The blame game
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In the past week Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have referred to agents as pimps and predators. Longtime NFL agent Ralph Cindrich quickly fired a return volley likening college coaches' cleanliness to that of bed bugs. With the Alabama and Florida football programs currently under investigation by the NCAA for potential violations including those related to improper agent interactions with student athletes, the aforementioned coaches certainly have reason to be nervous, nauseated and nonplussed. The agent involved in the spat believes that coaches have the incentive and the means to put a stop to the illegalities but choose to turn a blind eye to the growing problem. Cindrich says the only way a coach could overlook the bling, the cars, the stereos, the TV's and the clothes is to refuse to acknowledge their existence. So who is to blame and what is the potential for a solution?
It is unreasonable to place the responsibility on the shoulders of a young man who arrives at college with nothing more than a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a dream. Some college athletes are able to negotiate with their parents for an increase in monthly "date money". When parents are unable to provide that luxury for their kids the door is open for sports agents to ride their white stallions into the fray providing for a more palatable collegiate experience. The scholarship athletes are told that the rules are merely being bent, not broken, as any monies changing hands will be repaid in full upon the signing of a professional contract. How is a young man to refuse such a deal? Can a guy actually make it through college without a decent date for goodness sake?
In the past it was the evil boosters who, in attempts to improve their alma maters' lot on the gridiron, passed money under the table to deserving jocks. When Southern Methodist University's football program was destroyed by the "death penalty" sanctions imposed by the NCAA, alumni everywhere quickly put the kibosh on that practice. It is one thing to end the competitiveness of a relatively small private school in Dallas and another to destroy one of college footballs' historic dynasties. The NCAA cannot in good conscience do likewise to USC, Alabama or Florida. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.
Although parents, students, coaches, and universities have some culpability, ultimately the blame rests largely on those seducing the impressionable. Agents found guilty of buying new clients need to be stripped of NFLPA licensing and banned by NFL management from participating at the negotiating table. Since these "businessmen" care little for the institutions that make up their trolling ground, sanctions imposed on the universities do little to deter the inducements. Coaches don't have time to ferret out players on the take so universities need to provide personnel to teams whose job description includes the prevention and correction of NCAA infractions. These same persons can help to expose unsavory agents and eliminate them from a pool of otherwise reputable men. The vast majority of sports agents do not participate in the actions that lead to the destruction of college football programs...it just seems that way. With appropriate agent penalties and university organization in place deserving athletes will eventually get their chance to say, "Show me the money!"
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