The father of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton said Thursday he will not attend the Heisman Trophy award ceremony because his presence might “rob Cam and the event of a sacred moment.”
Cecil Newton, who was invited to attend Saturday by the Heisman Trust, released the statement Thursday through George Lawson, the Atlanta-based Newton family attorney.
“For all of my fifty years of life, coupled with 25 years of marriage, I have made an exhausting attempt to be a good husband, father and generally a good person of integrity,” said Cecil Newton, who was involved in a failed pay-for-play scheme during his son’s recruitment to Mississippi State. “The past 60 days have caused all that my family worked to accomplish to come into question.
“So that my son Cam Newton can receive all the honors and congratulations that he has worked so hard to accomplish without distraction, I have decided not to be in attendance at the ceremony as it will perhaps rob Cam and the event of a sacred moment.”
Cam Newton is the favorite to receive the Heisman Trophy on Saturday in New York. The other finalists are Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Oregon running back LaMichael James.
The junior college transfer has led the Tigers to a Southeastern Conference title and into the BCS national championship game against Oregon on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz.
The NCAA reinstated Newton after a one-day suspension by Auburn last week, ruling that neither the player nor Auburn knew of his father’s attempts to get money.
Newton told ESPN on Thursday that he hadn’t directly asked his father what transpired between him and Mississippi State, but “at the end of the day I can look him in the eye and know he has my best interests at heart.”
Newton said it wasn’t for him to say if his father had done anything wrong, but he knows his father is there for him.
“My love for him is unconditional,” Cam Newton said. “This type of situation can split a family but it makes us stronger.”
The NCAA and state officials continue to investigate the payment scheme, trying to determine who knew what and if laws were broken.
Two lawyers from the Mississippi secretary of state’s office met with Kenny Rogers — the former Mississippi State player involved with Cecil Newton in the pay-for-play plan — and his attorney for more than four hours on Thursday afternoon in Waukegan, Ill.
Doug Zeit said the discussion at his office was a “fact-finding mission” centered around an alleged conversation on Nov. 27, 2009, when Rogers says Cecil Newton asked for up to $180,000 from two Mississippi State assistant coaches in exchange for his son’s commitment to the Bulldogs.
Zeit said the two sides also discussed Rogers’ phone calls made to Bill Bell and John Bond, two other former Mississippi State players who have been involved in the Newton saga.
“We basically talked about the same things we’ve been talking about for weeks — Cecil Newton’s solicitation and Kenny Rogers’ involvement relaying that message,” Zeit said. “We don’t believe Kenny Rogers broke any laws and are looking forward to this situation being over.”
Cam Newton was in Florida on Thursday for ESPN’s College Football Awards Show, where he picked up the Maxwell Award given to the national player of the year and the Davey O’Brien Award for the top quarterback. Earlier in the day, he won the Walter Camp player of the year award.
Newton was the SEC offensive player of the year after accounting for 49 touchdowns, best in the nation, and setting school records for both passing and rushing touchdowns in a season.
AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Jackson, Miss., contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.