Saban likens shady agents to pimps|Urges NFL to get more involved
Published 5:52 am Thursday, July 22, 2010
By By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
HOOVER, Ala. Nick Saban didnt pull punches Wednesday when discussing the improper contact with athletes by unscrupulous agents, comparing their behavior to that of a pimp.
The Alabama coach was upset about the rash of recent agent-related incidents that have resulted in NCAA investigations at several Southeastern Conference schools.
I dont think its anything but greed thats creating it right now on behalf of the agents, Saban said in a rant at the SEC media days. The agents that do this and I hate to say this, but how are they any better than a pimp?
I have no respect for people who do that to young people. None. How would you feel if they did it to your child?
Agents, not national titles, was the primary topic on Day 1 at the Wynfrey Hotel. Three SEC teams Florida, Alabama and South Carolina are investigating allegations involving improper contact with an agent. Saban and SEC commissioner Mike Slive both emphatically said it was time for a change to NCAA rules governing agents.
Saban confirmed that Alabama is looking into a trip defensive end Marcell Dareus took to an agents party at Miamis South Beach. South Carolina is looking into claims from the same South Beach party with tight end Weslye Saunders.
Florida and the NCAA are reportedly investigating whether offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey now an NFL rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers received $100,000 from a sports agents representative between the SEC championship game and the Sugar Bowl.
Pouncey denied the allegation.
I did not accept $100,000, it is an absolutely ridiculous claim, he said in a statement through his attorney. I have completely cooperated with the investigation and answered any and all questions put to me.
Florida coach Urban Meyer said the Gators support Pouncey.
If something happened, we should be punished severely, Meyer said. If it didnt happen, then its nonsense. I heard his denial today and we stand by Maurkice Pouncey.
The players twin brother, Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey, said they have both cooperated with investigators.
I talked to my brother and its not true, Mike Pouncey said. He pretty much cleared that up in his statement. I feel bad about it because theyre ruining somebodys name and they really dont know who my brother and I are. We pride ourselves on having a good, clean name. Its just hard right now.
Im just ready to be done with it.
Saban said he wants the NFL Players Association to get involved and suspend agents whose dealings help cost players eligibility, sending a message through their bank accounts.
Thats the only way were going to stop this happening, because its ridiculous and its entrapment for young people at a very difficult time in their life, the former Miami Dolphins coach said. Its very difficult for the NCAA to control it, and its very unfair to college football.
I think we should look into doing something about that.
Florida coach Urban Meyer said its impossible for a coach to keep agents or their runners off campus and said they need to be severely punished by either state laws or the NFL for wrongdoing.
Its epidemic right now, he said. Its always been there, but I think weve reached a point where the magnitude of college football is really overwhelming. Weve really got to keep an eye on that.
The NFL itself, though, seems unlikely to get involved. Told of Meyers comments, league spokesman Greg Aiello noted in an e-mail exchange with The Associated Press: The agents are regulated by the union.
Asked whether the NFL might prod the NFLPA on the matter, Aiello wrote: The unions comments make clear that no encouragement is necessary.
In an appearance on ESPN radio earlier Wednesday before Sabans remarks NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said: I think that any agent or contract adviser who does that, and preys upon kids like that in college, is something that were going to deal with extremely aggressively. Frankly, God help those agents if theyre found to be in violation, because Ive given our players … the green light to take the most aggressive steps that they want to take.
If those steps include me or someone else in our office making a criminal referral under certain circumstances, thats what well do.
Slive said he wanted the NCAA to change its philosophy for dealing with agents from one based on rules enforcement to a policy that is more oriented toward educating student-athletes.
He said the current NCAA rules may be as much part of the problem as they are the solution.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Rachel Newman-Baker, the NCAAs director of agent, gambling and amateurism, said the governing body is reviewing its policies, but pointed out that schools can change or amend the agent rules through the normal legislative process.
The statement said, NCAA rules allow conversations and information gathering between agents and student-athletes, but agreements and receiving extra benefits are not permitted. The NCAA Division I Amateurism Cabinet, a group of individuals from across membership with representation by 21 conferences, is currently reviewing how the NCAA can continue to help student-athletes gather information about pursuing a career in professional athletics.
Improper contact with agents is hardly just an SEC issue, and it appears the rest of college football is paying attention.
At Miami, players said Wednesday theyre reminded constantly about the rules prohibiting contact with agents. And the investigations that have come out in recent days led to a reiteration of those rules, Hurricanes wide receiver LaRon Byrd said.
Its kind of crazy, Byrd said. You look at things like that, and I feel like those guys are being selfish, not looking out for the team. Thats something we always instill. Its all about teamwork here. I would not put my teammates in danger, in jeopardy of losing games or damaging this program because I want to be greedy and take gifts or take things.
Alabama is among SEC schools who use former NFL executive Joe Mendes to counsel players and families about dealing with agents. Heisman Trophy running back Mark Ingram said Tide players are educated about dealing with agents or their representatives.
We have a great program in our organization that teaches us how to deal with situations like that, said Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Mark Ingram, a junior. Everybody is educated on how to deal with situations and how to approach those situations.
My focus is on this team and this football season. Anything else is irrelevant.
Tide junior linebacker Donta Hightower said he hasnt personally been contacted by agents.
We try to keep away from things like that and not bring it into the team, Hightower said.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Coral Gables, Fla., AP Sports Writer Noah Trister in Little Rock, Ark., and AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.