AUBURN, Ala. -- Junior Cam Newton was announced as Auburn's starting quarterback for Saturday's game against Georgia despite eligibility questions surrounding an alleged pay-for-play scheme involving Newton's father, an agent runner and Mississippi State when Newton was being recruited out of junior college last year.
The crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium exploded when Newton's start was announced on the video board about 40 minutes before kickoff. Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs had repeatedly declined to comment on Newton's eligibility after one of the key figures in the case changed his story on Thursday. Newton has led the Tigers to a 10-0 record. He leads the SEC in rushing and passing efficiency and is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.
Kenny Rogers -- a former Mississippi State player and known runner for agent Ian Greengross -- flipped his story from a week earlier and said Thursday on a Dallas radio station that Newton's father, Cecil, requested a six-figure payment in November 2009 for Newton to sign with Mississippi State. Bill Bell, another former Mississippi State player, confirmed to ESPN.com that he had been approached about the payment and that he had discussed the situation with the NCAA. AuburnSports.com reported Saturday that Newton and his family met with the NCAA on Thursday.
At issue is whether the solicitation of Mississippi State rendered Newton ineligible. According to NCAA rules, an athlete is ineligible the moment a rule is broken. Solicitation for extra benefits by an athlete or by his family is against NCAA rules. Under NCAA rules, a school must declare an athlete ineligible and apply for reinstatement.
But the situation is not so cut and dried. No one has implicated Auburn in the alleged pay-for-play scheme. Though Auburn has known about the allegations since at least this summer, it isn't clear whether athletic department officials believed them credible enough to sit Newton and request reinstatement. Provided Auburn beats Georgia and clinches the SEC West Division title, that issue likely will dominate the next 13 days until the Tigers face Alabama in their regular-season finale on Nov. 26.
Newton received raucous cheers during the Tiger Walk, the team's traditional entrance into Jordan-Hare Stadium. A few moments later, Newton burst from the tunnel and onto the field. He saluted Auburn's already full student section, which responded with a roar.
The Newton story has spawned some entrepreneurial creativity in the Loveliest Village on the Plains. At the Mellow Mushroom on College Street, a T-shirt hung over the bar proclaiming "YOU COULDN'T PAY ME 2 GO TO STARKVILLE EITHER!" Newton wears No. 2.