Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Is gambling behind the FBI’s involvement in the Cam Newton Case?

image If past cases are any indication, the FBI’s involvement in the Cam Newton recruiting investigation could have nothing to do with Newton’s recruitment at all.  Federal investigators became involved in two high-profile cases elsewhere, one at Northwestern and one at Michigan.  Both involved gambling.

If this is the case, then it backs up the suggestions made here and elsewhere on the ‘net – that this is much bigger than a stellar Quarterback with a greedy father. It also lends strength to the theories that implicate Milton McGregor, Robert Geddie and Bobby Lowder.

From a USA Today story hitting wires this morning:

What interest the FBI has in the NCAA infractions case involving Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is unclear. But it's not the first time the FBI has been involved with college athletics.

Investigations into Northwestern and the Michigan basketball program in the late 1990s are among those in which the FBI played a role. Both involved gambling. With Northwestern, former basketball players were convicted of trying to fix games. With Michigan, booster Ed Martin was involved in a gambling operation unrelated to the athletic department, but his relationship and improper loans to some of the Fab Five came to light through the case.

Whether the bureau becomes involved in future cases is hard to predict. But its presence has impact. The admitted flaw in the NCAA enforcement process is a lack of subpoena power. A vivid example is the recent Reggie Bush case with Southern California when the NCAA couldn't get many of the principals, including Bush, to talk.

"When they get involved, the NCAA's job becomes a lot easier," Jim Delany, the Big Ten commissioner and a former NCAA investigator, said of the feds. "We're not talking about freedom of information. We're talking about subpoena power. If you lie to an FBI agent, you are violating the law. You can go to jail if you are caught doing that."

Of course, the other key point made in this piece is that the NCAA’s job is made much easier when federal investigators are on the case.  The NCAA’s lack of subpoena power or ability to compel testimony are crippling weaknesses of its enforcement operations.  If you lie to or obstruct the NCAA, your institution may or may not be hammered for your lack of cooperation, depending on what the league’s investigators are able to prove through other sources.  If you lie to or obstruct a federal investigation, you go to jail for it.

Federal investigators have been exploring a wide range of possible criminal activity in Alabama since Colonial Bank collapsed in the summer of 2009. Additional investigations led to the indictment of Milton McGregor, a member of of Colonial’s Board of Directors, and Auburn booster and Robert Geddie, an Auburn alumnus and powerful state lobbyist in Alabama.

It is not clear whether the FBI is cooperating with the NCAA and sharing information. However, the USA Today story also notes that the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office is involved, and since Colonial Bank was a state-chartered institution, the Secretary of State and the Alabama Attorney General’s office are also both involved. No matter how you turn this thing around and look at it from different angles, two things are abundantly clear:

This is an investigation spanning multiple jurisdictions, with serious, big boy matters being explored.

Auburn University is the epicenter of the investigations. Everything comes back to Auburn.