Agents aren’t paying high school and college players hundreds of thousands of dollars. They are, according to Telep, paying for players’ cell phone bills and their parents’ mortgages. Most of them are not getting caught with these acts, which violate NCAA rules of amateurism.
“This stuff is not going away because something has happened with Cam Newton,” Telep said of the Heisman Trophy-winning Auburn quarterback, whose father, Cecil Newton, approached Mississippi State for $180,000 late last year in exchange for his son’s services as a college football player.
College basketball player Renardo Sidney, who visited the Classic in 2005, had to sit out last season and the first 30 percent of this season at Mississippi State for receiving $11,800 in benefits while in high school. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2009 that Sidney’s family rented a home valued at $1.2 million for $4,000 a month.
These pay-for-play scandals, Telep said, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to agents offering amateur athletes and their families enticements. Agents invest for the chance at future big-time payoffs if these athletes later become clients and sign lucrative NBA contracts.
“Agents and runners have infiltrated (Amateur Athletic Union) and high school basketball,” said Telep, who has been a college basketball recruiting analyst for 14 years and now works for ESPN.com. “One of the ways to fight this is that agents should be decertified if they are caught.”
NBA commissioner David Stern and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell must step forward to address the issue better, Telep said.
“It’s very difficult to chase,” Telep said. “This isn’t the wild, wild west. But agents are taking care of kids and families in a lot of cases.”
An Oct. 18 Sports Illustrated cover story, written by agent Josh Luchs and reporter George Dohrmann, described several specific instances in which Luchs made payments to players.
“We’re starting to see a shift in the thinking,” Telep said. “When you peel back the curtains, this is what’s going on. It’s almost accepted behind closed doors.”
Some of the elite players in this year’s tournament have heard the stories. Two of them said the stories do not involve them.
Senior guard Austin Rivers of Winter Park High School is the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who makes about $5.5 million a year.
“A lot of kids, they don’t have anything growing up,” Austin Rivers said, referring to some of his peers from elite youth basketball camps and tournaments. “We’re in a bad economy anyway. For some kids, it’s not even a temptation. It’s a must.
“I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do (to accept money from an agent or booster). But for a lot of them, it’s kind of hard not to. It’s not right to take money, but I can’t blame them.”
James McAdoo, a senior forward at Norfolk (Va.) Christian, signed with the University of North Carolina. He said his passion for the game and his knowledge of the rules have steered him clear of any agents.
“My parents have raised me well,” McAdoo said. “From a personal standpoint, I haven’t been offered anything. UNC does everything by the book.”
Asked if he thought college athletes should be compensated for their services – beyond the free college tuition, room and board they already receive – McAdoo paused.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” McAdoo said. “I wouldn’t mind being paid.”
The rules, however, are the rules, and McAdoo said he intended to follow them.
“I love the game more than you could ever imagine,” McAdoo said. “Getting paid, that hasn’t crossed my mind.”
Well, actually, it has. McAdoo aspires to play in the NBA, where the 6-foot-9 forward, should he continue to elevate his game, could make millions.
McAdoo said the money doesn’t motivate him compared to simply playing basketball at the highest level.
“That’s the goal,” he said.