HOOVER, Ala. -- It must have been a hell of a party, the shindig in South Beach they're talking about that threatens to bring down the SEC's fastest and finest. Already, three schools have had players' names attached to what is looking more and more like an agent (or agents) recruiting-fest for the next round of NFL stars.
How many were there -- maybe 35, 40 players, all drinking in (ahem) the delights of player representation? If you weren't there, apparently you weren't somebody. Players from South Carolina, Florida and Alabama have their names linked to the party earlier this summer. The whispers from the underground are that there are many more names to come.
That was the jump-off point for the beginning of SEC media days. Agents and their slimy, underhanded tactics. Yeah, like that was new ground except that when the jewel of the SEC is threatened, well, the SEC lashes out. Football must be saved as commissioner Mike Slive called for a "national strategy" and "education not enforcement".
It was high-minded and SEC-centric. This is Slive's worst nightmare. He came into office nine years ago with the idea of cleaning up a probation-addled conference. He largely succeeded, at least in football, until this latest round of agent dealings. His response? Sounding like he had borrowed from Mike Garrett's administrative philosophy at USC these past few years.
"...a review of current NCAA rules, which in my view may be as much a part of the problem as they are part of the solution."
It was a day of recrimination and righteousness on the part of the nation's most powerful conference.
|Alabama's Marcel Dareus has reportedly been declared ineligible. (US Presswire)|
Name-calling, Nick? Really? If agents are big pimpin' what does that make college football coaches who offer scholarships to 13-year-olds? Saban added those lying, cheating agents, "ought to be suspended for a year." What about lying, cheating coaches who break NCAA rules, Nick?
And what about that $4 million a year for overseeing those victims, er, players?
No matter where you go on this issue, there is a brick wall of incongruities and hypocrisy. Alabama's Marcel Dareus was reportedly declared ineligible on Wednesday after the school investigated his involvement in agent dealings. The North Carolina secretary of state has launched an investigation regarding unscrupulous agents. Georgia was contacted by the NCAA late Wednesday afternoon about conducting an inquiry on campus.
If this is a trend it's yet to matter much in the big picture. As long as there are young, adult males, cash, trips, hormones, and perhaps young, adult females, nothing is going to change. And that's just in South Beach.
Even with this growing scandal, college football has never been more popular. Ratings are up and stands are filled. Whether Dareus plays another down is an asterisk inserted into the larger story. If Florida's Maurkice Pouncey accepted $100,000 from an agent before the 2010 Sugar Bowl, well, Florida might have to vacate one game.
Saban is incensed but what possible motivation can the NFL or NFLPA have in cleaning things up? The NFL is a multi-billion dollar business at the height of its profitability, image, influence and power. Agents or no agents, it has a regular stream of highly-trained new employees pumped through the pipeline each year.
This is not your father's NCAA. Those folks are serious about agents for the first time. Read >>
USC's disgrace will make better cheaters of the ones who haven't been caught yet, because that's how the industry works. Read >>
"You're right," Florida coach Urban Meyer said, "At times I would question that, why would they care?"
And that is from the one man who made sense on Wednesday. Meyer believes the system will be fixed and it is based on nothing more than faith.
"I wanted to see it in person," Meyer said.
The Florida coach was in New York this spring on business and dropped by the office of one Roger Goodell.
"Is he really the commissioner of the National Football League who is going to take a quarterback and sit him down for a year? Is he really going to do that? How many people in the history of sports are going to do that?" Meyer asked.
Goodell did it to Michael Vick which, in a strange way, has inspired Meyer. Perhaps more than any other pro commissioner, Goodell has a hammer. The NFL's personal conduct policy makes baseball's drug policy look like a joke. Ben Roethlisberger is on notice. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds started a pitcher the other day who was able to serve his drug suspension while on the disabled list.
"My son's at that age where he wasn't watching NFL," Meyer said. "Why? ... It was a mess. Just the behavior [of the players]. I have a lot of respect for the way Goodell handled it. After meeting him, he's the real deal."
Once again, this is based on faith. As a man of faith, Meyer, a Catholic, didn't sound noble when he admitted Wednesday to texting while in church.
"That's certifiable," he said.
That kind of conduct is also over for Meyer. His personal and professional life spun out of control when 18 hours after resigning in December, he has back. Only he wasn't. It was a big mess until doctors discovered that the source of his chest pain was esophageal spasms.
The affliction that drug Gator Nation through hell is now controlled by Nexium, Centrum and fish oil.
Maybe that's all we're left with is faith in this silly agent debate. Pouncey looked in Meyer's eyes recently and told him he was innocent. That was good enough for the coach.
"He never lied to me before," Meyer said.
The coach took more vacation than ever, trying to back off the accelerator that kept him grinding 24/7. He saw the Pope in Rome. Got real close. Lou Holtz set it up. He went to Hawaii for a Nike trip and listened to Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno tell him to hang in there. He went to Israel and the Bahamas and was with his daughters, ages 17 and 19, for perhaps one final vacation before they leave the nest.
Goodell might be able to get his arms around the agent situation, he might not. Colleges and the NCAA are certainly having their troubles. With no solid solutions coming forth on Wednesday, we're left with the beliefs of a guy who saw one Pope in the offseason and met with another.
Anything would beat name-calling.