Saban’s comments may have been a knee-jerk reaction to the recent discovery that one of his top players, defensive end Marcel Dareus, is under investigation by the NCAA for attending a party in South Beach funded by an NFL agent. More absurd and transparent comments would come later, when Saban suggested that Alabama may be best served to sever its ties with the NFL.
Are you kidding me?
Cutting ties with the NFL for Alabama would be tantamount to program suicide. Saban himself would soon be looking for another job if he wasn’t able to go into recruits’ living rooms and tout the successful transition from the University of Alabama football program to the NFL.
For a lot of college recruits, the NFL carrot determines where they will go to school. For many, such a career is all that matters. Escaping their current situation and becoming a savior to their family and friends is the only incentive needed to make a decision, and the promise of an NFL salary certainly tips the scales.
What sports agents are doing is no different than what collegiate coaches do in courting high school kids. The only real difference is that the NCAA actively investigates the first, while all but turning a blind eye to the below-board things that happen with the latter.
The programs themselves often look the other way in regard to their own boosters, who lavish gifts on the truly talented players, yet the same schools are crying foul when sports agents do the very same thing?
The argument against such activity is that the student-athlete receives a first-class education at little to no cost, and that should be sufficient reward. The reality, however, in the case of top football programs, is that the student-athlete generates far more revenue for the schools than benefits received, and what the school gets out of the relationship monetarily far outweighs what the player attains.
The task of bridging that gap has fallen on the sports agent. In all professions there are good and bad practitioners. While some agents will go to any extreme to get their hooks into a potential client and exploit their current situations, there are plenty of others that follow the rules to the letter of the law.
College football at the highest level, is a money-making machine. Everyone in the process seems to get a piece of the pie, from gamblers to universities to the coaches they employ. However, the NCAA says that the only ones “not allowed” to get in on the action are the young men who actually play the game.
We can’t have it both ways. If college football at the FBS level is a business, why are we outraged that student-athletes are starting to make business decisions?
South Carolina, Georgia and Florida have joined the group of SEC programs under NCAA scrutiny for what it deems to be improper contact with agents.
In the wake of all the press given to Reggie Bush’s transgressions at USC, expect similar stories across the nation to pop up as the 2010 season approaches and throughout the year.
This particular problem has always been here, and until the NCAA lessens the restrictions on the student-athlete, Agent-Gate isn’t going away anytime soon.