November 09, 2010
If last week's reports on the ongoing NCAA probe into Cam Newton's recruitment out of junior college last winter opened Pandora's Box, the addition of an academic front to the affair this morning appeared to blow the box into a thousand pieces. With the spirits of SEC scandal thus unleashed, keeping pace with the conspiratorial web of rumors, leaks and melodramas they're bound to weave is like trying to catch up with a balloon as it flies around the room, losing air.
So when one of the Web's leading gossip sites reports that the FBI – yes, that FBI – has expressed interest in interviewing the source whose word is holding together the initial round of reporting, well, OK then. Sounds like the FBI is interested in Cam Newton's eligibility:
The man feds want to speak with is John Bond -- a former Mississippi State football star. Last week, Bond claimed people connected to Heisman front-runner Cam Newton contacted him back in 2009 and said it would take $180,000 to get Cam to commit to MSU.
Bond's attorney confirms to TMZ Sports that the FBI has requested a sit-down meeting with his client -- and tells us the agent who contacted him said, "We are interested in whether young men are being shopped to colleges."
Well, that escalated quickly. For the record, Bond's attorney, Phil Abernethey, would neither confirm nor deny the report. If the FBI is involved, either Newton's freakish athleticism is the subject of a new X-File, or the probe into implications that he was essentially sold to the highest bidder last year is about to get that much hotter.
What jurisdiction the Federal Bureau of Investigation has over NCAA violations, I don't know. But it might be interested in the thinly veiled, "we know more than we can get on the record" feints by both ESPN and the New York Times to the church(es) where Newton's father, Cecil, is a pastor as a possible destination for ill-gotten cash (along with the elder Newton's construction business). So might a few of its bureaucrat buddies at the Internal Revenue Service, which has the document-demanding muscle that the NCAA does not.
Or it could be more overheated hearsay run amok in the race for the next scoop. It's OK. In the SEC environment, this is good. It's a kind of cleansing process: It has to happen every few years, like a forest fire. This is healthy.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.