Confessions Of An Agent, screamed the headline in this week's SI.
I don't know about you, but they may want to stick to swimsuit issues after reading this "exclusive" piece. In fact, I've been more shocked by some of the pictures that have graced their annual thong-a-Palooza issue than I was by what I read in this article.
Don't get me wrong, somebody had to take the story of former sports agent Josh Lucas and run with it, but were any of us really stunned by anything written in this piece? The headline might as well have said, "Economy still in the tank." Translated -- tell us something we don't know.
There was nothing in the article that was truly revealing other than the names that were put in black and white.
As far as the storyline itself, like the Talking Head song goes, "Same as it ever was, same as it ever was." Agents paying college athletes has been going on for years and is going on today as we speak. Somewhere, some college athlete is having his mom and dad's rent or mortgage covered by a "friend" or he was able to finance a new ride thanks to a "friend."
Every big college sports program has what they call "FOPs", or Friends of the Program. This story simply reveals the other side of the "pay to play" game that goes on in college athletics.
The debate about how you stop this under-the-table and in-the-shadows kind of behavior has raged on for years. No one has yet to offer a real solution.
There are those who believe that players shouldn't receive extra benefits and there are those who think that the universities and the NCAA are printing money off of the athletic exploits of their college athletes. What's almost comical is the NCAA's approach to trying to deal with it or stop it. Newsflash to the NCAA: you're not going to be able to stop it or, for that matter, even slow it down. Their attempts to do so are like the government's efforts to shore up the levees in New Orleans prior to Katrina. Everyone there knew eventually it would collapse and sure enough, that's exactly what took place.
The NCAA could end the high rate of unemployment by hiring about 100,000 compliance officers to go out across the country and babysit programs and players, but we all know that's not going to happen and, in the end, you're still not solving the problem.
The game of paying someone to do you a favor or to follow you isn't something new. The agents and athletes have learned from the very people who are trying to govern their sports. What, you don't think the NCAA doesn't have lobbyists who are out there paving the way for projects or initiatives that are being driven by the NCAA?
Anyone who thinks that these sports agents, friends of the program and athletes are the only ones operating by these unspoken rules is being completely naïve. We see it and hear about almost daily in our federal government, as well as on the local level. Even in high school athletics and education, you see stories about unethical business dealings where a person or groups of people are benefitting as a result of the actions of another person or entity.
So how do you solve this problem in college athletics?
In short, there is no easy answer. At least not one that I can share in space I have here.
I don't have the perfect model, but I know the current system is not working. Yes, the athletes in many cases are getting their educations paid for, which is a significant investment on a university's part. But when you look at what institutions are pulling in as a result of the successful programs they operate, it pales in comparison. How many Tim Tebow jerseys did the University of Florida sell while the Gator superhero attended school and played ball there? Tebow didn't receive any of that money. Where did it go?
Look at the conference battles that have been playing out since the summer, with teams jockeying to get in or get out of their current conference affiliation because there's more money waiting for them elsewhere. You've got college coaches who are being paid huge dollars to keep winning and recruiting the top athletes so the universities can keep filling their coffers, and all the while they keep jacking up the tuition rates. Talk about an almost criminal act!
So do you legalize the paying of college athletes? And when we say college athletes, let's keep in mind that, in reality, you're only talking about, in most cases, the football program and, at some institutions, basketball. These are the money generators for the universities and the only sports that you could make the argument that the athletes need to be compensated in addition to their scholarships and small stipends. That may seem like a logical step, but that offers its own set of issues.
It will be very interesting to see, in the coming weeks and months, what comes of this newest story that tells us all what we've known for years. Will the NCAA convene a special meeting? Will they form a task group to address these issues? Or will there be a lot of sabre rattling by the governing body of college athletics that ultimately leads to no real action or solution? My money is on the latter. Probably a bad way of putting it.
Let's not forget our fine federal government in this whole mess, either. Don't be surprised if all of a sudden capitol hill gets involved, because it's not like they've got anything going on and since they're trying to help piece together a college football playoff, they might as well add this to the list.