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Plenty of Loose Threads Left in Cam Newton Case

TUSCALOOSA AL - NOVEMBER 13: Coach Dan Mullen of the Mississippi State Bulldogs directs play against the Alabama Crimson Tide November 13 2010 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa Alabama.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
TUSCALOOSA AL - NOVEMBER 13: Coach Dan Mullen of the Mississippi State Bulldogs directs play against the Alabama Crimson Tide November 13 2010 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa Alabama. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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Mississippi State isn't exactly smelling like roses through this.

For now, it appears that Mississippi State isn't on the hook for any penalties through this ordeal. Whether that lasts is still in question.

Kenny Rogers claims that he and Cecil Newton met with two Mississippi State coaches before last year's Egg Bowl. Without even getting into details, that is a meeting with two coaches, a recruit's father, and a known runner for an agent. That alone looks bad. If Rogers is speaking the truth about a money request being made at that meeting, then it's even worse because Mississippi State didn't report anything to the SEC until over two months later.

Not only that, but two Mississippi State boosters (John Bond and Bill Bell) both had contact with Rogers in the process. He is a former teammate of theirs and there's only so much a school can do, but that's still an agent's runner contacting boosters. Only one of them reported it to the school, as far as we know. That is also a potential problem.

The NCAA historically isn't just concerned about facts but also appearances. If the NCAA decides that it appears that Mississippi State has a booster and runner problem, the school may not get off scot free despite it coming forward in January.

Could Cam Newton ineligibility open the door for LSU?

One thing nearly everyone connected with the BCS process has agreed upon is that a team should win its conference in order to play in the national championship game. The outcry when Nebraska and Oklahoma played for it all without Big 12 titles early in the decade was severe, and that principle won a big, if narrow, victory when Florida went to Glendale over Michigan in 2006.

Right now, LSU is the top one-loss team in the BCS standings. The Tigers didn't win their division, but it was because of that one loss to division champ Auburn. LSU is already tied with TCU for third in the computer polls behind only Auburn and Oregon, and TCU's score with the CPUs is only going to drop with its sole game left being against hapless New Mexico. LSU needs only to make up ground in the human polls to have a shot at playing for it all should one of the top two teams stumble.

If Cam Newton gets declared ineligible or otherwise sits out any remaining games (and that's a huge if), Auburn could easily lose to either Alabama or South Carolina. There definitely is an element of human pollsters out there who don't want to see Boise State or TCU in the national title game. That contingent might swing to LSU in this case on the rationale that the only reason why LSU didn't go undefeated and win the conference is because Auburn cheated.

This is a longshot scenario, especially considering that LSU is behind Wisconsin in both human polls at the moment. The Tigers might need either Michigan or Northwestern to knock off the Badgers to make this happen, and Nevada knocking off Boise would help too. You never know though. "Undefeated in regulation" was enough to vault LSU improbably into the top two at the end of 2007. "Undefeated against eligible players" could work this year.

How far down does the rabbit hole go?

The latest trend in Message Board Land is to try to make this thing go from local football story to HUGE CORRUPTION SCANDAL OMG. It all hinges on an actual corruption scandal going on in Alabama over buying votes on gambling legislation. Four state senators have been arrested, as has the central figure in that story: Milton McGregor, the gambling kingpin of the state.

McGregor is a big Auburn booster and has ties to the other Auburn boosters you've heard of like Bobby Lowder, Jimmy "Yella Fella" Rane, and Pat Dye. The FBI had been wiretapping McGregor as a part of its investigation. According to those who think they know, some of those recorded phone calls involved information on payments to Auburn players.

I'm not sold on the whole story, primarily because it's all at a message board level of reporting. Some of those pushing this story also believe there could be illicit tie-ins between Auburn and Lowder's failed Colonial Bancgroup, which they accuse of misappropriating TARP funds. One problem: Colonial never got TARP money. It applied for some, but it never got any before regulators seized the bank's assets. Who knows what other kind of fact errors they're throwing out there, to say nothing of speculation.

It is a fact though that Lowder, McGregor, and Rane were the three biggest shareholders of Colonial before it went under. Dye was on its board of directors. All of them are connected.

Dye was forced out of Auburn because of payments to players. Lowder was involved with JetGate, his micromanaging got Auburn on probation with SACS (the organization providing AU's accreditation), and his bank was under federal criminal investigation just before it went under. McGregor has now been arrested under this corruption scandal. I don't know if Rane has any similar incidents on the record, but he has close ties with all the rest.

Regardless of what happens with Newton, Auburn has a problem with being associated with these shady characters. All are big benefactors, and Lowder and Rane are currently on Auburn's board of trustees. Even if this Newton thing goes by and no penalties get imposed on Auburn, that doesn't mean the school is free of issues.