AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn officials weren't talking on Friday about embattled quarterback Cam Newton's status for the Tigers' game today with Georgia, but plenty of fresh voices were talking and reports were circulating.
Auburn athletic department spokesman Kirk Sampson said Friday that the school had "no comment" when asked about Newton's status. Coach Gene Chizik had said Wednesday that the Heisman Trophy front-runner "will be playing" but hasn't spoken publicly on it since.
The Birmingham News reported that Newton practiced with first team Thursday and is expected to start.
Initially, Newton and his father, Cecil, said they did nothing wrong during the player's recruitment. Two former Mississippi State players — Kenny Rogers and Bill Bell — say Cecil sought money during that school's recruitment of his son.
Then late Friday, the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer, crediting an Atlanta TV report, reported that Cecil admitted to soliciting money from a former MSU player last year, although he maintained his son, wife and Auburn knew nothing about it.
According to the report, Cecil said no money changed hands and no MSU official made such an offer for the quarterback, who started his career with Florida but left there in 2008 and enrolled in a Blinn, Texas, junior college.
Asked if the NCAA had advised Auburn on eligibility, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said in an e-mail Friday to the Associated Press that the body doesn't talk about "current, pending or potential investigations." NCAA rules state that a violation has been committed the moment an athlete or the athlete's family solicits extra benefits. Osburn had told USA Today, "Even if Newton received no money to attend Auburn, soliciting money can be an NCAA violation jeopardizing Newton's eligibility."
SEC commissioner Mike Slive, who had been mum until Friday, told the Birmingham (Ala.) News that the conference has not made a recommendation about whether to sit Newton today, saying it is up to the school.
Also late Friday, MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin released a statement, adding to the list of those saying a payment was sought. "During the recruitment of a football prospective student-athlete, Mississippi State was approached with an offer to provide an extra benefit. This offer was refused," the statement read. "MSU alerted the Southeastern Conference about the offer. MSU did not have any specific incriminating information about any other school, and thus could not provide any."
Meanwhile, Rogers' attorney, Doug Zeit, told the AP that the NCAA wants to meet with his client. Former MSU quarterback John Bond is scheduled to meet with the FBI on Tuesday. Bond told MSU officials in January that he had been approached by a man, identified by ESPN.com as Rogers, who said it would take up to $180,000 to get Cam Newton's signature.
On a radio show in Dallas on Thursday, Rogers, who runs a service linking players with colleges, said that Cecil Newton wanted between $100,000 and $180,000 for his son to sign with Mississippi State. Rogers said he, Cecil Newton and two MSU assistants met at a hotel on in 2009, and that one of the coaches responded, "No, no I don't want to hear that."
No. 4 Boise St. 52, Idaho 14: Kellen Moore threw for a pair of touchdowns in the first half and Chris Potter returned a punt 76 yards for a score the first time the Broncos (9-0, 5-0 WAC) touched the ball, running the nation's longest winning streak to 23 games.
Penn State-Ohio State: The oddsmakers say Penn State won't be within 2½ touchdowns of No. 8 Ohio State today, and that has several Nittany Lions snarling. "It was definitely brought up," running back Evan Royster said. "It's kind of insulting. I think we've proven that we can put points on the board. … A lot of teams (would) take offense … and it will make us work harder."
Tennessee: School officials unveiled a statue of Vols legendary coach Gen. Robert Neyland outside the stadium that bears his name. The 9-foot, 1,500-pound statue portrays Neyland kneeling. Neyland coached at Tennessee from 1926 to 1952, taking two breaks from the job to serve in the Army. He compiled a 173-31-12 record.
USF women kick past Auburn in NCAA soccer
TALLAHASSEE — The USF women's soccer team made its NCAA Tournament debut a memorable one Friday, beating Auburn 3-1 behind two goals from sophomore forward Taylor Patterson and one from freshman forward Sharla Passariello.
After former Newsome High midfielder Ana Cate scored for Auburn (11-8-2) early in the second half to tie it at 1, the Bulls (14-5-3) answered. USF plays host FSU at 1 p.m. Sunday in a game to be televised on Sun Sports.
The No. 2 seed Seminoles (14-5-1) needed a goal from sophomore defensive midfielder Breezy Hupp with just two seconds left in the first half to ignite them over Middle Tennessee 3-0.
UF WINS: Florida (19-2-2) defeated visiting Mercer 3-0 in a women's first-round NCAA game. The Gators host Duke, a 2-1 winner over California, at 1 p.m. Sunday.
One up, one down for TAMPA: Tampa (16-5) defeated North Alabama 2-1 in overtime in the women's NCAA Division II South Region in Pensacola. Brittan Spence scored the winner about six minutes into overtime, her second goal of the game. UT faces host West Florida in a semifinal at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. On the men's side, Tampa (14-7-1) lost to Barry 1-0 in the opening round of the South Region in Winter Park.
Times staff writer Brian Landman contributed to this report.