The role of the agent has always been an issue that causes significant frustration among college head coaches. There is a delicate balance of the needs and wants of the player and the needs and wants of the program.
Coaches want to keep top players on their rosters not just to win on the field but also to win the recruiting wars that always take place in the off-season. The value of a Reggie Bush is not just measured in wins and losses but also in their ability to help attract future top recruits. Of course a coaches ability to attract top recruits is also just as important as we have seen with Coach Carroll.
In the case of USC the stakes are much different, as reported by the LA Times last week. Being at ground zero of the celebrity capitol of the world, in a city without an NFL team can make the atmosphere a little heady. For young, immature and impressionable players not used to the spotlight it can all be a bit too much to take. Agents recruiting players for their respective interests can be a full contact sport; no holds barred. There are a number of adjectives to describe the process.
Top players are easy. They can command their pick of the litter when looking for representation. They won't necessarily fall prey to the promises that potential agents might whisper into their ears and they usually have a team of family and friends to look out for their interests, as is the case with Matt Leinart.
Waiting to Cash in.
But what about the player that needs another year of development? The temptation is sometimes too great to ignore and players jump to the NFL with nothing more than an agent's false promise. Once the player signs with an agent there is no going back. That extra year or two that was passed up could cost the player millions if he is not fully developed. There are also family issues that sometimes pull on the heartstrings of the player with the need to take care of his family or piling up medical bills. Family commitments can be an awesome responsibility to want to address.
Somewhere there has to be a cohesive balance.
The Maurice Clarett and Mike Williams situations are prime examples. Without going into the many details of those situations it would seem to me that the NCAA wants it both ways. The NCAA can't allow agents to have access to players who are not eligible for the draft. If they are going to revoke a players eligibility because he signs with an agent then they should put restrictions in place to keep agents away from those players who can't enter the draft. I find it ironic that NCAA will enforce rules on a players eligibility but stand by and do nothing as a player is wooed out of that eligibility by an unscrupulous agent. The NCAA should police this situation a little more carefully.
A sign of happier times.
Guidelines should include:
- No contact with a player on university grounds without written permission
- Closed practices except for immediate family; if an agent uses a "runner" it usually isn't a players brother but some cousin or distant relative.
- A partnership between the NCAA and NFL to keep tabs on agents' activities. Both organizations have a lot at sake in putting the best talent on the field. If an agent corrupts a player out of his eligibility and is then deemed un-draftable by the NFL then there should stiff penalties handed down.
- The NCAA should also have seminars for parents to educate them about the rules and the pitfalls to watch out for if they are not doing so already.
Of course some responsibility should also fall on the school. The recent pro day at USC was seen by some as a circus like atmosphere that only encouraged bad behavior by agents looking get in front of unsigned talent. It is like letting the fox watch the hen house.
It's obvious as to where the coaches and agents stand on this issue, but as the governing body you would think the NCAA would want to keep it's signals straight. Sadly it does not appear to be the case. They are more worried about what jerseys cross town rivals wear than the well being of their players and the institution of CFB.