USC hosted an invitation-only conference on Feb. 8 at the Galen Center to foster a better understanding about issues regarding agents.
The Trojans received the harshest NCAA football sanctions since the SMU death penalty in 1987 primarily due to the actions of aspiring agents with the Reggie Bush family.
This conference is an example of the USC “culture of compliance” that athletic director Pat Haden pledged when he succeeded Mike Garrett in August, 2010. USC currently has the largest compliance staff in the nation.
Representatives from the NCAA (vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach), Pac-10 conference (commissioner Larry Scott), SEC (commissioner Mike Slive), NFL (vice president football operations Ray Anderson), NFL Players Association (agent administration director Mark Levin), several agents (Jimmy Sexton, Tom Condon and Rick Smith) and every Pac-10 athletic director attended the “Agent Awareness, Education and Eligibility Summit.”
USC was represented by president C.L. Max Nikias, athletic director Pat Haden, vice president of athletic compliance David Roberts and senior associate athletic director Mark Jackson.
"Obviously, the issue of college student-athletes dealing with agents is a hot-button topic," Haden said in a statement announcing the summit. "We at USC know that firsthand. We decided to organize this summit so that all of us at USC can pick the brains of our peers throughout the Pac-10 and also hear from those on the firing lines at the NCAA and Pac-10, at the NFL and within the agent community.”
Haden left the meeting with a core goal to build trust between student-athletes and school administrators. This includes the following:
- Use of "extenders" such as assistant coaches and athletic training staff to serve as liaisons between student-athletes and the compliance office,
- Recognize that the majority of football and basketball players who attend Division I schools like USC want to play in the pros, and
- Hire a recent graduate to act as an ombudsman who can be a counselor and be viewed as independent.
"Let's help them. Let's not be an impediment," Haden said. "We're not going to have a football major, but we want to be able to have enough resources for our men and women—to get valuable information for them to make good decisions."
As a successful example of the “extenders of compliance,” Roberts cited the recent Everson Griffen party in Las Vegas, which the university's administrators requested the student-athletes not attend for several reasons. The party was subsequently canceled.
NFL executive Ray Anderson delivered a strong message from commissioner Roger Goodell that the league will consider penalizing players found to have committed NCAA violations. But, that will take approval from the NFLPA.
"We're never going to get a solution to this (agent) problem without help from the NFL and the NFLPA," Haden said.
A recent Inside Higher Ed story "Bad Apples or More?" detailed how 53 of the NCAA's 120 FBS schools committed a major violation in the last decade (and the previous decade was about the same) with the number and complexity of the rules a contributor in many cases. SEC commissioner Silve and the agents informally told the NCAA to start over and stop coming up with bylaws and adding them to the rulebook.
Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA's vice president of enforcement, praised USC for organizing it.
"The agent summit… was a productive, candid discussion of what educational and investigative efforts are currently working, as well as different approaches the NCAA and its members may want to take," Roe Lach said in a statement.
A related ESPN report has additional information: "USC administrators talk agent summit."
As USC fans know too well it takes just one player, and not even an actual agent, to put a program in real trouble. As indicated in the story "Eight Solutions to Fix the NCAA and Improve College Football" there are many things that could be done by the NCAA if they truly care about college athletes.