Everywhere you turn in the college football world this offseason, it seems like you're hearing about agents more than ever. It started in June, when the NCAA handed down an unprecedented punishment to USC for violations involving Reggie Bush and an agent in 2005. Next came allegations that North Carolina tackle Marvin Austin and South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders (among others) had attended a pool party in Miami, Florida which was funded by agents. Then came the rants from Alabama coach Nick Saban and LSU coach Les Miles about how agents are everything that is wrong with college football today. And of course, to top it all off, in typical fashion, Bob Ley and Outside the Lines followed suit with a overly dramatic fluff piece that was replayed on every ESPN show at least 15 times.
But the real question is: why is this such a big story all of a sudden? Is it because agents have suddenly seized upon these poor, innocent college student-athletes? This would seem to be the case, if it weren't for the fact that agents have been in contact with college athletes for decades (see: Cris Carter in 1987).
So what's the real story? Well, it may start on the infamous blue turf of Boise State's Bronco Stadium, or under the big blue sky at Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium. As midmajors such the Broncos and Utes have become consistent football powerhouses, the "issue" of college athletes has similarly rose.
That's right- agents and college athletes are simply a cover for college football's biggest problem: it's lack of a postseason. Whoever is directing the marketing department at the NCAA should get a promotion. The 2009 college football season presented a huge problem for the NCAA and its' BCS system. Two non-BCS schools (Boise State and Texas Christian University) finished undefeated, presenting a major dilemma. The masses of college football fans wanted (rightfully) a shot for them to earn a national championship. But this would disturb the longstanding system of BCS domination. So, the NCAA stuck them into another BCS bowl, and decided to put the issue off until the offseason.
At first, they tried conference realignment. But when this failed to divert the media and fan's attention from the lack of a playoff, the NCAA knew they needed to try something else. So, the USC investigation, long on the backburner due to its relatively minuscule importance, became the number one topic at the NCAA offices. It was as if an epidemic had been born overnight. Because it had.
Don't get me wrong, agents should not be having contact with amateur athletes. Although it ultimately isn't as morally wrong as the media has made it out to be, it is still illegal, and the agents know they are jeopardizing these athletes' futures. But the issue of agents is one that can be put aside until we solve the real problem with the NCAA.