We need a whole new way of thinking on the agent issue

Hoover, Ala.—Here is how fast the sport of college football now moves. A few days ago Mike Slive was working on a first draft of his annual opening remarks for SEC Football Media Days.  Slive uses the opportunity to talk about the accomplishments of the conference in the past academic year and to lay out the challenges that are still before it.

There wasn’t a word about agents included in that draft.

By the time he actually delivered that message on Wednesday at the Wynfrey Hotel, the SEC commissioner had a lot to say about the current relationship between elite athletes and agents who do not play by the rules.

When Slive spoke at about 1:30 p.m. the SEC schools who were being questioned by the NCAA had grown to three: Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. Before dinner time Georgia revealed that it had heard from the NCAA which wants to come on campus and ask questions. Three of the four schools face the possibility that key players could miss games this season. A fourth, Florida, is investigating whether or not a former player, Maurkice Pouncey, took cash from an agent before his last game. If true, Florida could see its Sugar Bowl win over Cincinnati vacated.

“The world moves pretty fast, doesn’t it?” Slive told me when we talked late in the day.

Keep in mind that there is a process at work and that the players could be cleared and miss no games.  They could pay the money back and miss some games. They could be neck deep in this and be banned for the season. At this point nobody knows.

Florida coach Urban Meyer was not happy about the reports that Pouncey, a first-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers, may have received $100,000 from an agent before the Sugar Bowl. He called such agents “predators who take eligibility away from kids and that’s not right.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban was even stronger in his assessment of bad agents. A story surfaced that defensive end Marcel Dareus, perhaps the best NFL Draft prospect in Tuscaloosa, had attended a now famous party given by an agent or someone representing an agent down in South Florida. If Dareus received his travel expenses and other gifts from an agent to attend that party, that is a violation of NCAA rules.

“I believe that athletes should be held accountable because they know what the rules are,” Saban said. “But the agents who do this have to be accountable as well. And it’s time that we got some help from the NFL to hold them accountable.”

Saban implied that he would not be beyond cutting back or cutting off access to NFL scouts if the league won’t help. Meyer said he would have to study it but was inclined to listen to Saban’s idea. They want the NFL Players Association to determine that if an agent breaks the rules and it costs a player some eligibility, that agent must be held accountable in some way.

Now it’s easy to bring out the age-old argument: “The coaches make a lot of money, the school makes a lot of money, the kids see this and want their share now because they don’t think it’s fair.” The statements in that argument are all accurate but it doesn’t get us anywhere because college athletes are not going to get paid. You know it and I know it.

 We can rail about the hypocrisy of the system, which has been going on for several generations, or we can try to find a 21st accommodation. Notice that I didn’t say solution. There is not a solution to this problem but there are better, more innovative ways of dealing with it.

The coaches give us the righteous indignation, which is the red meat for an angry fan base. And that’s fine. But I would listen to Slive, a former attorney and district court judge. Slive told me he has looked the issue, which has been with us for a long time in many different forms. He’s decided that the time has come to quit working on the margins of the issue. It’s time, he said, for a complete paradigm shift of how schools handle elite athletes who want a future playing professional sports.

Slive believes that when faced with this kind of problem, the solution is not to try and lock down the athletes and prohibit any kind of contact with agents or NFL scouts. He believes the exact opposite should be true.

“If we had a student who was a great violinist and wanted to join a symphony and become a professional musician, there are all kinds of things the school could do to help make that happen,” said Slive. “I think the NCAA rules on this issue are as much as part of the problem as they are the solution. Instead of shutting things down for these student-athletes, we need to open up the system and give them greater access to it. We need to take the mystery out of it.”

The current rules, which limit how much contact athletes can have with agents, essentially sets up a secondary market for agents who will break the rules hoping to get a competitive edge over the more established agents.

“What we need to do is get out of the model that based on enforcement and adopt a model that’s based on assistance,” he said.  “We’re supposed to be helping these kids.”

Slive can’t say this publicly but I will. The current NCAA model on agents and athletes is like prohibition was to people and booze. It created a black market for the stuff where all kinds of mischief would inevitably take place. Prohibition didn’t work so the rules had to change. We have the same set of issues with the agent problem.

There is another facet to this issue that people don’t like to talk about. At the end of the day, the athletes really don’t trust the adults who are running the system. The adults say they working with the best interests of the athletes involved. I think most athletes believe that the adults are looking out for their employer first. So when somebody comes along and points out that you, young football star, are putting money in all of these people’s pockets and you aren’t getting squat, it becomes a pretty compelling argument. I’m not sure I could resist it at the age of 19 or 20.

The answer is to give the legitimate agents—and there are so many good ones out there—GREATER access and to give the student-athlete with pro potential a clearly defined road map on how to get there and also get the most out of his college experience.

 It’s one thing for somebody who works for the university to tell an athlete he shouldn’t break the rules. The athlete can look at that adult and say to himself: “You just want me on the field to help you win.”

But it is another thing entirely to hear an established agent tell a player over and over: “Don’t break the rules because it makes the NFL question your character and that will cost you money. Here is how you handle it.”

All I know is that at Wednesday’s SEC Media Days, Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, and Mike Slive all said they wanted change and were willing to work at it. That probably means that something will get done.

So what’s the next step? Should schools respond to this by locking down their players and giving no access to the NFL or agents? Or should they go in the totally opposite direction: Throw open the system and take the mystery out of it? Give these kids all the information and access they need?

Would there still be problems? Of course. As long as there is a poor kid and somebody flashing cash, women, cars, parties, etc., this is going to happen. What we’re discussing here is a new way of thinking to manage the issue because what college football is doing now, in the 21st Century, is clearly not working.

 

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Programming note: Our  “Talkin’ Football” second day coverage of SEC Media Days will be shown tonight at 6 p.m. on CSS. Today’s coaches’ interviews include Mark Richt, Bobby Petrino, Steve Spurrier and new Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell. Check us out!

136 comments Add your comment

Nachos

July 22nd, 2010
8:32 am

FIRST just like Bama was in 2009.

Damon Evans

July 22nd, 2010
8:33 am

Attention fat, ugly skanky white women….

Please friend me on Facebook, I will take care of your panties for you.

-DE

Chi Town eating at Crumpy Burgers

July 22nd, 2010
8:38 am

Zeeeeee Nachos is # 1.

Just like Saban and Bama in 2010.

Ron Mexico

July 22nd, 2010
8:53 am

Now that is a solid piece of writing. Change the economics of supply and demand, and you change the game. They may never figure out how to placate the kids looking for extra benefits while in school, but allowing closer ties with agents (or just more exposure) is probably the next step.

KR

July 22nd, 2010
8:54 am

Unfortunately, there has been a shift in the mentality of the college football player. When I was in college, nearly every player was there because he chose the school. Now, players choose based on the coach or the TV time or the promise that they will be the star. This is shown by how many players transfer schools at the slightest hint of change.

Since the players seem to have developed a mercenary attitude, maybe it’s time the schools did as well. In addition to the scholarship, pay them a stipend, provide incentives for class attendance and grades and attach a zero tolerance policy for violations. There will always be players who will go for the illicit money, but it might address the issue with the majority of players who are tempted.

Equally unfortunate for me would be that I will probably lose interest in watching at that point, for many of the same reasons why I no longer watch the NFL.

dawgdoodie

July 22nd, 2010
8:54 am

Actually, First Moron is more like it! What an honor, Notcho.

dawgdoodie

July 22nd, 2010
8:56 am

You deserve the honor every bit as much as the George Wallace team did.

Mikey in SAV

July 22nd, 2010
9:02 am

Pay the players. The Universities are making Gazillions off them.

Nachos

July 22nd, 2010
9:04 am

dawgdoodie – you get your 2010 Music City Bowel tickets yet?

7-5

GeoffDawg

July 22nd, 2010
9:06 am

I like it. You can regulate it, take it out of the shadows, and ensure a higher quality product and protection for all parties.

Atlanta Jackets

July 22nd, 2010
9:12 am

You notice the NCAA skipped over the Institute on North Avemue. That’s because they know that good Tech men don’t need to have their hands held. Our student athletes are above this type of misconduct. Dwyer, Morgan, Burnett, Nesbot, they all have sense not to put the team at risk with such selfish behavior. And all of these guys are/were/will be first round talent.

STUNG AGAIN

July 22nd, 2010
9:14 am

dawgdoodie,YOU WOULDN’T HAPPEN TO KNOW THE ARRIVAL TIME OF THEM ncaa boy’s TODAY WOULD YOU??!! SURELY NO uga PLAYER’S SHOWED UP IN MIAMI B/C THOSE AGENT’S WERE LOOKING FOR NFL QUALITY PLAYER’S!! ME THINK’S YA’LL GOT NOT A THING TO WORRY ABOUT!!

Jon Matrix

July 22nd, 2010
9:23 am

The players in the SEC are getting paid already. It is pretty pathetic that all the lapdog SEC reporters are acting like this Miami party was the first thing that ever happened. Give me a break this has been going on for years, but the NCAA was embarrassed into action by Reggie Bush. Just keep these dirty agents out of the top academic learning institutions like the Stanford’s, Notre Dame’s, Univ. Of Southern California’s, Dukes and Northwesterns of the world. Does anyone really care if the SEC players continue to get paid? Their coaches are already collectively the highest paid and if they do happen to graduate it is not like they will earn that much from their diplomas from these Southern schools vs. going to the NFL.

How2fish

July 22nd, 2010
9:23 am

Tony great article I find Slive’s comments a breath of fresh air. Perhaps we can make a change that benefits the players and also the schools. Please keep up the good work I fear this will be the story for the next month and not sadly how our teams are preparing for the upcoming season.

Alphare

July 22nd, 2010
9:25 am

Why would NCAA ban outsiders giving money to the athletes? Isn’t the ban illegal in some way? Isn’t this a free country?

If you want to find an example where the rich get richer and poor get poorer, this is the best example.

How2fish

July 22nd, 2010
9:26 am

Jon Matrix you have a better chance keeping liquor out of ND than agents..well if you had any elite players anymore. Oh and did you REALLY mention USC?? Really!

Alphare

July 22nd, 2010
9:29 am

Banning somebody from making a buck utilizing his God-given talent must be illegal in the constitution(I would guess).

Has anybody sued the NCAA on this issue before?

bamaguy

July 22nd, 2010
9:30 am

Slive’s analogy was spot on. My nephew was a perfect 4.0 engineering and math double major at Alabama. Companies from all over the world wanted him. The university went out of its way to make create access to the top companies for him. How is an elite athlete at Alabama or any other school any different. The school should be creating access to legitimate agents.

Jon Matrix

July 22nd, 2010
9:30 am

Just looked at the top football playing schools in any US News and World Report academic ratings. But you are right Vandy should be included. Especially since their players are obviously not being paid. Roll Tide!!!

How2fish

July 22nd, 2010
9:36 am

bamaguy as hard as it is to admit I agree with you 100%. The schools should be creating access to legitimate agents. You and Alphare make some great points….

Atlanta Jackets

July 22nd, 2010
9:36 am

bamaguy, if your nephew was so elect, why did he pick a second rate engineering school? No offense, just asking.

ignition

July 22nd, 2010
9:37 am

If agents are pimps then what that makes the college coaches??
At least the players get $$$ and representation, while the players do all the work for the coaches and get No $$$.

Chi Town eating at Crumpy Burgers

July 22nd, 2010
9:38 am

Anyone know what time NCAA is arriving in Athens today?

I hear they can rent Evans house since they will probably be there for some time.

May find some white girls panties in the couch from time to time but other than that I hear its a nice place.

Jon Matrix

July 22nd, 2010
9:48 am

I really cannot believe that everyone is pretending they don’t know how much these players are getting paid already. The local reporters depend on the coaches and AD’s for their access so of course they don’t speak about this, but go along with the party line that this “Miami party” is the only thing that has ever happened I recent years. Why should there be any investigations when there is a nice cushy situation set up where everyone gets paid. Let’s face it, I am happy that Bama won but we all know how the system works. This will all blow over and the players will continue to get paid.

Jake

July 22nd, 2010
9:50 am

Get the Hoover deal done,, move on,,,, I’m just ready for some Football.

Dawg posturing

July 22nd, 2010
9:52 am

North Avenue shouldn’t be so pious. This is a problem all around. There will always be athletes driving cars or flashing cash beyond their means, which equals debt or $ under the table somewhere. By the way, AJ lied (see Dez White for consequences).

jj

July 22nd, 2010
9:56 am

funny how almost every sec fan laughed at the usc situation and now that its happening to them…now we need to do something about agents…here saban, heres a box of tissues go cry pimp

Courtney Fuhrmann - aka skanky white girl

July 22nd, 2010
9:57 am

Has anyone seen my red panties???

[...] PressMeyer, Saban sound off on player agentsTbo.comSan Francisco Chronicle -NOLA.com -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 727 news [...]

Damon Evans

July 22nd, 2010
10:06 am

Hey Courtney:

Check underneath the ottoman in my living room.

Hope all is well and miss u girl!

Lowcountry Bulldawg

July 22nd, 2010
10:08 am

Atlanta Jackets,

If you are a fan of the school at least learn how to spell the names of the players correctly— Nesbot? Really?

T3

July 22nd, 2010
10:10 am

Not once was…EDUCATION…even mentioned in this article.

Afterall, its the SEC we’re talking about.

Its not about Education.

Its about “bid-ness” which means its about…THE MONEY.

SecGuy

July 22nd, 2010
10:10 am

Good column. I watched the coaches yesterday. They and Slive had sensible ideas. The most important one to me was to equalize the punishment when player-agent deals are exposed. Under the current system the players get punished but the agent doesn’t. That’s the crux of the matter and it needs to be fixed.

Bride of Chucky Knapp

July 22nd, 2010
10:11 am

Good article. Still looking forward to more about football and less about lawyer stuff.

Courtney Fuhrmann - aka skanky white girl

July 22nd, 2010
10:12 am

Damon you are such a powerful man!

Cant wait to see you tonight at the Motel 6…. bring the Ole English “big” man :)

dip

July 22nd, 2010
10:14 am

bamaguy – did any guys give him money his soph or jr year? Did they try to get him to leave before his senior year?

NCAA Football is not the AAA for the NFL. – These are supposed to be STUDENT/athletes not Professional Athletes. IMO

Riiight

July 22nd, 2010
10:17 am

AJ is just following what he learned from Damon. LIE! Who’s the girl? Oh were just friends. Why are you holding her panties? Oh she asked me to while I drove her home!

Damon Evans

July 22nd, 2010
10:18 am

AJ just lie like I did. DENY!!!! You were in SC!! You were playin bball with the locals! You have no desire to go to South Beach!!

GeezusDawg

July 22nd, 2010
10:19 am

Throw open all-access to the athletes. They should allow the agents to spend anything they want on the athletes. The caveat? The agent will also have to spend the exact same amount of money on EVERY other athlete at the respective institute AND make a matching monetary contribution to the Academic portion of the university for each “perk” extended to one athlete.

Jon Matrix

July 22nd, 2010
10:19 am

The SEC is the AAA for the NFL. We won the last four championships, have the highest paid coaches and more importantly the highest paid players. Academics are a joke it is all about the football. Roll Tide.

ignition

July 22nd, 2010
10:20 am

Education is Not A Factor..
The Actually Well Being of the Kids is NOT a Factor..
S.E.C. Rednecks could care Less about the Athlete as a Person it’s all about being the Pawn on a football field and once they’re done they’re Done..

Courtney Fuhrmann

July 22nd, 2010
10:21 am

I’m not fat, Damon.

Damon Evans

July 22nd, 2010
10:25 am

don’t worry fleabag nation. i am a powerful man. i am going to catch the ncaa before the get to town and tell them to come to a hotel instead. it will work… trust me. i am a powerful man, ask my skank errrrrrr girl courtney.

Joey

July 22nd, 2010
10:27 am

Congrats, Atlanta Jackets (9:12), for now . . .

dowhatnow?

July 22nd, 2010
10:27 am

Where’s Fred? Is he ready to suspend Richt for a year now? Hey Fred, Goonie Goo Goo……

GeezusDawg

July 22nd, 2010
10:28 am

And Tony, you should proofread before posting.

How2fish

July 22nd, 2010
10:40 am

jj there is a huge difference here USC lied and refused to work with the NCAA and then Mike Garret stood in front of a microphone and proclaimed that the entire sordid affair was a product of “envy”…get a grip tool.

Rob

July 22nd, 2010
10:41 am

I’m not sure I like the idea, but if players were allowed to go ahead and sign with agents and get a limited advance from the agent on future earnings while keeping their eligibility, then the process would come out of the shadows and players would be dealing with legitimate agents.

I’m not a lawyer, but I’m a little suprised that players haven’t sued over this issue. Taking money is one thing, but not allowing a player to consult with an agent (in effect, get good legal advice) seems to me like it might be on shaky legal ground.

Will

July 22nd, 2010
10:42 am

I don’t think anything is going to come of the UGA investigation. I just hate the bad p.r. of being grouped in with UF, Bama and SC. I was hoping we could stay above the fray but I guess it was not to be. Sometimes I hate to even go to the AJC website because I know there is going to be a negative story about my dawgs. It’s getting depressing-almost like when I go to Drudge Report and get the real news on what a disaster of a president we have. I need a Valium.

Aiken Chicken

July 22nd, 2010
10:43 am

This is an amusing thread, but once the season kicks off no one will remember it. I do enjoy reading the SEC envy posts. Keep em coming!