Posted by Adam Jacobi
There are reports emerging late tonight that John Blake, the now-fired assistant coach to Butch Davis at North Carolina, contacted Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus on behalf of agent Gary Wichard.
Assuming all of this is true, two quick observations and one long one:
1. John Blake is now completely unemployable in D-I football.
2. Using an assistant coach at a Top 25, BCS-conference school as a runner is like the top alpha-male move an agent can make.
3. This should never happen.
Obviously it's not much of an intellectual feat to decide that this revelation is bad for college football, but the when we've gotten to the point that an agent asking an assistant coach -- regardless of whether they're prior acquaintances -- to act as a runner for a player and the coach accepts, then we're past some sort of rubicon. That would mean that both the agent and the coach had decided that to engage in this activity was in their best interests, and that the reward outweighed the risk. Furthermore, Dareus did accept over $1,700 from Wichard, leading to his two-game suspension, so evidently Dareus agreed about those best interests.
Perhaps it's a failure on the NCAA's part that these type of deals go on. Someone like Dareus would face significant punishment if he came forward to the NCAA about the nature of his involvement with people like Blake and Wichard once he accepted an illegal benefit -- regardless of whether he knew at the time it was inappropriate. At that point, it becomes in Dareus' best interests to hide this fact, not report it. With the benefit of retroactive immunity as a whistleblower, however, he can report the details of Wichard's and Blake's dealings to the NCAA without fearing the severe punishment that would normally await him.
Obviously, this would have to go hand-in-hand with an equally punitive measure against agents; recall that Wichard had to think this was all a good idea too, and that's because he doesn't face any serious professional repercussions over this mess. Sure, he's going to have some negative publicity, but Wichard still gets to be other players' agent. His agent's license (which is to say, his livelihood) isn't seriously at risk here, and as long as he and his peers are treated more favorably by the appropriate authorities than their potential clients, this type of silliness will continue unabated.
And yes, this new arrangement would sort of encourage a high-profile player to momentarily abuse this position of trust by the NCAA, but not only would it significantly discourage this strange courtship from being instigated in the first place, it's also time that the NCAA started empowering its most high-profile athletes to help protect its cherished amateurism, not assuming they're undermining it at every step of the way.