ACC commissioner John Swofford spent nearly 15 minutes of his forum talking about the situation surrounding agent contact with student-athletes that has exploded since Inside Carolina reported last Thursday that the NCAA investigation of North Carolina’s football program centered on possible improper benefits provided to players coming from non-University influences.
During UNC head coach Butch Davis’s previous college coaching stop at Miami, agents were not allowed to contact players until their eligibility was exhausted. The rules have changed since then, however, as the NFL and NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement states that certified contract advisers are allowed to communicate with a player three years removed from his high school graduation after the conclusion of the player's last regular season or conference championship game or Dec. 1, whichever is later.
While Swofford suggested that it’s worth revisiting those guidelines, he’s not advocating making drastic changes to the rules in question.
“I don’t see us going back there because I think it’s unenforceable – I think you almost create even more problems,” Swofford told a record crowd of reporters at Grandover Resort.
One course of action that Swofford does encourage is for the NCAA and his college counterparts to “reach out” to the NFL, NBA and those organizations’ player associations to help in sanctioning agents and runners that don’t act appropriately.
“We as a collegiate community have no hammer with that group of people,” Swofford said.
While schools and players are often embarrassed and heavily criticized for improper contact with agents, Swofford indicated that, “by and large, with very few exceptions, the people that don’t pay a price for it are the agents and/or the runners that are instigating it.”
The problem with agent interaction has grown in recent years due to the ever-growing mounds of money involved at the professional level. One way to combat the issue is by resorting to the core principle that drives a university – education.
“Institutionally, what you have to do is provide the very best educational programs that you can provide, to the extent of bringing in agents that are known for their integrity in exposing the relatively few players that programs have that will be going to the next level,” Swofford said.
North Carolina, along with various other schools, has been proactive in this regard. UNC hosted its annual “Agent Day” on Apr. 10, an event designed to expose players and their families to a representative from the NFL, an agent and a financial adviser.
“It’s just an educational process to get everybody familiar with all of the stuff that goes on,” UNC quarterback T.J. Yates said on Sunday. “We had three or four agents that everybody went room-to-room and got familiar with. It’s an extremely good thing that our football program does to educate the guys that may be making that transition.”
Junior defensive end Robert Quinn was unable to participate in UNC’s “Agent Day” due to only being two years removed from his high school graduation, but the football program consistently educates all of its players to avoid the pitfalls that come with agent dealings.
“Our compliance staff meets with us periodically to talk about what we can and can’t do,” Quinn said. “I’m sure we all know what we can and cannot do, but they really let us know to be careful about this and that. They really educate us on how to approach these things.”
As expected, Yates and Quinn were prohibited from discussing the ongoing NCAA investigation that has blanketed Chapel Hill, but it’s questionable as to how much information that players or school officials might actually have on this review even if the NCAA had not placed an oversized muzzle on the entire program.
A UNC official confirmed on Sunday that the NCAA has prohibited North Carolina from conducting its own investigation into this matter. UNC officials were present for the NCAA interviews, but the school has not been able to interview players for its own purposes.
Davis told reporters on Thursday that the NCAA’s inquiry “came out of left field.”
When Yates was asked on Sunday if he was surprised by the investigation, he said, “Yeah, a little bit. Everybody was a little bit surprised by it.”
Senior defensive tackle Marvin Austin continues to draw national attention as a significant piece of a NCAA investigation that now stretches from Chapel Hill to Tuscaloosa, Ala to Gainesville, Fla. No decision has been announced yet as to his eligibility for the 2010 season.
“I’m going to prepare like he’s going to be there,” Quinn said with regard to Austin on Sunday. “That’s all I can do.”