Before you go finger-pointing and read this latest dispatch from the Associated Press — which took five reporters to put together — consider the words of Paul Finebaum.
Referred to by the Orlando Sentinel as the Southeastern Conference’s most influential member of the media, Finebaum said on Dan Patrick’s syndicated radio show this morning when asked what bothered him most about the media coverage of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and his alleged improper recruitment: “The reporting of it. It is very slip-shod . . . it’s made very little sense. I think you have a lot of reporters who are chasing their tail trying to get online first and that has created a very unfortunate feeding frenzy. We don’t know any of the facts right now. We just know what a bunch of unnamed sources are saying to reporters. I think some if it (as smear campaign). . . . The sources seem to be coming from some very convenient places.”
Now, your AP version, which promises it will update in a few hours:
By John Zenor
The Associated Press
AUBURN, Ala. — All Auburn coach Gene Chizik would say Wednesday about Cam Newton is that the star quarterback will start for the second-ranked Tigers against Georgia on Saturday after the latest round of accusations.
Newton’s friend Joe Haden and brother, meanwhile, rose to his defense.
Chizik declined to answer questions about an ESPN report that Newton told a Mississippi State recruiter that his father wanted him to go to Auburn because “the money was too much.”
Citing unidentified sources, ESPN reported late Tuesday that Newton and his father, Cecil, each had a phone conversation with a Mississippi State recruiter and acknowledged a pay-for-play arrangement. According to the report, one of the recruiters said Cecil Newton told him it would take “more than a scholarship” for his son to attend Mississippi State.
In a statement, Mississippi State’s athletic department said Wednesday that it first contacted the Southeastern Conference regarding “an issue relating to its recruitment of Cam Newton.”
The statement said the SEC asked for specific information including interviews with university staffers. Mississippi State didn’t provide more information until July, citing “time-consuming eligibility issues” related to other sports, presumably those involving basketball players Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost.
The statement said Mississippi State has “cooperated fully” with NCAA investigators.
Chizik offered a passionate defense of Newton on Tuesday, calling an earlier report about academic cheating accusations when Newton was at Florida “pure garbage.” But he would only field questions related to Saturday’s game with Georgia in Wednesday’s Southeastern Conference media teleconference.
Chizik was expected to speak to reporters after practice as part of his normal schedule.
Newton’s older brother, Cecil Jr., posted on Facebook that the accusations are false and “a tool for haters.”
“With all of the negative publicity and false accusations facing cam, it’s nothing more than a tool for haters to use against cam to keep him from being successful,” wrote Cecil Jr., who was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars during training camp this year.
“This is just the long bumpy road that leads to an extremely successful season.. WAR EAGLE!!!!” he posted.
Haden, a Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback, said Newton isn’t worried about the allegations being leveled against him. Haden lived with Newton for 1 years and considers his former roommate when the two were at Florida his best friend.
Haden spoke to the Heisman Trophy hopeful on the phone for an hour on Tuesday night. Haden said Newton, who has been accused of cheating while he was with the Gators, “is not letting this stuff get to him too much. He said, ‘Joe, I got a plan and everything is going to work out for the best.’”
Haden believes Newton is only being targeted because he’s playing so well this season.
Newton transferred from Florida to Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Texas, where he played last season. He has maintained he “didn’t do anything wrong” during his recruitment, and has declined to address the cheating accusations.
Newton was arrested at Florida in November 2008 for having a stolen laptop. The charges were dropped last December when he completed a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders.
A check of public records by The Associated Press found that Cam Newton has had no other court cases brought against him after a series of traffic and driver license violations in 2007 and 2008 in Florida.
An attorney for former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond – who has said an ex-teammate solicited money during Cam Newton’s recruitment, said his client has not spoken with the FBI. Phil Abernethy said in e-mail to AP that Bond had not spoken with the FBI as of Wednesday morning, but would not confirm or deny that the FBI was seeking an interview.
Paul Bresson, FBI spokesman at the bureau headquarters in Washington, had no comment Wednesday when asked if the FBI was trying to speak to Bond or his attorney.
Despite all media frenzy around Newton, Chizik said focus hasn’t been a problem for his team, this season or this week.
“We stay on the track that we’ve been on and don’t deviate off that path,” Chizik said. “It’s been a great week of practice so far and I don’t expect anything different” Wednesday.
He said “nothing has changed” when asked if he was working backup quarterback Barrett Trotter more in practice just in case.
Meanwhile, Georgia coach Mark Richt said Newton’s situation could become a distraction for his own team if the Bulldogs started worrying about whether Newton will, or won’t, play.
“We really haven’t tried to keep up with that at all,” Richt said Wednesday. “I think it could be a distraction to us, so we’re keeping our blinders on and studying the film and getting a plan and making sure that we’re prepared for him being the quarterback. It could be a distraction for us also if we’re an ‘is he in, is he out’ kind of thing. We’re planning on him being in and we’re preparing that way.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Berea, Ohio; AP Sports Writer David Brand in Starkville, Miss., and AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., and Pete Yost of the Associated Press in Washington, contributed to this report.