If Heisman Trophy favorite Cam Newton does indeed go on to win college football's greatest individual award, the Auburn quarterback will easily be the most scrutinized winner in the award's 75-year history.
On Monday, FoxSports.com reported Newton had three different instances of academic cheating while attending the University of Florida and faced potential expulsion from the university, a source told the website.
A university source at Florida confirmed to FanHouse on Tuesday that Newton did not have a choice in leaving the university because of his academic and legal issues. Besides the academic fraud, Newton was arrested in November 2008, after he bought a stolen laptop computer. He also had 12 traffic citations between July 2007 and November 2008, according to Alachua County Clerk of Court online records.
Last week, a man claiming to represent Newton during the quarterback's recruitment out of Blinn College last year allegedly sought payments of up to $200,000 to secure Newton's signature on a national letter-of-intent, ESPN.com and the New York Times reported.
Newton's father, Cecil, and Auburn have denied any wrongdoing in the quarterback's recruitment. The NCAA is reviewing the allegations that a man tried to secure payment from Mississippi State during Newton's recruitment.
After spending 2007 and 2008 at Florida, Newton attended Blinn College, a junior college in Texas, for one season, leading Blinn to the NJCAA national championship, before transferring to Auburn, where he's led the Tigers to an undefeated season and No. 2 AP ranking.
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said the allegations against Newton are "unfortunate and sad."
"In the past 24 hours, a lot of allegations have surfaced that date back two years ago and further," Jacobs said in a statement. "These allegations and rumors about Cam Newton are unfortunate and sad because they seem intent on tearing down the reputation of a young man who has done everything we've asked him to do. Cam has been and continues to be completely honest with us."
Discussing the academic records of a student violates federal privacy laws and Jacobs declined to disclose Newton's academic history.
"We will not go down that path or stoop to that level as others have apparently done," Jacobs said. "We will, however, emphatically say that Cam is eligible to play football at Auburn University both academically and athletically. I am proud of this young man and the progress he has made to be a better football player and a better man. We are truly blessed that Cam is a part of the Auburn family, and we support him 100 percent."
While a freshman at Florida in 2007, Newton first violated Florida's student honor code by cheating in a class during his freshman year, FoxSports.com reported.
In November of 2008, Newton was arrested for the theft of a laptop from a Florida student's dorm room. He also violated the university's honor code by putting his name on another student's paper and turning it in, according to FoxSports.com's source. Newton was caught after the instructor asked the real author of the paper why he had not turned in his work.
While at Florida, Newton also had 12 traffic citations in a 16-month period, ranging from running red lights, speeding, passing in a non-passing zone, failure to provide a driver's license and operating a vehicle with a suspended license, according to Alachua County Clerk of Court online records.
The latest report about Newton's academic situation at Florida is nothing more than character assassination, wrote Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky on Tuesday.
Last week's report from ESPN.com and the New York Times indicated a man who said he represented Newton during his recruitment out of junior college last year asked for payment to secure his commitment to Mississippi State, according to former MSU player John Bond.
"During the 2009 football season, I was contacted by a former football teammate, who represented to me that he was speaking for the Newton camp," Bond said in a statement. "He told me that Cam Newton wanted to play at Mississippi State, but that a specified payment would have to be made.
"I reported the conversation to the Mississippi State Athletic Department. I was told by the Athletic Department that Mississippi State would not respond to the overture that was made to me, and that Mississippi State would continue to recruit Cam Newton as it does any other football recruit."
The ESPN.com report said Rogers told Bond that schools "had already offered $200,000" for Newton. But since Newton liked Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen when the two were at Florida in 2007 and '08, MSU could "get him for $180,000."
Mullen was the offensive coordinator at Florida before taking the Mississippi State job after the 2008 season.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik described the academic allegations as "garbage."
"Cam Newton is one of the guys on our football team that has not only excelled as a tremendous athlete," Chizik said Tuesday. "... I'm wasting my time addressing allegations that blow my mind that they're even out there, because there's federal privacy laws that dictate that these things don't get out in public.
"I'm standing up here on a very important week trying to defend something that's garbage."
Chizik described Newton as a "great human being that comes from a great family" and addressed his quarterback's Heisman credentials.
"He's one of the leaders in the Heisman race because he deserves it. That's fact," Chizik said.
Florida coach Urban Meyer has even been drawn into this since Newton began his career in Gainesville.
Meyer said in a statement neither he nor anyone on his staff leaked any information about Newton's academic record, calling it a "ridiculous claim."
"For anyone to think that I or anyone on our staff may have leaked information about private student records to the media doesn't know us very well," Meyer said. "It's a ridiculous claim and simply not true."
Cecil Newton previously told the AP the family denies any allegations and is "cooperating with the investigation."
Brett McMurphy is a national college football writer for FanHouse. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or please follow on Twitter.com/BrettmcmurphY