Using the ghost of Reggie Bush and the USC investigations as a scarecrow, the NCAA eradicated agents once and for all by hammering the Trojans with penalties in the wake of a four year investigation. In one swift act of justice, the NCAA recognized improper benefits were a problem and moved quickly to eradicate it from the entire body they preside over. Realistically, however, the actions of the infractions committee came years too late.
Sports agents have long been a problem in the NCAA. The constant tussle for high profile clients often ends with athletes being given benefits -- cash, cars, and homes -- in exchange for allowing the agent to represent the athlete in their professional career. This isn't new and it certainly isn't going away.
The prevailing theme over the years has been that the NCAA has had their head in the sand. Right under their noses, high profile athletes have been driving fancy cars and living lifestyles uncommon to the typical college student, all under the guise of amateurism.
The USC penalties were just the beginning, not the end of a move to squash improper benefits. The events of the past few weeks are showing just that.
First, North Carolina was hit with a broad sweeping investigation into agent contacts with some of their football team. Phone records were requested and athletes are being interviewed to determine whether they may be ineligible. It's not lost on me that the football team -- not the Tarheels star-studded basketball team -- is the one being investigated. Welcome to the twilight zone.
The plague then spread South, with word that USC -- no, not that one; South Carolina -- had a player under investigation, as well. Rivals getting together to be wined and dined by the same agent; I've seen it all.
Finally, it's Florida's turn today. Allegations surfaced that a star offensive lineman was receiving cash from an agent between the SEC championship and the Gators Sugar Bowl victory last year.
Edit: Alabama, come on down. Now is the time every athletic director should be looking in to what their athletes are doing, especially in the SEC. Sounds like an agency had a heck of a party in Miami.
Odds are, these investigations are just the beginning.
The Trojans weren't the black sheep of the NCAA, even if the high profile investigation and massive sanctions suggest it. Agents have been running amok and chasing college stars for years while the governing body turned much of a blind eye.
Last year, Dez Bryant brought the issue to the forefront nationally. Meeting with Deion Sanders -- who runs a camp to prepare athletes for the next level and showcases them for agents -- wasn't what rendered Bryant ineligible; lying to the NCAA was the problem. Months later in the draft, the Cowboys traded up to draft Bryant in the first round. Coincidence?
The problem isn't limited simply to national champions and BCS contenders. Anywhere there is a high profile athlete with a decent draft stock, agents will flock. It's an epidemic that has exploded at the same rate rookie contracts have bloated.
Now it's almost too late to stop it. The college landscape has become almost too big to fail, creating a situation where the NCAA lacks the teeth it had during the days of the SMU death penalty. Try as they may, it's going to be nearly impossible to stop agents from contacting and luring players that are still in school.
Welcome to the new NCAA, where amateurism is merely a suggestion.