AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn has had “no contact whatsoever” with a man who allegedly tried to secure payment from Mississippi State during the recruitment of Tigers quarterback and Heisman Trophy hopeful Cam Newton, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Newton also said Friday he has done nothing wrong.
The NCAA is reviewing the recruitment of Newton, but Auburn has not received a letter of inquiry, the person told The Associated Press on Friday on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to comment publicly.
“Cam’s eligibility has at no point been in jeopardy,” the person said. Newton, who will start for the third-ranked Tigers against Chattanooga on Saturday, denied any wrongdoing.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Newton said Friday before stepping on the bus to the team hotel to Montgomery. “I’m blessed to be at Auburn right now and I’m sure the smoke will settle.”
Asked about how tough the past two days had been, Newton said: “It’s been all right. I’ve had worse days, but God continues to bless me throughout this process, me and my family and most importantly the team.”
The person familiar with the situation said Auburn’s compliance office has reviewed personal and church bank records of Newton’s dad, Cecil, as well as phone and e-mail records of the Tigers’ football staff, and is “extremely confident there was no wrongdoing” during the school’s recruitment of the quarterback.
The person told AP that the Southeastern Conference informed Auburn months ago of the allegations reported by Mississippi State.
Newton, who started his career at Florida, has been one of college football’s biggest sensations since transferring from Blinn Junior College in Texas. He has led the Tigers (9-0) to national title contention, accounting for a nation’s-best 30 touchdowns. He leads the SEC in rushing.
Newton decided to leave Florida following a November 2008 arrest after he bought a stolen computer. The charges were dropped last December when he completed a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders.
Auburn fans have quickly rallied to Newton’s defense in the recruiting scandal. A Facebook page supporting the quarterback gained more than 7,400 members less than a day after it was created.
Former Mississippi State player John Bond has said an ex-teammate was soliciting payment during Newton’s recruitment by that school last season. ESPN.com reported the teammate was Kenny Rogers, citing unidentified people.
“He told me that Cam Newton wanted to play at Mississippi State, but that a specified payment would have to be made,” Bond said in a statement on Thursday.
Bond said he reported the conversation with the former teammate to then-Mississippi State athletic director Greg Byrne.
Byrne, who is now at Arizona, declined comment when reached by AP on Friday.
As for Newton’s current school, the person told AP, “There has been no contact whatsoever between Rogers and anyone associated with Auburn.”
In an interview an ESPN affiliate in Dallas on Friday night, Rogers denied he had paid for players.
“Heck no. I’ve never done that,” Rogers said. “A school has never paid me for a kid. An alumni has never paid me for a kid. Period. Point blank.”
Rogers said he hadn’t talked to Bond in 20 years.
Rogers has a company called Elite Football Preparation, which holds camps in Alabama, Chicago and Mississippi, and matches football prospects with colleges. Calls to the company have gone unanswered.
Rogers has separately come under scrutiny from the NFL Players Association and the NCAA.
The NFLPA has issued a disciplinary complaint against contract adviser Ian Greengross, and spokesman George Atallah told The Associated Press on Friday that the union would be looking into Rogers’ involvement with players as well. THE NFLPA identified Rogers as a recruiter for Greengross.
Greengross was cited for “violating numerous provisions of the NFLPA’s agent regulations while recruiting and representing players,” and, according to the union, is responsible for the actions of his recruiters, employees and associates.
Newton’s father, Cecil, has denied the allegations against his son and hired a lawyer, whom he declined to identify. He said he is cooperating with the NCAA in the matter.
A lawyer who represented the minister in a past case, George O. Lawson Jr., was out the office Friday and did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Cecil Newton is pastor of Holy Zion Center of Deliverance, a small church located in an old commercial building in Newnan, Ga., southwest of Atlanta.
Documents obtained Friday by The Associated Press through an open records request show the city has been pressuring the minister to make some $50,000 in repairs to the structure since June 2008. An inspector found multiple problems, including a lack of smoke detectors, sprinklers and rear exits; moldy insulation; faulty wiring; rotting wooden doors and broken windows.
An abandoned structure needed to be demolished behind the church building, according to a letter from the city, and the grass had to be cut because of safety hazards to the public.
The city issued the first of three separate permits for work at the site in May 2009, records show. The town’s newspaper, The Times-Herald, quoted Cecil Newton as telling the City Council in September 2009 that the church had the money for the repairs.
But it wasn’t until last month that city officials agreed to take the structure off a list of buildings that could be condemned and demolished.
Cecil Newton would not say where his church got the money to perform the improvements required by the city.
“I’m not going to get into something like that,” he told The Associated Press in a brief telephone interview Friday.
The city’s public information officer, Gina Snider, said the church still isn’t allowed to hold services in the building because of its poor condition.
“They have to meet elsewhere,” she said Friday.
Jay Reeves of The Associated Press in Birmingham, Ala., and AP Sports Writers David Brandt in Jackson, Miss., and Barry Wilner in New York, contributed to this report.