NCAA Investigates Quarterback's Recruitment
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The Auburn Tigers are ranked the number two team in college football, and their quarterback, Cam Newton, has been the season's breakout star. But media reports this week have raised questions about Newton's recruitment. And they come at a time of increased attention to the relationship between college athletes and agents.
Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us now, as he does most Fridays.
And, Stefan, tell us about what is going on with Cam Newtown.
Mr. STEFAN FATSIS (Sportswriter): Well, here's the backdrop on him. Newton played for the University of Florida in 2007 and '08, but then he transferred to a junior college for 2009. He said he didn't want to back up the star quarterback Tim Tebow at Florida anymore. Newton then was heavily recruited heading into this year and among his suitors was Mississippi State.
Now, ESPN first reported yesterday that a person claiming to represent Newton told a Mississippi State football alum that it would take $180,000 in order for Newton to play there. Now, he also reportedly told the alumnus - who was a quarterback in the early 1980s, named John Bond - that other schools already had offered $200,000.
Bond said that he reported the conversation to the school's athletic director, who contacted the Southeastern Conference. The NCAA now is reportedly investigating.
SIEGEL: But that's all about the attempt to recruit Newton by Mississippi State. Are there any allegations involving his recruitment by Auburn?
FATSIS: No, there aren't, none. Auburns coach, Gene Chizik, said that Newton is eligible to play period, end of story. But its definitely not the end of the story.
The guy claiming to represent Newton is named Kenny Rogers. He is a former Mississippi State player himself who now runs a business that tries to match college football prospects with schools. He has reported financial ties to an NFL agent. And Newtons father said that he knows Rogers but didnt know he was soliciting payments for his sons services. Whether thats true is one key question, another is whether Auburn received similar overtures.
The school reportedly learned about the Mississippi State allegations in the summer but obviously chose not to stop Newton from playing in case there were an investigation.
SIEGEL: Could it have stopped Newton from - or should it have stopped Newton from playing?
FATSIS: Well, you know, it could have. The University of North Carolina did just that earlier this season when some of its football players were linked to a pro agent. It's possible that Auburn did look into the matter and concluded there was nothing there.
But it's also possible that the school just decided to roll the dice. This is a really good player. It wouldnt be the first time that a college-football power school did that. You know, and lately weve been treated to a series of investigations and sanctions and other revelations lately about the sleazier side of college sports.
SIEGEL: Yeah, certainly I think one of the biggest was a cover story in Sports Illustrated a few weeks back in which a former National Football League agent admitted that he regularly paid college players for years.
FATSIS: Yeah, like 30 players were ID'd in the story over 10 years of payments. And the confessional was by a guy named Josh Luchs. And it may have sounded like business as usual, but it really wasnt. It was a stunningly detailed roadmap of how the business of college sports sometimes goes down.
Now short of blowing up that system, it's hard to see how we're going to get any closer to dealing with some of the key questions: Should players receive money, at least football and basketball players? Are NCAA rules too strict? Are there too many loopholes? Clarity is very hard to come by here, and you get a real range of sanctions.
Michigans football program got a slap on the wrist this week for violations in how they were training and practicing football players. Southern Cal was hammered by the NCAA, stripped of wins and scholarships, banned from bowl games for a couple of years after the NCAA found that former running back Reggie Bush received hundreds of thousands of dollars from agents. North Carolina, we mentioned, sat down players while this investigation was ongoing. Cam Newton, meanwhile, plays tomorrow.
SIEGEL: In the few seconds that remain, you can talk about college football. What's happening this weekend?
FATSIS: Number one Oregon and number two Auburn have easy games. Number four Boise State has a tougher one against Hawaii, the top passing team in the country. That leaves numbers three and five, Texas Christian and Utah. They are the two highest-rated teams to play teams to play each other so far this year. They're not part of the BCS, and neither is Boise State. They're trying to crash the national championship game. Tomorrow's games are important if they're going to do that.
SIEGEL: Happy viewing.
FLATOW: Thanks, Robert.
SIEGEL: Stefan Fatsis, who talks with us Fridays about sports and about the business of sports.