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Heels will take NCAA fall, but NFL, union must step in


Say goodbye to North Carolina football for a while.

And no what-else-is-new? quips. We already know the Tar Heels haven't won an ACC title since 1980. Be happy that at least the school is still sponsoring the sport. After Wednesday night, you have to wonder, though -- for how long?

Butch Davis and other college coaches could use some backing from the NFL and the players assocication. (Getty Images)  
Butch Davis and other college coaches could use some backing from the NFL and the players assocication. (Getty Images)  
The NCAA wouldn't drop The Big Haircut, would they? Nahhhh ...

Still, if you read the Yahoo! Sports report Wednesday, the demise of Carolina football, in some form, became clear. The program and the school are in line for some damning penalties if all the allegations are true. What we're left with is an intimation that former associate head coach John Blake was a "runner" for prominent veteran NFL agent Gary Wichard.

As bad as Reggie Bush was at Southern California, he was only a player. It gets a whole lot greasier if a paid staffer is funneling players to an agent. Blake, if he stays out of prison for violating North Carolina state agent laws, will work again and make a lot of money. Carolina, its players and its program are in for some tough times. The story detailed how Blake had been bankrolled by the agent for at least the past three years. Where part of that money has gone is a topic for discussion in Chapel Hill and Indianapolis (home of the NCAA).

As for coach Butch Davis? Put it this way: You would rather be Mark Richt and winless at Georgia at the moment.

Sooner or later someone is going to have to ask the next obvious question: Is Roy Williams' basketball program involved in any of this at all?

The whole sordid story is a window on the modern age of college athletics. It's clear now, no matter how the Carolina case turns out, how insidious the agent issue is in college athletics. If it's not them directly, it's their runners. If it's not the runners, it's marketing people or financial advisers who aren't bound by state agent laws.

Here we are in the fifth week of the season. If every big-time I-A coach and AD in the country isn't nervous, they should be. Carolina football can be burned to the ground by the NCAA but it isn't going to fix the problem. Schools are still going to be victims. Sure, they will be blamed for lack of institutional control and failure to monitor but the problem will remain.

The NFL and the NFLPA need to step in. Now. The NCAA and the two entities are talking about the agent issue, which is a good thing. Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Jim Tressel, Mack Brown and other powerful coaches are being proactive by reaching out to the NFL and NFLPA. So far, the involvement of the two pro entities has been lip service. There was a line in the Yahoo! Sports story that troubled me. The NFLPA "is monitoring the investigations."

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Monitoring? The North Carolina secretary of state is ready to bring the wood, finally putting some teeth in state agent laws that never seem to be enforced. Marvin Austin has testified. Blake is being investigated.

The NFLPA is monitoring.

There's a couple of ways to begin to clear this stuff up. Alabama's Marcell Dareus, along with several other prominent players, have been suspended for extra benefits dealings. North Carolina's Austin, along with Blake at the center of NCAA and state investigations, still hasn't seen the field this season. And my guess is he probably won't.

A suspension, though, didn't hurt Dez Bryant's NFL prospects when he sat out at Oklahoma State. It's not likely to hurt Austin. He'll still play for pay next year.

If the NFL and NFLPA want to really partner with the NCAA, they must carry suspensions over to the NFL. Take playing time and pay out of players' pockets. It might even hurt draft position if a team knew a rookie couldn't see the field until, say, Week 5. The union, no doubt, would fight it but let's be realistic. As long as there is the lure of cash and South Beach parties, adult males full of football testosterone aren't going to back off. Neither are the agents.

Until someone gets into their pockets. The only way to do that is to put seedy agents in jail and have the penalties follow players to the pros.

You would also see schools get serious about compliance if the government got involved. But once again, it's a long shot.

"There's only one or two ways to clean this up," said Brian Battle, a former Florida State compliance director. "Anytime a school gets in trouble move it to Department of Education. It's all about money. Forward it to IRS for tax fraud. Take it away from NCAA. If the government really wants to get involved let them say, 'You don't want to clean this up on campus? We'll tie to the government.' Boosters will say, 'We need to shut this [wrongdoing] down.'"

The NFLPA prohibits agents from contacting college players until after Dec. 1 of their third season (either redshirt sophomore or true junior). The majority of states have laws under the Uniform Athlete Agent Act making it a crime to offer anything of value to college players until a contract has been signed. They've turned out to be more guidelines than laws.

Let's see some enforcement.

North Carolina promises to be a landmark case with landmark penalties. Without the help of the pros and government, sadly, there are more landmarks ahead.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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