By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State confirmed Wednesday that it blew the whistle on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
In a statement released late in the afternoon, the school said it contacted the SEC office in January “regarding an issue relating to its recruitment of Cam Newton.”
An ESPN.com report Tuesday cited multiple MSU sources as saying Newton and his father, Cecil, were seeking payment for Newton’s services while he was being recruited out of Blinn College in Texas.
Newton ultimately signed with Auburn, which he has led to a 10-0 record while attaining Heisman Trophy frontrunner status.
MSU’s release did not specify what the “issue” was, but the sources in the ESPN story said that school officials relayed what the Newtons told them to the SEC in January.
In the release, MSU said shortly after it contacted the SEC, the league office requested “specific information” and wanted to interview members of the “involved staff at MSU.”
But because of “time-consuming eligibility issues” it was dealing with at the time – mainly basketball players Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost – MSU said it wasn’t able to fulfill that request until July, which is about the time the NCAA started looking into Newton’s recruitment.
“Once the NCAA enforcement staff became involved, Mississippi State University cooperated fully with its investigation,” the school said. “MSU is confident the SEC office has managed this process consistent with its established procedures and the university is committed to the conference’s ongoing efforts to ensure compliance with SEC and NCAA rules.”
Ex-MSU quarterback John Bond told ESPN.com last week that a former teammate, identified in reports as Kenny Rogers, approached him in December and said MSU could secure Newton’s signature on a national letter of intent for $180,000, about $20,000 less than what was being asked of other schools.
Bond said he told then-MSU athletics director Greg Byrne about that incident, and that Byrne reported it to the SEC soon after.
Bond told an Atlanta radio station on Friday that there were “two people in between” himself and Rogers.
MSU coach Dan Mullen sidestepped questions about Newton on Wednesday morning’s SEC coaches teleconference.
“I’m much more concerned about beating Alabama,” he said. “We’ve got an awful lot here in the last nine days, that’s been much more on my mind, the situations we’ve been dealing with here and our loss.”
Mullen was referring to the death of sophomore defensive end Nick Bell, who succumbed to skin cancer on Nov. 2.
“We deal with our players that are involved in our program that are on this team,” Mullen added. “And I’ll be honest with you, that’s all we’ve been dealing with here, and nothing else.”
The No. 17-ranked Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2 SEC) visit the No. 11 Crimson Tide (7-2, 4-2) on Saturday.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.