Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Agents and the NCAA

Today's turning into a sports-heavy day, but given my past posts about the NCAA, there's no way I can ignore this article from this week's Sports Illustrated. There's not much new here if you've been paying attention to the budding issues at North Carolina, Georgia, and elsewhere, but it definitely adds a new perspective to the issue and makes it that much more clear how widespread the problems are.

Written from the perspective of former sports agent Josh Luchs, the article begins:
I will never forget the first time I paid a player.
There are moments you will always remember, like your first kiss or your first home run or the day you met your wife. For me, the first time I broke an NCAA rule to try to land a client is just as indelible.
Luchs goes on to recall decades of abuses of NCAA rules, doing a good job of describing the (behind-the-scenes) landscape of collegiate athletics. It's alternately infuriating, saddening, and thought-provoking, and it gives voice to a largely silent minority (agents). What I find most striking is how Luchs draws parallels between himself and college coaches--both are "recruiters", and both can and do bend NCAA rules for personal benefit. It's worth asking whether there's really any difference between a coach and an agent at the end of the day.

Rather than rant anew about old issues, I'll just excerpt here what I wrote before. It's as apt here as it was then.
This is only the latest in a long line of recent news items focusing on "improper contact" between players and agents. Alabama coach Nick Saban famously referred to agents as "pimps" in the wake of his program's agent-related controversy this summer, saying:
"I don't think it's anything but greed that's creating it right now on behalf of the agents," Saban said in a rant at the SEC media days. "The agents that do this – and I hate to say this, but how are they any better than a pimp?
"I have no respect for people who do that to young people. None. How would you feel if they did it to your child?"
This, from a man who is scheduled to be paid $4 million per year through 2017 for coaching these same kids. Look in the mirror, Nick.
Former USC coach Pete Carroll, for his part, escaped from USC before it could be sanctioned, in order to sign a 5-year, $33 million contract with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. He will face no punishment for what happened at USC under his watch, in the same way that Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has twice escaped programs (UMass and Memphis) immediately before they were sanctioned. Coaches, athletic directors, and NCAA officials continue to be all too quick to blame individual agents and players for illicit behavior, without even addressing the possibility that their own policies and conduct may be to blame.
We could rush to judgment on Luchs and question his motives for publishing his story now. But Sports Illustrated went out of its way to contact the people Luchs mentioned in his article, and the majority of those who were willing to comment confirmed Luchs' version of the events. So regardless of his motivations, the man clearly speaks the truth. And that's not good for the NCAA.

[Sports Illustrated]

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