Alabama coach Nick Saban didn't talk much about specifics of the 2010 Crimson Tide football team, other than to remind them that this is 2010. The 2009 national championship season has passed, he said. But he did have something to say about agents.
Though Saban was careful to note that the majority of agents are good men who don't entice players into breaking rules, he had a name for those who do.
"I hate to say this," he said, "but how are they [agents who break the rules] any better than a pimp?
"I have no respect for people who do that to young people. None. I mean none. How would you feel if they did it to your child?"
What may have been done to one of Saban's players is jeopardize the eligibility of a potential All-America.
The day before the start of Southeastern Conference Media Days in Birmingham, it was revealed that Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus was the subject of an investigation being conducted by the compliance office at the university and the NCAA. The Crimson Tide's Saban was first up among 12 coaches in Birmingham Wednesday and spoke to the subject, as had SEC Commissioner Mike Slive preceding him.
As to Dareus, Saban said, "We're not going to make any comments, nor do we have any information that he did anything wrong or he didn't do anything wrong. But we're going to find out with the due diligence that we look for."
Although there have been reports that Dareus has been declared ineligible for the course of the investigation, the university has not announced that action.
Neither Saban nor Slive suggested that athletes who disobey rules should be excused. As Saban pointed out, there are consequences for the players. There are none for the agents. Saban suggested that it would be the responsibility of the NFL Players Association to take action, such as suspending those agents for a year.
He said, "I think if an agent does anything to affect the eligibility of a college football player, his license ought to be suspended for a year. That's the only way we're going to stop what's happening out there because it's ridiculous and it's entrapment of young people at a very difficult time in their lives. And it's very difficult for the institutions and NCAA to control it, and it's very unfair to college football."
He also suggested college football coaches take action.
"We treat the NFL as well as anybody in the United States when they come to the University of Alabama," Saban said. "If something doesn't go on from their end of it to control what they're doing to affect our players, then I'm not sure that same hospitality will be welcomed in the future.
"There are probably three areas of responsibility here. We, as all institutions, have a responsibility to educate our players to make good choices and decisions. We have an outstanding agent education program. Joe Mendes, who has been in the NFL for years, interviews our players, makes booklets, actually has home visits with their families to try to education them on the things that they can and can't do relative to agents.
"I think that the players have a responsibility to make good choices and decisions about what they do with the agents."
Commissioner Slive pointed out that "Given the surreptitious nature of these matters, it is difficult, if not impossible, for institutions to know what might have taken place."
He said the conference has spent considerable time and resources dealing with the issue.
"These discussions include a review of current NCAA rules," Slive said, "which in my view may be as much a part of the problem as they are part of the solution, because the rules make it difficult for student-athletes to seek and obtain the kind of advice in the contest in which they need it to properly evaluate potential opportunities for a career in professional sport.
"Dealing with improper agent conduct has been a challenge for a long time, but not only for intercollegiate athletics, but also for the many good agents who try to follow the rules. It is time to reexamine the NCAA rules that relate to agents."
"I also think the NFL Players Association has a responsibility to monitor and control what agents do."
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