Cam Newton cleared to play

INDIANAPOLIS -- Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is eligible to play in the SEC title game this weekend, though the NCAA says his father broke rules by shopping his son to another school.

The NCAA released its finding in a statement Wednesday. The college sports governing body had concluded Monday that a violation of Newton's amateur status had occurred. Auburn declared Newton ineligible Tuesday and requested his eligibility be reinstated.

Newton has been cleared to compete without conditions.

Auburn (No. 1 BCS, No. 2 AP) plays South Carolina (No. 19 BCS, No. 18 AP) in the Southeastern Conference
championship game Saturday. With a victory, the Tigers will earn
a spot in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.

"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," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs. "From a student-athlete reinstatement perspective, Auburn University met its obligation. ... Under this threshold, the student-athlete has not participated while ineligible."

Said Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs: "We are pleased that the NCAA has agreed with our position that Cam Newton has been and continues to be eligible to play football at Auburn University. We appreciate the diligence and professionalism of the NCAA and its handling of this matter."

All Auburn has said about the recruiting scandal is that Newton, a junior, is eligible to play. When asked by The Associated Press Wednesday night if Auburn had ever paid the Newtons, coach Gene Chizik said: "I'm not answering any questions that don't have anything to do with this football game."

"I'm glad to get all that behind us because we're focusing on one thing and that's winning the game in Atlanta," Chizik said.

The NCAA won't say its case is closed on Newton's recruitment, even though it has cleared Newton. Its statement notes reinstatement likely occurs "prior to the close of an investigation."

The NCAA said in a statement that Auburn has limited the access Newton's father has to the Tigers' program, and Mississippi State has disassociated an unidentified individual involved in the case. That individual is Kenny Rogers, a former Mississippi State player who said he called a former teammate on behalf of the Newtons. Mississippi State sent a letter to Rogers telling him he is no longer welcome to participate in athletic department functions or contribute money to the school.

The NCAA said its policy is not to comment on current, pending or potential investigations.

ESPN.com reported on Nov. 4 that a man, later identified as Rogers, had called former teammate John Bond in 2009 and said he was representing the Newtons. Bond said Rogers solicited a six-figure payment to secure the quarterback's signature on a national letter of intent.

On Nov. 9, two sources who recruit for Mississippi State told ESPN of a pay-for-play scheme to gain Newton's services. The sources told ESPN that prior to Newton's commitment to Auburn, Cecil Newton told a recruiter it would take "more than a scholarship" to get his son, then in junior college, to Mississippi State, a request the source said the school would not meet.

After Newton committed to Auburn, another source said an emotional Cam Newton phoned another recruiter to express regret that he wouldn't be going to Mississippi State, stating that his father, Cecil, had chosen Auburn for him because "the money was too much."

Rogers initially denied talking to Bond, but told ESPN 103.3 Radio in Dallas on Nov. 11 that Cecil Newton told him it would take "anywhere between $100,000 and $180,000" for his son to play at Mississippi State.

Rogers, who has worked with sports agent Ian Greengross and has a company called Elite Football Preparation, said Cecil Newton asked two Mississippi State coaches for money at a hotel in Starkville, Miss., in November 2009 to secure his son's commitment to the Bulldogs. Rogers says the coaches declined the request, and Mississippi State said all of its employees acted properly.

Former Mississippi State football player Bill Bell, in an interview with ESPN.com on Nov. 17, said he told the NCAA he received a text message from Rogers, claiming to represent Cam Newton's father, that outlined a payment plan designed to bring the quarterback to the Bulldogs. Bell said Cecil Newton never specifically asked him for money, but that Cecil Newton was present during three-way calls in which Rogers discussed a pay-for-play scheme.

Mississippi State notified the SEC of the reported offer in January 2010. It followed up with more information in July.

"The conduct of Cam Newton's father and the involved individual is unacceptable and has no place in the SEC or in intercollegiate athletics," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said Wednesday. "The actions taken by Auburn University and Mississippi State University make it clear this behavior will not be tolerated in the SEC."

Rogers, Bell and Bond all were interviewed by the NCAA during its investigation, as were Newton, his father and his mother.

George Lawson, an attorney who said he was representing the Newton family, told WSB-TV of Atlanta on Nov. 18 that he was "1 million percent" certain Cam Newton did not take any money. Lawson says if Cecil Newton discussed money, his son "knew nothing" about it.

"No money has been offered to Cam Newton," Lawson told WSB-TV. "Cam Newton [hasn't] asked for any money."

Rogers is scheduled to meet with officials from the Mississippi Secretary of State's office Dec. 9 to discuss the recruitment of Newton.

The NCAA's decision surprised USC athletic director Pat Haden, whose football program was hit with tough sanctions, in part due to benefits received by the parents of former star Reggie Bush.

"In the Reggie Bush case, when the parent [did] something inappropriate the kid and the school suffered," Haden said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Haden said the NCAA ruling on Newton ran counter to the message USC's enforcement staff has been delivering to USC student-athletes and parents.

"I was always told the parent is the child," Haden said, according to his report. "That's what we've been telling our kids. If the parent does something inappropriate the child suffers the consequences."

Information from ESPN.com college football writers Mark Schlabach, Chris Low and Pat Forde, along with ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad and The Associated Press is included in this report.