on my face (no joke). After a quick trip to Mr. Bitter’s blog I felt much better and realized the most important thing – Cam Newton would not be playing for Auburn right now if Rogers was actually in the Newton camp.
I’ve been calm about this all day, but I just made the mistake of checking out EDSBS (Orson’s viewpoint is Cecil Newton and Auburn are guilty and if you don’t agree with him, you do unspeakable things with tree stumps) and I needed this to calm me down again. Thanks, Jerry.
The ESPN story was solid. Would have been nice for them to have dug into the Auburn side of things first, but no major complaints. What they had was real news, and they gave folks a fair chance to respond to allegations.
But Mark Schlabach, dude, there is no such place as the University of Auburn. THREE TIMES in one interview.
Jerry, I’ve got to disagree with you on the Chizik thing. Even if Chizik just thinks Newton is eligible, and his player’s eligibility is being questioned, I think it’s almost incumbent upon him to say so. If you had asked Pete Carroll in 2005 if Bush was eligible, and we assume that he didn’t know about the payments, he probably would have also said that Bush was eligible. I would also disagree with the seeming characterization that I said it means nothing — because I don’t. I’m just saying it doesn’t, by itself, disprove that Newton is ineligible or that something happened.
I don’t believe it for a second. Cam is worth far more than Albert Means kind of money!
And as I saw on another site: “Cam Newton drives a scooter around campus and Julio is the one with the Escalade… “
I sent Thayer a strong, but politely, worded response to his “article” after I read it this afternoon. THAT was disgusting.
Justin / AubOrange says
Like I’ve said earlier, I agree that the ESPN article is the more reliable of the two, but, like you said, it’s still lacking. Why is there a picture of Cecil’s church’s signboard in there? A picture of the front of Rogers’s Elite Football Preparation “company” would have been much more fitting, wouldn’t it?
It’s funny that all three ESPN guys have their names on it. If it really was a collaborative effort, I think it’s pretty obvious which of them was responsible for the implying and innuendo.
Mark Schlabach’s Twitter announcement linking the story:
“Here’s the Cam Newton story with details from ex-Miss. St QB John Bond and denial from Newton’s father”
Pat Forde’s twitter announcement linking the story:
“Breaking ESPN Exclusive: NCAA investigating Cam Newton’s recruitment:”
I have to applaud Mark Schlabach’s actions following the story breaking. He’s been clear in explaining everything on his ESPN TV appearances, and posted a Q&A article on ESPN.com clearing up a lot of things.
Pat Forde, not so much.
Van P in Illinois says
Bianchi was on WJOX this morning (I listen occasionally via my iPhone here in IL) and, after being pressed remarkably hard on the point by Al Del Greco, admitted that he hadn’t planned to vote for Cam anyway, because of the laptop deal. So his grandstanding about how this new incident was causing him to not vote for Cam– it was not true, by his own admission.
Van P… who did he say he WAS voting for? Oregon’s James? I certainly hope not by those standards, seeing as how James actually spent time in jail over the offseason.
I am not going back to reread to confirm this, but I’m going to say that they didn’t weave it themselves. They just omitted enough things to let your imagination run wild…like cam didn’t take money from msu and they reported it…so he’s at au he must have taken money from them. I realize they have to run the story, but they should have done a better job clarifying that it was not an investigation of newton or auburn…yet.
All I’m saying is “Godzilla in the china shop” is going to be an understatement in these last several games. If he’s been playing at his current level to make people forget about that stupid laptop, God help us all!
It seems to me that you have a desperate person (Rogers), who has a brief conversations in the past with Cecil Newton, trying to do whatever to salvage his financial situation.
Rogers approaches Bond, whom was not connected to the MSU staff, and offers up the scenario that everyone has reported upon. All of this is done without the Newton’s knowledge or approval.
My view is that Rogers was testing the water and if he had received any sign from Bond that it might work, he would have then gone back to Cecil and told him that “Hey man, I get 200 grand or more to deliver Cam”. Since he didn’t get that signal from Bond or anyone else (UO), then nothing else transpired.
I personally think the Newtons and AU are completely innocent in this situation, but unfortunately reputations of all have been irreparably tarnished. I’m sure there will be more journalists and bloggers coming to the same view in the next few months, etc., but it won’t ever begin to diminish the harm done to Newton/AU.
With respect to the reporting on the matter, it’s hard to fault the organizations for publishing the articles, but I do take exception to not fully reporting (or attempting to find out) all the efforts undertaken by the AU in its due diligence efforts.
My thoughts exactly NYC.
Since you asked, Jerry:
I agree with you and Amorak, there is a story here. It is worth reporting. The story that was published last night is woefully incomplete.
Let’s connect a different set of dots: You write about a school, player, recruitment and cash. Anyone that’s ever read a story about college athletics – and presumably Thamel, too — knows where this story is going. To ignore that is slipshod in the least and potentially galling if done deliberately.
Three talented writers chose not to point out the Auburn-Newton-NCAA angle clearly enough. If it is news that some dude called some other dude and tried to extort money (either as a play for a QB or for personal reasons — a charge Rogers denied on Dallas radio today) then it is ABSOLUTELY news that the star player on this year’s star team is eligible to play and not under any current direct suspicion. If that wasn’t news it shouldn’t have taken up so much time between Tiger Talk to now. But it is news, everyone knows this and so did the writers, even if one IS a Georgia grad. The omission of that is deeply regrettable, deadline pressure, competition pressure or not.
I graduated from Auburn. I’m not covering this story, nor do I wish too. Nor do I know anything more about this story than the average reader does, but allowing readers to draw conclusions on a story of this type based on omissions – deliberate or accidental – is problematic on the best of days.
Who the eff is Johnette Howard and what the eff is this story supposed to be?
I sent Johnette a note about her “Imagine that” crack. That’s a cheap shot.
Just finished watching my third ESPN segment on the Cam story. They keep interviewing Cam, speak of talking to Cecil and Auburn which is all good and fine but, the reporting is totally absent of John Bond, Kenny Rodgers, Dan Mullen and all the other named parties. What’s up with that? It’s like interviewing the victims of a grenade attacking without caring about who threw the deadly weapon. . .
James walker says
what’s bad is this always happens to us always us because he had problems at Florida so now he’s w convict and crooked what if the guy is completely sincere and never did anything wrong! I feel for him I hope he gets what he deserves but at the same time if he’s guilty then it’s on him an will hurt the auburn family incrediably
Kenny, to support your point, it’s sentences like this that drive me nuts: “What is not known is if Auburn got an offer for Newton’s services and, if so, if anyone paid. ”
(From Dodd’s story in which he interviewed Franchione: http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/story/14246731/junior-college-coach-isnt-buying-newton-allegations )
Yeah, and it’s also “not known” if Dan Mullen personally handed Newton a suitcase full of gold nuggets and chocolate bars but Newton turned him down. It’s “not known” if little green Florida fans from outer space came down and offered to rebuild Cecil’s church with their cool lasers if Newton stayed at UF.
It’s not journalism to say what’s “not known.” It’s a sneaky way of getting in innuendo without taking any responsibilty for it.
The more accurate sentence is something along the lines of this: “At this point, no one ANYWHERE has suggested Auburn or Newton was involved in any sort of impropriety.” (Okay, so the caps are mine and might not be exactly unbiased journalism, either.)
Parsing Bonds’ words it appears that there was a go between between Bond and Rogers.0
As you know, those false positives can’t be disproved.
(NOTE TO SELF: Insert witty false-positive here to illustrate the point …)