I’ve always been frustrated with the NCAA, for many reasons. As a student-athlete on a full football scholarship, I barely had enough money to makes ends meet, fly home or even buy a decent meal. In addition, NCAA rules prohibited me from working a high-paying job to supplement my scholarship.
At bowl games I’ve attended over the years, I’ve seen NCAA officials and their families party it up with free tickets, cars and rooms. But the student-athletes receive little help in getting their parents situated in hotels that many of them can’t afford.
I’ve seen college players from Southern California schools with two or more new cars and tens of thousands of dollars in jewelry and electronics. Two players in particular were clearly receiving money from outside sources that would most likely be cause for suspension. The NCAA investigated both and found “no evidence” of wrongdoing. All they had to do was look in the schools’ parking lot. It makes many wonder because these players were big TV draws. Giving them and their team the maximum penalties might have hurt TV ratings and revenues.
We in the agent community know when a player goes “dirty.” All the signs are tangible. But for some reason, the NCAA can’t find them or may decide to look the other way, depending on the school, the head coach and the player.
The recent ruling handed down by the NCAA to Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant was way over the top. In case you missed it, Bryant was suspended for the remainder of the season because he met with former NFL star Deion Sanders at Sanders’ Dallas home. When asked about it, Dez initially lied to investigators, thinking he had done something wrong.
Now, I’ll say this: If Deion was recruiting Bryant for his agent, Eugene Parker, and Bryant knew this was the reason for the meeting, then the NCAA might be correct in its ruling. If the invitation from Deion was strictly a form of mentoring, then no harm, no foul. It’s well known that Sanders loves to mentor young players and actually offers good advice.
When a college football player gets a call or an invitation from a superstar he grew up watching and idolizing, it’s difficult to say no to anything he might suggest.
A young guy like Bryant could easily get sucked into a web of misconception or misinformation by those in positions of power and influence. If he took money or favors from Sanders with the understanding that he would sign with Deion’s agent, the NCAA was right on the mark. However, if they dropped the hammer because the kid panicked and lied during their CIA-type interrogation, then they did go overboard in their punishment. Give him a one- or two-game suspension to send a message to college players that they should think twice about being dishonest.
I called Eugene Parker and asked him if Deion has any financial interest in his agency. Parker told me that he doesn’t and never has. Further, Deion doesn’t facilitate any type of recruiting for him, Parker said. Regardless, Deion needs to distance himself from these young guys for obvious reasons. As much as he sincerely wants to mentor them, it just doesn’t look good — and the players may ultimately suffer.
I also think the NCAA should have someone to answer to besides their most powerful member coaches. As of now, they are judge and jury. When a ruling comes down on a school or player, there should be an independent body that handles the appeal. I hope they got it right for the sake of Dez and Oklahoma State .
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