NCAA Division I Breakout
Critical Issues: Agents & Gambling
(Tuesday, June 10, 10:45 - 11:45 a.m.)
My name is Vince Dooley and my job is to moderate this panel on "Critical Issues: Agents & Gambling." One could say the issues are more like a national athletic crisis. Certainly, critical relates to a turning point, or especially important, juncture and crisis is a state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending. I think we've reached a turning point where something has to be done for better or for worse. That's basically what we're talking about with these two issues. We have two highly respected individuals who will give us their insight to these issues. I will introduce them to you in a minute.
What both of these issues have in common is that both have long histories of being a crisis and both issues have periodically surfaced then gone underground for a while only to raise their ugly heads again. Both issues, sports agents and gambling, are extremely complex and present, perhaps, the most troubling assignments given to Division I athletic directors. There are some that feel both are so critical that unless properly addressed this time, it could really bring down intercollegiate athletics. The issue of gambling has a longer history, going back to the late '40s and early '50s than the agent issue. But, the agent issue and the problem have increased dramatically, as we all know, with the commercialization and the professionalism that's taken place in the last 30 years.
Suffice it is to say, these issues are critical and something has to be done particularly as it pertains to the agent. It was illuminated even more so currently because of the allegations that All-American basketball star, Marcus Camby of Massachusetts, had accepted gifts from an agent just recently. We heard our executive director this morning, or rather maybe we heard USA TODAY, say we should initiate discussions on the possibility of allowing loans tied to future pro earnings and even more radical, to allow players to earn money from endorsements and other athletic related endeavors and funnel it into an Olympic-type trust fund. Many of these proposals are being studied by special NCAA committees. It's a critical problem, to say the least.
We'll ask, first of all, Bob Minnix who is the associate athletic director for compliance and student services at Florida State University to visit with us. He was a three-sport star in high school and attended Notre Dame on a football scholarship. He graduated from Notre Dame in 1972 and obtained a law degree in 1975 from the University of Washington. For 20 years, he worked with enforcement with the NCAA, and the last 10 years as a director. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience on the subject.
As indicated, the agent issue is not a new issue or a new phenomena. I was going through my files the other day and I came across a couple of articles in regards to the agent issue. The first article is entitled "College Athletes in the Pay of Agents." This is a February 28, 1976 article and it dealt with Greg Pruitt, the great running back from Oklahoma who had since gone on to play professional football. It was indicated in this article that he had received pay or gifts while at Oklahoma. I also found another article dated 1984, entitled "NCAA Faces Agent Problem, Finally." This one deals with athletes coming out early as underclassmen and the indication was that for those, there was a chance they had been in contact with an agent prior to their coming out.
So, this problem is not a new problem. It's a problem we've been wrestling with for awhile at the NCAA and even during the '70s, the NCAA was taking some preliminary steps to try and deal with the problem. I do recall when I was at the NCAA, there was the NCAA registration and counseling program that was put in place, at least for a while, and it had a marginal effect.
Today, in 1995, the NCAA has done 20 cases on the agent issue. All were handled through the eligibility staff. All of these cases dealt with athletes primarily in basketball and football. We all need to understand that when we talk about the agent issue, we're not just talking about agents. It's important for all of you to know that we're also talking about runners and financial advisors. When we look for the so-called agent on our campuses, we're looking for some older guy in a nice suit.
The runner is probably the primary individual involved in the agent issue. The runner is usually going to be an individual about the same age as the athlete. He's going to be hip or flashy. He's going to be able to try and get the confidence of the athlete. Obviously, if they're the same age, they talk the same language and he's driving around in a nice car and he's getting some gifts and money, that confidence is going to be easy to come by.
I feel I'm in a somewhat unique position to talk about this issue for a number of reasons. As indicated before, I played football at Notre Dame. One of my best friends during that time was drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Falcons. During that time, I watched him be cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars by an agent. When I entered law school at the University of Washington, I had an opportunity to represent several football players who were my friends at the University of Washington as their agent and found very quickly this was a business I did not want to be in.
When I got to the NCAA in 1975, there was not much going on in the agent issue. Quite frankly, I force fed that situation in terms of getting involved in that area only because in the course of dealing with the summer camps, dealing with the student-athletes, coaches, I came to know the lay of the land, if you will. During the course of my 20 years at the NCAA, I got to know many of the student-athletes who left early, many of the agents and runners. I got to know many of the summer camp directors, many of the people who run the shoe and apparel companies and a lot of the coaches who dealt with these guys. I had a first-hand, up-close view of exactly what these issues were involving the agent issue. The common thread through it all was that these athletes end up trusting all of these people. They trust them. That is the key component of what we, at the college level, must face and deal with. Since being at Florida State University, I've had the opportunity to be involved with the NCAA problem that is centered around Footlocker, which again, involved an agent. I've had a wide range of involvement and experiences with the agent problem.
I made a phone call last week to one of my agent friends just to find out what the lay of the land is as of today. I asked him if the problem is better today or worse than it ever had been. The answer was that it's about the same, about as bad. He indicated to me that he would project that 75 percent of the underclassmen right now have received either cash or gifts from an agent. That's pretty disheartening. But, I do feel there's a willingness on all of us here and throughout the nation who are involved in this issue to do something about that. I've had the opportunity to attend numerous workshops throughout the country the last several months and I that all of these groups are headed in the right directions. I've been involved with the AFCA who have a five-point program involving the agent issue, the CFA, the Black Coaches Association, the Sports Lawyers Association and, of course, NACDA.
We have to understand the sports agency has become a growth industry because of the big money involved. When kids see what the shoe contracts bring, what the coaches are making, they just want part of the action. We all realize this needs to be controlled. Statistics will show there's approximately 20,000 agents out there, either a lawyer agent or just plain agents. There's been a total of 64 NBA and 250 NFL rookies signed in over the last couple of years. You've 20,000 agents and approximately 280 athletes to sign. Obviously, it's a buyer's market and it makes the area very competitive.
I want to talk a little bit about some of the indicators you may want to look at when trying to find out whether or not your athletes are involved with an agent. A new wardrobe is the most obvious. If he's walking around with new jewelry and new clothes, there's a chance he may be involved with someone other than his family. A new automobile is another indication. If his parents are coming to the away games for the first time and you've not seen them before, it's an indicator. If the athlete is not returning home with the team and always says he has a ride with a friend is something that all of us should be aware of. If he's showing up at the Western Union, or all of a sudden gets a bank account at the local bank. Check the comp ticket list and see if there are names on there you're not familiar with. If they're not family members, you might want to ask the question. Whom is he hanging around with? Are there any new people? If he lives off campus, does he have a recent purchase of a big screen television or stereo? Does he have a cellular phone or a beeper? The other area to be aware of is whether or not he's gotten disability insurance from someone other than the NCAA. Does he have a calling card or a debit card? Does he have airline tickets he uses for his family or his girlfriend? These are just some of the things to help you decide whether or not you want to go further in talking with your athlete about being involved with an agent or a runner.
What can be done? There's been all types of suggestions thrown out there and I'd like to throw out a few I feel might be worthy of consideration. How about creating the consortium or a clearinghouse that involves coaches, individuals from all of the different players associations and actual agents. This consortium or clearinghouse can be chaired by a person out of the NCAA national office. How about an agent association where agents are made responsible for other agents with bylaws, penalties and sanctions? We need to provide a uniform agent code or laws throughout the states so we're all on the same page of how we're going to deal with the agent problem rather than have each state do their own laws and codes. We need to put more pressure on the Players Association to decertify the bad agents. I know, at Florida State University, we've had numerous contacts with the NFL Players Association about decertifying agents and I know Gene Upshaw is very aware of our concerns. He, and the NBA Players Association, are looking into being more forceful in decertifying the bad agents.
You need to establish a close relationship between your city and campus police to monitor, not only the student-athlete, but also any individuals you don't see around the dorm or the athlete very often. We got a new police chief and we're working closely with him in dealing with our athletes, particularly since there are no longer athletic dorms and our athletes are spread, not only throughout the campus, but throughout the city of Tallahassee. That's an alternative that's worth looking into.
The area that is critical, as far as I'm concerned, is thinking about getting rid of the July recruiting period. I say that because, over the years, while at the NCAA, I spoke at camps for high school prospects. You have young people from 13 years and older away from their high school coaches and their parents for weeks at a time. The people handling these young men are generally AAU coaches who are using somebody in the neighborhood who has connections with somebody in the neighborhood, but no connection with the high school or with the parents. You have camps that are run by shoe companies. Shoe companies hire runners to promote their shoes and their camps. You have all of these people during the summer, be it the AAU Tournament, in which there are no parents or high school coaches involved. This is a critical situation in terms of getting this particular problem under control. You add to that the summer leagues in which runners and agents are present. Add shootouts and you can see the problem that exists. I had a situation when I was at the NCAA where a young man left Louisiana on Friday to participate in the shootout on Saturday. It was all paid for by an agent.
Another suggestion is perhaps making agents representatives of the universities' interests. This is somewhat controversial because most institutions feel these people do not contribute nor have any involvement with their athletic programs and should not be a representative. Again, this is a situation that is almost desperate and we need to look at all alternatives.
Hold the athlete accountable. My feeling on that is once we educate them, give them all of the programs we have, talk to them, give them as much direction as we can, there comes a time and place where they must be held accountable. My feeling is that we may want to think about asking for repayment if an athlete is involved with an agent or a loss of scholarship.
We need to talk about some educational approaches to this problem. This is the key part of what we need to do. At Florida State, we bring in numerous speakers and they include former student-athletes, pro athletes, experts in the different areas involving the agent issue, like the Players Association, financial advisors, etc. We make these talks available, not only to the athletes, but also to the parents. We try to hold them several times a year. At Florida State, we've created a class which will emphasize the area of agents. We hope to have speakers come from around the country and give our young people an opportunity to hear, in a classroom setting, about the agent issue.
We need to provide loans and disability insurance to the athletes based on athletic ability and future earnings of the athlete when he turns pro. One of the biggest complaints we hear is the athlete doesn't have enough money. We need to be a little looser with our pocketbooks and I think loans are a way to go, along with the full Pell Grant that was passed in the 1996 NCAA convention. Increase the students' assistance funds and the combination of that with the loans should make the money available for the student-athlete. We should also consider employment during the school year, if that can be handled and not cause too much recruiting advantage to the institutions.
I found that no one works in the summer anymore. Coaches need to address that in terms of putting the athlete back in the position of working during the summer. You find now that athletes find it mandatory that they go to summer school and the idea of working during the summer is almost obsolete. I know when I went to Notre Dame, the biggest thing for me was a summer job. That doesn't seem to be the primary point with athletes anymore. Coaches ought to look at summer employment again and if they can do it across the board, I don't see any recruiting advantage there.
My last point is if a player gets an agent, it's my feeling he has compromised himself. When he compromises himself, he does it in three areas. He compromises his play which effects the team, in that the agent, once his trust is built up, is telling the student-athlete not to get hurt. That means he may not run across the middle to catch that pass. He may not try to run over that player, and instead, just run out of bounds. That play of the player is compromised. The practice of the player is compromised in the sense that most of these agents or runners are frustrated coaches. They think they know as much about coaching as the coaches themselves. They're always giving their ideas to the kid about technique. A lot of times the kid will show up and do a technique that was not taught by the university coach.
The last compromise is in the area of the student-athlete's welfare. Marcus Camby is a class example of what I'm talking about. If the agent has found out and this problem is uncovered and there is a lot of negative publicity behind it, there are potential lawsuits and a lot of bad publicity, not only for the young man, but also for the university.
We must understand the ledger. All agents have ledgers. Before I left the NCAA, I had the opportunity of actually having in hand a ledger from an agent involving a student-athlete. They write down everything, from a hamburger to a T-shirt, to the beeper, to the debit card. We must impress upon the athlete that nothing is free. The ledger must be made known to our athletes and make them understand exactly what they're getting themselves into each time they get into the car, or eat that hamburger, or take that free airline ticket for home.
I do believe the NCAA needs to move quicker in this area. I know we've done a lot of talking over the years, but as I indicated, this problem goes back to 1972-73. We've made a little bit of progress, but it's time we are more aggressive in this area and be more radical in our approach to the problem. As I indicated, the problem has not gotten better. Thank you.
Thank you Bob. Some of the statistics you pointed out are very shocking when you think that someone suggested that 75 percent of the underclassmen have received gifts. When you consider that you have 20,000 agents for 280 athletes and when you get competition involved, we all know why we have the problem.
Now, we'll get a coach's perspective on the issue, Coach Tubby Smith, I'm proud to say, from the University of Georgia. Tubby was a graduate of High Point College in North Carolina and coached in high school for three or four years before moving onto Virginia Commonwealth, where he was for seven years, before moving onto South Carolina where he was for three years. From there, he went on to Kentucky for two years before he became the head basketball coach at Tulsa. He was there for four years before he came to Georgia this past year. In the last three years, his teams have been in the Sweet 16. Coach Tubby Smith.
Thank you Coach. First, I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk to you and maybe answer some questions. Bob covered most of the areas I think are critical as far as agents as well as gambling issues. From a coaching standpoint, I can feel for coaches who have experienced incidences like Marcus Camby. You try to control as much as you can. My big concern, as a coach, is accessibility to student-athletes long before they ever get to the college level.
That's an area we need to address and allow coaches like me who love the game to coach student-athletes. My intent, when you're talking about putting together an alliance of people to try to address these people, keep in mind the people these players admire the most are their college coaches. I'm here to speak on behalf of college coaches to let you know I'd be more than happy, and most of the coaches I know in the business, would be happy to address this issue.
The recruiting calendar is one we've worked with over the years. It was good to put in some of the restrictions confined to recruiting because it was getting out of hand. What is happening today is, because coaches like myself do not have access to the student-athletes, they're getting information from other people. We really don't have any way of controlling it. Let's face it, a lot of these young men that are being affected by this is because they are economically disadvantaged to some degree. Most of them are coming from environments where these agents or runners are the guys getting close to these young players. Some of the runners have grown up with these athletes. They have taken them under their wing.
You have to talk to parents more than once a week. It's critical because we have to educate them. A lot of them are not as educated as coaches, so they need our guidance. Many times even educated people can be subjected to fraudulent investments too. What happens is when these players are exposed to guys who can control and recruit them, it's a real problem. I think accessibility is important. We have to be able to address these problems without dealing with a third party. In my case, when I come across a player who might have a third party involved, I will address it with his parents. I will try to eliminate this third party from the process. The chance you take as a coach is, are they willing to trust you as a coach and are you doing right by this young man.
The issue of money comes up. I was glad to hear Bob address that because that is an area that needs to be looked at closely. Most of our players don't work from the time they are freshmen in high school. There are a lot of players who do not work at all during the summer. They are good basketball players and they're being transported from one part of the country to another part of the country and they're going to camps all of the time. They are involved with this already. Either it's a shoe company that's sponsoring the team. Shoe companies have now gotten into agent representation so, it's a real challenge.
I believe that the people who would mean the most and able to educate these young men would be the coaches. Not being able to talk with these young people is a concern. Employment during the school year is important. When I was at Tulsa, I ran into young man who was working at night during the year. He was married and had a child. He had a family at home that he had to take care of. You really feel for that young man. These people do come from economically deprived areas and don't know how to handle situations where someone is trying to offer something to them. They know the rules.
A player will end up signing with an agent before talking to the head coach. It's happened to me twice. I thought I was close to the player too, but the pressure on him gets to him. They need education long before they get to college because these kids are being pressured in high school.
If you're not careful, a coach will end up compromising himself. If he's desperate to get wins, he'll end up working with this third party. Going around the high school coach happens all of the time. I believe that the issue of summer play is an area that, as coaches, we'd like to see addressed. I'd like to see it stay in effect, but have more access to the student-athletes during the year. We need better education among the high school coaches. We need an alliance between the universities and the high schools and the professional organizations. I don't know if you want to get the federal government involved, but I think it's at a point now where we have to have some laws and guidelines and codes and, if has to be people being held accountable, then so be it. I think we can do it if all parties that are in for the good of the student-athletes are involved, that is the universities, the high schools and the professional organizations.
As a college coach and having recruited players that have been exposed, and I know who they are, I immediately bring them in. I help them set up a checking account. Most of them have no idea how to save money. There is money available to them if they handle it the right way. We're dealing with athletes who need extra long pants, larger coats, so it's going to cost a little more money. The loan issue is a good one, but we'll need to educate them and give them a course like Florida State is doing to help them be financial responsible. I've tried to simply monitor their finances. You bring them in each month and monitor their bank statements and see how they're managing their money.
Any questions that you might have, I'll be happy to answer.
I'd like to ask two questions myself starting with you Tubby. There's a lot of talk again about the summer camps. George Raveling pushed hard to get camps at least certified by the NCAA, however, even that is maybe not far enough. At one time, he wanted the NCAA to be able to run all of those camps. What do you think about that as a possibility in addressing the agent problem?
The NCAA made the right move in certification. It's controlled a lot. The problem has not been the camps. The Nike camps do monitor the players closely. The runners are eliminated from those camps. It's the weekend tournaments that you have to continue to sanction. There is a great advantage to having the NCAA monitoring these camps.
One of our biggest problems when I was at the NCAA, even though the camps have grown tremendously over the last 10 years, the numbers are astounding. I saw these camps go from a few to hundreds and there is no way the NCAA can have people on site to monitor who is coming in and out of those camps. These kids are going to
regional camps that are recognized nationally and it's a problem.
Shootouts five or six years ago were only a few. I counted 90 a few years ago and I know they've increased tremendously. I know some people put on five or more shootouts at a time. At all of these, there are people who are there to get an advantage over these kids. Some of them are actually running these camps. Even though they have to be certified, there is no one there to monitor the activity going on at these sites.
There was some suggestion that in order for a camp to be certified, they had to pay a certain amount of money. That money could go back into the NCAA which could increase the numbers of enforcement people assigned specifically to just summer camp work.
The NCAA enforcement staff is, obviously, understaffed and overworked. The agent issue, until very recently, has not been a big part of their work day. They are trying to process cases and do the things they were basically hired to do. Enforcement of the agent issue has not been one of the primary reasons for them showing up for work each day. That needs to change, but until we can get more people to take care of that specific area, this will be a problem.
That was the suggestion of having all of those camps pay a certain amount of money to be certified.
Tape ended and resumed in the middle of questions
The July month really fascinates us in the women's basketball area. We are trying to work closely with the NABC in solving this. I'd love to know what your suggestion would be. Our coaches really feel they need July. Maybe ours in the women's area might not be quite as interesting as the men's side, but the day probably will come when we will have those same kinds of problems. I'd love to know your suggestions about changing July.
Secondly, we are moving into professional women's basketball. It's going quickly. We would love to learn, on the women's side, what not to do to keep our players away from the areas that you and Tubby have been talking about. We'd appreciate your comments.
My suggestion would be to eliminate the July period altogether. There is nothing magic about it. When I was a player on the university level, there was no July recruiting at all. That's a recent phenomena. It was interesting that, with the July recruiting period, a lot of the agent problems started. Of course, I realize that it was coupled with shoes becoming a big deal. I do see the July period being an area where a lot of your companies have latched on to promote their product and their camps. It seems to me that we need to somehow delete that opportunity to some degree.
Putting it back in the fall shouldn't affect the coaches. Recruiting calendars can be changed. It was changed to the July period. We can change it back to the regular school year. Now, you have an opportunity for the high school coach and the parents to be more involved with whom the young man will be around. I understand you cannot eliminate it altogether because kids are going to play during the summer. There will always be summer leagues. When you have those things, you're always going to have people around watching them. We need to lessen that exposure to the athlete.
I have a lot of problems when I hear an athlete leaves home in the first part of July and doesn't return home until August 1. He's gone 30 straight days from his hometown and from his family. He's being exposed and indoctrinated into a lot of different things. That's wrong. Anybody who is sitting here who is an administrator or a parent would not want to see their kids gone for 30 straight days being bombarded by different factions out there.
As far as the women's pros, that's a tough one. I thought about that one, Betty. I feel a lot of the same problems will be there. Tubby had mentioned earlier that the shoe companies are getting into the agent business. Obviously, the shoe companies will be very interested in getting the women athletes in their shoes also. I see them being as much involved with trying to influence the women athletes as well as the men. That problem is already under foot. I've talked to several individuals who are in women's basketball and I know that they have had contact with shoe companies already in terms of recruiting athletes to participate in certain camps. It's already started and all I can say is beware of it early. Try to get to your coaches and your kids as quickly as possible.
About four years ago, one of the things that came to our CFA Board and we had a committee that explored the possibility with the State High School Coaches Association and the national High School Coaches Association to try to get them to take over the camps. In other words, if the High School Coaches Association would sponsor the campus, run the camps and us develop a stronger relationship with the high schools, we would have an affinity group there that we would at least have some control. It would seem to me to be a partial solution to some of these problems. We really didn't get anywhere. We talked to the people, but it never got to an association level. It seems to me that would be a group that could run the camps and take us to at least a halfway house of control of those particular camps.
One of the things I find being very difficult is with the folks they're hiring. I know when I go to the adidas camp or the Nike camp, these camps hire who they want. A lot of times they're hiring people who are pro adidas or pro Nike and they're around the kids all of the time. They are selling their product to the kids.
That's the problem we have to face. Even though we may ask for certification, well who's being hired. Who actually is coming in contact with these kids. How do you keep certain people out of camps? If a runner or agent wants to come and watch a game and hang around the locker room or the dorm, you're going to have that. There's a question of who gets hired and who monitors this situation day in and day out. We can do a lot in terms of putting the responsibility with different organizations, but the bottom line is, who is hired and who is going to monitor.
I know how you can control the camps, but it takes a lot of guts to do this. When we had the problem a few years ago about too many all-star games, we legislated that you couldn't play in
more than two all-star games. Anybody that goes to a camp is ineligible to participate in intercollegiate athletics. If they're ineligible, there won't be camps. Just declare them ineligible and you won't have to go to the camps and you won't have to go to the camps because there won't be any camps. It takes a lot of guts to do it.
Obviously, they go to camps to try to improve and compete against the best. When you get to be the top player and you're being monitored by everybody, the media, alumni and the fans, and they're watching and reading these scouting reports, and these kids are competitive. I can tell you just having sons. It's a lot more complicated than it seems. I think you're right. We're all in this to make these young people be the best they can be. I don't know if, as a group or a body, whether we want to go out and rule these kids ineligible. That would be a tough thing to do.
Suffice to say that the problem is beyond the serious point. It's so serious with the agents that we didn't even talk about the gambling, which is also a problem. We'll have to come back next year and talk about the gambling. Thanks again.