The Auburn Tigers are flying high, currently undefeated in the SEC and poised to make an appearance in the BCS title game if they can maintain their current winning streak. However, a scandal is brewing on the horizon that could wipe away a memorable season and throw the football program into disarray.
A former Mississippi State player has stated that a person who claimed to be representing Tigers star Cam Newton attempted to solicit cash in exchange for the quarterback's signed letter of intent during his recruitment out of junior college last year, reports ESPN.
According to John Bond, a MSU quarterback in the early 1980s, a former teammate of his, Kenny Rogers, contacted him following Newton's official visit to the school last year and indicated that the player could be had, for a price.
"He said it would take some cash to get Cam," Bond said in an interview with ESPN. "I called our athletic director, Greg Byrne, and he took it from there. That was pretty much it."
Rogers, who played at Mississippi State from 1982 to 1985, runs a Chicago-based company called Elite Football Preparation, that, according to a 2008 Birmingham News story, "matches high school athletes with college programs."
Bond said Rogers told him that other schools had offered up to $200,000 for Newton, but since the quarterback expressed his desire to play for the Bulldogs, that MSU would only have to offer $180,000.
Bond said he brought the issue to light in order to keep his alma mater's name clean.
"I have no agenda other than protecting Mississippi State," he said. "We've done what we were supposed to do from the very beginning. Mississippi State has done nothing wrong, and I've done nothing wrong. It's been handed off to the NCAA, and it's in their hands now. I don't know what happened at Auburn. I don't know why he went to Auburn. That's not my concern. My concern is Mississippi State and making sure this doesn't cause us any trouble."
Newton's father, Cecil, denied any wrongdoing.
"It's not true," he said of the alleged scheme. "The allegations are completely unfounded, and we've retained an attorney. That's all I can say at this time."
Both the SEC and Auburn have known about the situation since July, but Newton has not been punished by the school as no evidence of wrongdoing has been found to date.
"I will say this very loud and clear," said Tigers head coach Gene Chizik on his call-in show November 4. "Cam Newton is eligible at Auburn University. Period. End of story."
Numerous reports, including a recent article in Sports Illustrated, noted that Newton favored Mississippi State throughout his recruitment, but that his father favored Auburn. Cameron let his father make the final decision and he chose Auburn last December 23.