MSU AD Says Cam Affair Like ‘Wrestling With Pigs’

As the NCAA investigation into Mississippi State’s recruitment of Cam Newton lingers on, Saturday school athletic director Scott Stricklin offered an unflattering characterization of the situation to ESPN Gator Bowl sideline reporter Todd Harris.

During the Mississippi State-Michigan football game telecast, Harris said of an earlier conversation he had with Stricklin:

“I also had a chance to talk to him (Stricklin) about the Cam Newton affair, how that all went down. And he told me he feels like Mississippi State is on very solid ground (with the NCAA). “But one very telling comment that he told me, and I don’t know if this would be a homily or what, he said, ‘you know, when  you wrestle with pigs, you’re going to get dirty, but we’re pretty comfortable with where we are at Mississippi State.’”

Hard to take Stricklin’s characterization of the situation as anything but derogatory towards the Newtons.

Ironic when you consider:1) A former Mississippi State football player, Kenny Rogers, was an integral part of Cecil Newton’s now-admitted, pay-for-play scheme.2) On Nov. 27, 2009, Cecil Newton made it known to Mississippi State coaches - in person - that he wanted financial compensation for his son to sign with the school. Despite that knowledge, Mississippi State did not stop recruiting Cam Newton until he committed to Auburn on New Year’s Eve, 2009. Only after Cam Newton spurned Mississippi State did the school report Cecil Newton’s activity to the SEC and eventually, the NCAA.3) On Nov. 11, 2010, Joe Schad of ESPN.com reported:

Two sources who recruit for Mississippi State said that Cecil Newton and his son, quarterback Cam Newton, said in separate phone conversations that his college choice would be part of a pay-for-play plan while Newton was being recruited late last year.Mississippi State compliance officials relayed the alleged conversations to Southeastern Conference compliance officials in January, according to two other sources close to the football program.

The SEC later announced that it was never informed of such conversations by Mississippi State, which may have involved MSU coach Dan Mullen and his wife Megan.4) Of multiple reports detailing Mississippi State’s recruitment of Cam Newton, Brandon Marcello of the JACKSON (MS) CLARION-LEDGER reported that SEC Commissioner Mike Slive was unhappy that those stories might’ve been intentionally leaked to the media by MSU school personnel:

Slive is also concerned about the worrisome reports floating on the Internet and in newspapers. Two MSU recruiters were cited in an ESPN.com report Tuesday that alleged Cecil and Cam Newton admitted in separate phone conversation to seeking a pay-for-play plan at MSU.If MSU officials leaked information to the media, it becomes worrisome and an SEC issue, Slive said. Slive sent a reminder to SEC officials this week about its protocol of handling information and investigations that were lined out in a 2004 report by the SEC’s Task Force on Compliance and Enforcement.“Any time our process is not followed, it’s a concern and a disappointment because we have an expectation based upon the rules passed by our presidents and athletic directors that the process will be followed,” Slive said.

5) Another central figure in the Cam Newton recruitment investigation was former Mississippi State football player and current school booster Bill Bell. Bell reported to ESPN that Rogers relayed to him financial demands made by Cecil Newton in exchange for Cam’s football services. Bell’s role in the situation prompted Marcello of the Clarion-Ledger to write on Nov. 12, 2010:

The question in Starkville: If Bell, who has connections to MSU, spoke to Cecil Newton on more than one occasion while MSU was actively pursuing Cam Newton on the recruiting trail, could that be considered bad news for MSU on the NCAA front?

It has never been determined why Rogers sought out Bell in particular for the purposes of Cecil Newton cashing in on his son’s recruitment to Mississippi State. Where did Rogers - and perhaps father Newton - get the idea that Bell would be willing to pay $180,000 for Cam Newton to sign with Mississippi State?With all the circumstantial evidence pointing to Mississippi State’s questionable role in the Cam Newton recruitment controversy - and subsequent media reporting - if the Newtons are pigs then Stricklin’s MSU slopped the trough through the entire process.Follow Brooks on Twitter for real-time updates.