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Newton saga has been 12 months in the making

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

Cam Newton has second-ranked Auburn two games from a national championship and is a leading Heisman Trophy candidate. Life should be good.

Yet, the Tigers quarterback can't seem to shake allegations that his father asked for money during his recruitment out of junior college.

The whistle-blower in the recruiting scandal, former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond, has said he will be interviewed Tuesday by the FBI.

Bond informed then Mississippi State athletic department Greg Byrne in January that a former teammate -- identified by ESPN.com as Kenny Rogers -- had asked him for $180,000 to secure Newton's commitment to the Bulldogs.

That triggered a series of events in a drama that began last November.

Newton took his official visit to Mississippi State the weekend of Nov. 27 and watched the Bulldogs beat Ole Miss. Pictures were taken of Newton ringing a cowbell -- an MSU symbol of pride -- in the stands. Many believed MSU had the inside track at signing Newton because of the quarterback's relationship with Dan Mullen -- the former Florida offensive coordinator when Newton was a Gator in 2007 and 2008.

After a fierce recruiting battle between Mississippi State and Auburn, Newton verbally committed to Tigers last New Year's Eve and signed on Feb. 3.

Fast-forward to July, when Mississippi State turned over a detailed report to the SEC after looking into Bond's information. The NCAA launched its own investigation independent of the SEC.

By the end of September, the NCAA had interviewed Bond and also requested financial information from Cecil Newton, a preacher. He also turned over financial information about his church, Holy Zion Center of Deliverance in Newnan, Ga.

Records show that Newton's church spent some $50,000 to make needed repairs, and the building meets city code for the first time in more than two years.

However, the church looked more like an old warehouse than a house of worship during a visit on Sunday. The front entrance was a locked glass door with drawn curtains, and had a giant garage suitable for a big-rig on the side. There was a dusty cement floor with a few folding chairs. A giant plank of wood riddled with nails covered one of the entryways. There was a no trespassing sign in front and neighbors said the church hasn't been used in months. However, Cecil Newton's name was still on the sign.

There has been a flurry of allegations and finger-pointing this month.

It didn't seem to bother Newton Saturday against Georgia, he had another spectacular performance. He led the Tigers to a come-from-behind 49-31 victory by throwing two touchdowns and running for two more. The win secured Auburn a spot in the SEC championship game for the first time since 2004.

Now Auburn has a week off, and though all parties have virtually turned silent -- Auburn, MSU, the SEC, NCAA, the Newtons -- the situation continues to fester.

Yes, Auburn (11-0) is the No. 2-ranked team in the nation in both the AP poll and BCS standings. Newton's play has made him the leading candidate to win the Heisman trophy.

But college football seems to be holding its collective breath, awaiting the findings of the NCAA probe and answers to the FBI questions.