Paul Finebaum had the USA Today's Danny Sheridan on as a guest this afternoon, and Sheridan says the NCAA thinks it has found the bag man who helped Auburn pay for Cam Newton. I didn't catch the whole thing and the replay's not up yet, but this is news big enough to post it now and update later.
Most of what I have to go on right now is a series of tweets from Finebaum's Twitter feed. Here are the bullet points:
- The NCAA investigation of Auburn ramped up after the Destin incident. Be careful what you wish for, Gene Chizik.
- This is a quote from Sheridan: "As I understand it, the NCAA is trying to get an alleged 3rd person or bag man to come forward."
- Sheridan reports that the investigation is all about Auburn and not about Mississippi State.
- If the NCAA can put it all together, major sanctions will come along with vacation of the national championship and Heisman.
- Sheridan closed by reiterating that the NCAA thinks it knows the "third party" who put up the money to pay for Newton's signature.
Obviously this is huge news. I'll try to update this as soon as Finebaum's web site posts the audio from the interview.
The interview is up in Part 1 and Part 2. Only Part 1 has Newton talk, though in Part 2 Sheridan expresses annoyance throughout that Finebaum is doing the interview while also fiddling with his smartphone.
The following is all according to Sheridan.
The NCAA thinks Newton was bought and paid for; it's all a matter of proving it now. Some amount of money went to Cecil Newton, while another amount went to Cecil's church. This money was handled by a "third party". The investigation has "revved up" since Chizik's outburst in Destin. The total amount is approximately $180-200K, with $20-30K having gone to the church. Sheridan has "no idea" if this is true.
This is a direct quote: "They're trying to get a third person, allegedly the bag man, to step forward, and if he steps forward, it'll be a bad situation. But I don't know that he will step forward. I don't know if they have any evidence. I don't want you to misquote me." This "third party/bag man" would be someone doing the work so the someone else's fingerprints are not on the transaction. This third party is not a "rogue alumni".
Sheridan's sources at the NCAA are "25 years old" (as in, he's had a sources there that long; it's not a twentysomething feeding him info) and have never mislead him. [Edited to add: Sheridan later said his sources are not inside the NCAA but rather know people inside the NCAA -Y2] There are also 15 other schools being looked at, but he will not name them. They feel money changed hands in the Newton case, but if it can't be proven, the case "will be dropped in probably three-to-six months." Sheridan is not aware of any ongoing investigation of Mississippi State.
Confusingly, Sheridan later says that "Auburn had nothing to do with this" and that this third party "I won't say was working for a rogue alumni." I don't get what he's hinting at here. If the third party didn't do this with the school's knowledge and wasn't working for a rogue alumni, who is he and why did he get involved? Is he some sort of non-alumni booster? Two questions later, he says "if they are guilty of paying a student, not they but the alumni..." Huh?
Sheridan closes by saying the "they [the NCAA] think they know the third party, and they think they know the party that put up the money." That means the NCAA is looking at two entities here: someone who allegedly financed this alleged deal and someone who allegedly carried out this alleged deal. If the NCAA can remove the four "allegedly" instances out of that statement, Auburn's in deep trouble.
In a later segment, Sheridan calls the alleged financier of the deal a "wealthy supporter of Auburn." That means someone the NCAA will define as a booster, and that means (if true) we're in Albert Means territory at the least.