Aside from Auburn's fans and coaches, there didn't seem to be many people happy with the NCAA's decision last fall to rule Cam Newton eligible after his father Cecil Newton admitted he'd asked Mississippi State boosters for $180,000. That even goes for people who agreed with the NCAA's ruling, like president Mark Emmert, who stated plainly (as Gene Chizik will tell you) that the NCAA had no evidence to rule that Cam knew of his father's request or that the family had received benefits from anyone ... but also affirmed that "I think it's absolutely a fundamentally wrong for a father to try to sell the services of his son or daughter to the highest bidder."
And in the interests of protecting that stance, Emmerts's organization has moved towards making requests like Cecil's an eligibility-breaker in the future. An official release from the NCAA Tuesday details a proposal for an "expanded definition of agents," one that would "include third-party influences, including family members, who market student-athletes’ athletics ability or reputation for personal financial gain."
The statement reads:
Under the new definition, Cecil would have been acting as Cam's "agent" and -- one would assume -- having an agent operating on his behalf (even without his consent) would have resulted in Cam's having been declared ineligible. The definition might also be broad enough to include the likes of "advisors" like Bryce Brown mentor Brian Butler (or, if certain allegations involving Oregon stick, Will Lyles.)
The cabinet at its recent meeting in Indianapolis agreed to sponsor legislation for the 2011-12 cycle that would define agents as individuals who either directly or indirectly:
- Represent or attempt to represent a prospective or current student-athlete in the marketing of his or her athletics ability or reputation for financial gain; or
- Seek to obtain any type of financial gain or benefit from securing a prospect’s enrollment at an institution or a student-athlete’s potential earnings as a professional athlete.
The new definition would include certified contract advisors, financial advisors, marketing representatives, brand managers or anyone who is employed by or associated with such individuals.
The new definition also would apply to third parties, including family members, who shop prospects to various institutions for personal financial gain. In the past, the agent definition applied generally to third parties marketing an athlete’s skills to a professional sports team. The cabinet’s proposal expands the definition to include people marketing athletics skills to a collegiate institution for personal gain.
The proposal will be reviewed at the NCAA's 2011-2012 legislative session and could be put into effect as soon as April of next year.
If we play devil's advocate for a moment, we have to wonder if it's entirely fair to prospective athletes to pay the price in elgibility for others' actions they may have no control over. (Consider a scenario similar to the famous Albert Means case: if a high school coach goes behind a recruit's back and asks a school for money in order to push the recruit towards that school, how is that the player's fault? Would their college football career be ruined all the same?)
But all the same, Emmert is right that the attempted sales of athletes' services (whether that sale is completed or not) is "fundamentally wrong." If the NCAA believes the proposed legislation might help stamp out some of those sales pitches, it's legislation they must consider.