Beal was one of several top players in the Big 12 who were asked about dealings with agents. The story has been in the headlines as preseason camps open after players from several schools, including defending national champion Alabama, were implicated in a Miami party last spring allegedly organized by an agent.
Also, Florida and the NCAA are investigating former Gators offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey, who is alleged to have accepted $100,000 from an agent before the team’s bowl game in December.
This after Southern California got hammered by the NCAA in June largely for Reggie Bush’s dealings with an agent.
The age-old issue has received a new round of publicity because college football conferences are holding media gatherings in late July and early August. Alabama coach Nick Saban fired the first salvo, comparing agents to pimps.
The agents’ response — don’t paint the problem with a broad stroke — is supported by some coaches such as Nebraska’s Bo Pelini who have been critical in the past.
“There are a lot of guys out there who do a reputable job and have a lot of integrity,” Pelini said.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe, a former Mississippi head coach and Tennessee assistant, said the problem with agents and their representatives is “rampant throughout the country.”
The NCAA is listening. Earlier this week, NCAA interim president Jim Isch said the organization will consider allowing more contact between agents and athletes.
“We need to ensure that those select student-athletes with professional athletic opportunities have the best information at the right time to make informed decisions,” Isch said in a statement.
But Isch said there would be no relaxing the extra benefits from agents and advisers that have players and programs in hot water.
Perhaps college sports elsewhere could take a cue from the Big 12, the conference with the most first-round NFL draft selections last year and one expected to have another banner year for pro prospects. Nobody from the conference has been implicated in the latest wave of news.
Could the explanation be as easy as a greater awareness on the part of potential clients in the nation’s midsection?
“Coaches stress this all the time,” Texas junior defensive tackle Kheeston Randall said. “We have about 12 meetings a year about it.”
At Agent Days, schools invite licensed agents to visit players and families on campus. Missouri held one in early July.
“There’s so much money involved today, people with greed do a lot of things decisionwise that sometimes aren’t the wisest,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.
But seminars and lessons don’t stop contact, which is legal. Entering into an agreement with an agent is a no-no, and accepting benefits like transportation, which is at the heart of the South Beach party for prospective clients, can bring stiff penalties.
Southern California received a two-year bowl ban, lost 30 scholarships and is vacating victories, including the Orange Bowl triumph that gave it the 2004 national championship. Bush, who may also have to surrender his Heisman Trophy for 2005, received lavish gifts from sports marketers hoping to sign him. The school is appealing the penalties.
Big 12 players said they understand the temptation of accepting cash or a plane ticket to a party.
“There are situations where players come from poverty, they may need extra money,” Oklahoma junior wide receiver Ryan Broyles said. “Or they want to be able to gloat and say they can get this type of money.
“But you have to be bigger than the situation.”
And understand a life-changing opportunity isn’t far off.
“That’s what I don’t understand about all of this,” Nebraska senior defensive end Pierre Allen said. “You can’t wait a few months? People can jeopardize a lot of things just because they didn’t wait until the end of a season.”
The NCAA says 39 states have a law to punish rogue agents. Cornhuskers athletic director and then-Congressman Tom Osborne co-sponsored federal legislation that passed in 2004 known as the Sports Agent Responsibility and Trust Act (SPARTA) that allows the attorney general of any state or the Federal Trade Commission to prosecute agents for ethics violations.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said he’d like to see greater enforcement.
“Right now, when (improper contact is made), the school is punished and the individual is punished, but nothing happens to the agent,” Stoops said. “Until that happens it won’t stop.”