HOOVER, Ala. — Although Nick Saban and Urban Meyer figure to be embroiled in a hostile rivalry on the field for years to come, there is an issue the two agree on.
Action must be taken to protect student-athletes from the advances made by sports agents, they both argued Wednesday at SEC Media Days.
“It’s an epidemic right now, and I think it’s always been there,” said Meyer, the head coach at Florida. “I think we’ve reached a point now, just the size of college football, the magnitude of college football is overwhelming. You really have to keep an eye on it.”
Numerous scandals presently tainting college football stem from illegal benefits allegedly provided to student-athletes by agents vying to represent players at the professional level.
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Especially adamant in punctuating the message, Saban, who won the national championship at Alabama last season, spoke with increased intensity as the questions on the subject mounted.
“I don’t think it’s anything but greed that is creating it right now on behalf of the agents,” Saban said. “Agents that do this, I hate to say this, but how are they any better than a pimp? I have no respect for people who do this to young people, none. I mean, none.”
Southern Cal was dealt harsh penalties this summer, including a two-year bowl ban and scholarship restrictions, after the NCAA confirmed wrongdoing in regard to agents and former Trojans’ football player Reggie Bush and basketball star O.J. Mayo.
Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina hit the news Tuesday with allegations of agents offering money and hosting parties for college football players.
Former Florida lineman Maurkice Pouncey is denying allegations he accepted $100,000 from an agent before the Gators beat Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl.
“I did not accept $100,000, it is an absolutely ridiculous claim,” Pouncey said in a statement. “I have completely cooperated with the investigation and answered any and all questions put to me.”
Alabama officials are currently investigating if defensive lineman Marcell Dareus broke NCAA rules by attending an agent’s party earlier this summer.
Players from North Carolina and South Carolina have been investigated for attending the same party.
On Wednesday afternoon, Georgia received a call from the NCAA requesting permission to conduct an inquiry on the UGA campus.
“Athletic Association officials indicated that full cooperation would be provided,” said Georgia spokesman Claude Felton in a statement via e-mail. “The NCAA has requested that UGA officials, coaches, and/or student athletes decline further comment until the inquiry is completed.”
Saban argued that agents found in violation should have their license revoked for a year, and that perhaps NFL scouts should no longer be allowed on campus.
The NCAA currently issues penalties to players found in violation of rules regarding accepting gifts from agents. But agents currently face no sanctions for their involvement.
Both Saban and Meyer argue discipline must be accounted for on both sides.
“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 life,” Saban said. “And it’s very difficult for the institution and NCAA to control it and it’s very unfair to college football.”
While Saban likened agents in question to pimps, Meyer referred to them as predators.
“There has to be regulations on both ends,” he said. “I do believe the NCAA does a great job. Our conference does a great job. Now what happens on the other end? If one end is being punished, the other end is not. That’s not fair.”