The NCAA announced Wednesday that Auburn star quarterback Cam Newton will continue to be eligible to play despite the determination of investigators that his father attempted to solicit money in an alleged pay-for-play scheme.
The NCAA found "a violation of amateurism rules," on Monday and Auburn ruled Newton ineligible on Tuesday, requesting he be reinstated. According to two sources familiar with the process, the determination to reinstate Newton was reached after a lengthy back and forth between legal representatives from Auburn and the NCAA, with the two sides attempting to come to an agreement on the interpretation of NCAA bylaws.
After conducting interviews with multiple figures familiar with an alleged pay-for-play solicitation involving Mississippi State – including NFL agent Kenny Rogers, Bulldogs booster William Bell, Mississippi State football coaches and Cam Newton's father, Cecil Newton – investigators determined Newton's father and Rogers had worked together in an attempt to obtain $180,000 for his son's potential commitment to the Bulldogs. However, the NCAA said on Tuesday that it had found no proof Cam Newton was aware of the solicitation, and no proof that any solicitation occurred with Auburn.
"Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement," the NCAA said in a statement.
Two sources told Yahoo! Sports that based on those investigative developments – as well as wrangling between NCAA and Auburn's attorneys – the NCAA ultimately determined three things:
• Because Cam Newton ultimately chose to attend Auburn, and Cecil Newton's solicitation involved Mississippi State, the Tigers and Cam Newton could not be held responsible because both the school and the player lacked knowledge of Cecil Newton's actions.
• Had Cam Newton ultimately chose to attend Mississippi State, he could have faced a more lengthy suspension because of the Bulldogs' direct awareness of Cecil Newton's solicitation.
• If at any point the NCAA discovers evidence showing Cam Newton was aware of the solicitation involving Mississippi State, or that solicitation also took place at Auburn, the NCAA can hold both the athlete and the school responsible retroactively.
The two sources familiar with the dialogue between the NCAA and Auburn said a potential "solicitation issue" has developed that will likely have to be discussed by member institutions. The issue rests on whether the Newton outcome opens the door for athletes to be marketed without their knowledge – with no repercussions to the athlete. Closing the door on such a potential loophole would have to be raised by member institutions or conference officials if a bylaw change were to occur.
In response to Cecil Newton's actions involving Mississippi State, the NCAA said Auburn "has limited the access Newton's father has to the athletics program and Mississippi State has disassociated the involved individual." SEC commissioner Mike Slive was also critical of the actions of Cecil Newton and Rogers, who acted as a go between in the attempted negotiations with Mississippi State booster William Bell.
"The conduct of Cam Newton's father and the involved individual [Kenny Rogers] is unacceptable and has no place in the SEC or in intercollegiate athletics," Slive said. "The actions taken by Auburn University and Mississippi State University make it clear this behavior will not be tolerated in the SEC."
Contact Yahoo! Sports investigative reporter Charles Robinson at email@example.com
- Mississippi State