Commentary

The agent game

Updated: July 21, 2010, 3:53 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

College athletics have been in the headlines for the wrong reasons lately. First, the NCAA levied heavy sanctions against USC's athletic department. Now, football players at several major schools are being accused of having improper contact with an agent and receiving gifts. These are major no-nos, my friends.

College coaches and athletic administrators everywhere have now been put on alert. They have to bring people in to educate their student-athletes. But the bottom line is, these are not little kids. Athletes should know right from wrong.

[+] EnlargeBush
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonUSC was hit hard by the NCAA after Reggie Bush had improper contact with two sports marketers.

If you stick your hand out and ask for cash and other goodies from these agents and their representatives, you are essentially selling your body. You are acting like a prostitute, and that is an illegal act. I don't want to hear that they are young; they should know the difference. Taking cash, clothing or jewelry is an extra benefit beyond their scholarship.

The athlete is embarrassing himself, his family and the institution he is representing.

The player has to look in the mirror. It's all about ego. These guys want to feel like they are the big deal. They have their entourages, filling their heads with visions of grandeur.

The odd thing is that coaches and athletic administrators are the ones getting maligned. Guys such as Florida's Urban Meyer and Alabama's Nick Saban are the ones taking the heat in the headlines. That's not fair. How can a coach watch a student-athlete 24/7? How do you control this?

I know people say coaches have to be accountable, but that is becoming more and more difficult.

There are a bunch of characters out there, chasing after star athletes and throwing cash in front of them as an inducement to sign in the future. These temptations are everywhere, and some kids can't pass up the opportunity to cash in.

I am fed up with the bad agents and their runners. I know there are some agents who play by the rules and do the right thing, but the image of the sports agent is being dragged down by the bad guys. College sports as a whole are hurt by these stories of student-athletes taking improper benefits.

These players want to feel like they are the big deal. They have their entourages, filling their heads with visions of grandeur.

Sometimes these athletes get off without paying the price. Go look at USC: Did Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo -- outside of a little embarrassment -- get punished? Not really. They got their millions and moved on to the pros. Pete Carroll left and went to the Seahawks, and it's the innocent kids in the Trojans program who are hurt by the sanctions. Quarterback Matt Barkley cannot go to a bowl game this season. Did he do anything wrong?

Perhaps it's time to change the players' punishment for taking improper benefits. Would taking away their eligibility sooner prevent the problem? Still, even if the rules change, it remains unclear whether the NCAA has enough enforcement people to handle all of these cases in a quick and fair manner.

Furthermore, the NCAA and NFLPA have to be tough on these agents. Decertify them, get rid of them, take action that will be meaningful to clean up this mess. They're nothing but flesh peddlers. They know they are breaking the rules, but they don't care. They feel they can get an edge in signing a future star and making big cash.

Where does it all stop?

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.