December 29, 2011

Watching their step

TAMPA, Fla. - As much as the NCAA and college football coaches everywhere would love not to be concerned, sports agents and the runners who represent them continue to play a prevalent role in trying to convince draft-eligible athletes to turn pro.

Senior Brandon Boykin can testify to that.

"It's very prevalent, but fortunately for me, my entire family, my mother, my father, my brother are very involved in my decision and making sure that nothing illegal is going on, that nobody was hounding me when I was trying to focus on football and things like that," Boykin said. "It's out there, although nobody every contacted me before the point they could actually do it."

Still, Boykin has and continues to hear plenty of stories of what continues to occur.

"They'll lie to you, they'll tell you 'Oh, you'll go high, you'll go here, you'll go there' but none of that really matters at all," said Boykin, who considered leaving Georgia early before returning for his senior year. "It's like I've been telling the guys that could leave, think about the entire process and don't make a decision based on where somebody is telling you that you might go because all that stuff changes."

Although many agents are in fact reputable; it's their runners (persons the NCAA describes as individuals who befriend student-athletes and frequently distribute impermissible benefits) which frequently get athletes and their respective schools in trouble.

Under NCAA Bylaw 12.3, a student-athlete (any individual who currently participates in or who may be eligible in the future to participate in intercollegiate sport) may not agree verbally or in writing to be represented by an athlete agent in the present or in the future for the purpose of marketing the student-athlete's ability or reputation. If the student-athlete enters into such an agreement, the student-athlete is ineligible for intercollegiate competition.

The rule also states that a student-athlete may not accept transportation or other benefits from an athlete agent. This prohibition applies to the student-athlete and his or her relatives or friends.

Junior safety Bacarri Rambo said Thursday he's been pursued by "runners" claiming to represent agents wishing to sign the Donaldsonville native on the dotted line.

"They've been coming after me to get me to sign with them or whatever," Rambo said. "But it's like I tell them, I'm going to do what makes me happy. I've got my parents to give me advice, but basically it's going to come down to what I want and what makes me happy."

It is not a violation of NCAA rules if a student-athlete merely talks to an agent (as long as an agreement for agent representation is not established) or socializes with an agent, just as long as the student athlete, for example, provided his own transportation and paid for his own meal."

Tight end Orson Charles said he was hit with a number calls from agents in early December.

"A couple of agents called me after Dec. 1," Charles said. "They were trying to get together or get it cleared to meet at my house."

Linebacker Jarvis Jones said his decision to come back helped keep most of the callers at bay.

"Early on in the season everybody knew I was coming back so it hasn't been an issue for me at all. I had a couple of agents that wanted to speak with me, but I made my decision already and that's what I'm going to do. I don't have time to play around, get myself in trouble; get the school in trouble," Jones said. "But everybody (his teammates) knows the situation. I'm sure the guys won't go out of their way to hurt the team or the program, or try to find what trouble they can get everybody into."