Give the NCAA and the NFL this: it sounds like they're legitimately trying to find a solution to the lax enforcement rules that turned this past August into one long "Player Suspended After Agent Gives Him Stuff" headline and North Carolina into college football's biggest cautionary tale.
Because if they aren't trying, last week's NCAA-sponsored conference on "agent issues" convened an awful lot of big names for them to not try together. Representing the NFL: Director of Football Operations Merton Hanks , two of his Vice Presidents, Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian , Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay , and two representatives from the NFL Players Association. Representing the NCAA: conference commissioners Mike Slive and Jim Delany , American Football Coaches Association executive director Grant Teaff , and a whole host of high-ranking NCAA officials. Agents from several high-profile sports management firsm were on hand as well, including none other than the dean of college head coaching agents, Jimmy Sexton .
So what did the meeting of this many powerful minds accomplish? They're not telling us just yet :
[The attendees] continue to make progress in identifying potential solutions.The only truly telling detail in that last paragraph is "potential post-NCAA financial penalties," a nugget that could potentially mean an NFL suspension or NFL-imposed fines when a player enters the draft. Knowing that whatever cash and benefits a player took today could cost him double that in falling post-suspension draft stock or fines might be a successful deterrent, and in any case would provide stronger negative reinforcement than simply being tagged with nebulous "character issues" ... issues that this month's Sports Illustrated cover story on the subject suggest are shared by nearly every top-tier player eligible.
The group has identified opportunities for greater collaboration, including enforcement efforts, potential post-NCAA financial penalties, best practices for the effective enforcement of state agent laws, educational efforts, as well as an examination of the frequency and timing of agent contact with student-athletes.
Unfortunately, whatever strategies the group (which will meet again next month) might recommend, it's going to take a while to put them into practice; according to this release , the NCAA won't be able to change its related legislation until January 2012. Judging by how widespread the practice of illegal benefits seems to be and how big a black eye the NCAA's notions of amateurism has absorbed from them this fall, it might do the NCAA good to find some way of expediting that process.
But whether change comes in the short term or the long term, whether that change proves successful or not, bringing together power-brokers with as much pull as Hanks, Slive and Delany, and Sexton shows that the organizations involved aren't just paying the problem lip service. Now we'll see if they've got enough pull to make a difference.