Dareus may have attended agent's party
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- University of Alabama officials are investigating whether junior defensive lineman Marcell Dareus broke NCAA rules by attending an agent's party in Miami's South Beach earlier this summer, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
Dareus, ranked as the No. 7 prospect for the 2011 NFL draft by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, is the latest prominent college football player to be entangled in an evolving NCAA investigation into illegal contact and conduct by sports agents.
"Our [university] compliance people are looking into it," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Sources told ESPN last week that NCAA investigators have interviewed North Carolina players, including defensive end Marvin Austin, about attending the party. South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders also confirmed to ESPN on Sunday that he recently spoke with NCAA investigators about the same party.
The NCAA is trying to determine who paid for the players' transportation to Miami, and lodging, food and entertainment while they were there.
And in what appears to be an unrelated incident, Florida and NCAA officials are investigating whether former Gators offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey accepted $100,000 from the representative of an agent between the 2009 SEC championship game and his team's season-ending victory over Cincinnati in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Feldman: Agent of Change?
Nick Saban is known for being helpful to NFL scouts. So when he threatens to slam the door on access in response to the ongoing agent scandal, it's a clear message to the NFL that the problem needs the league's attention, writes Bruce Feldman. Blog
Saban, a former coach of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, said it might be time to ban NFL teams from college campuses in order to get the league to take seriously the issue of agents boldly breaking NCAA regulations. Alabama is considered one of the more welcoming schools to NFL scouts, who may come watch video at almost any time.
But Saban says it might now be time for a change.
"What the NFL Players Association and the NFL need to do is if any agent breaks a rule and causes ineligibility for a player, they should suspend his [agent's] license for a year or two," Saban said. "I'm about ready for college football to say, 'Let's just throw the NFL out. Don't let them evaluate players. Don't let them talk to players. Let them do it at the combine.' If they are not going to help us, why should we help them?"
Saban said he also believes the NCAA should "take schools off the hook" for the actions of agents and players. In the end, however, he points at the former.
"Right now, agents are screwing it up," Saban said. "They are taking the eligibility of players. It's not right that those players do the wrong thing. We have a great education process here. We have a full-time worker who meets with players and their families and does everything else."
In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday in advance of SEC media days, conference commissioner Mike Slive said he would like the NCAA at some point to consider changes to rules involving agents.
"The agent issue is one that's been of concern not only to us but I think to everyone associated with intercollegiate athletics, and I do think it's time to re-examine some of the NCAA rules that relate to agents," he said. "I have felt for a long time that it would be helpful to be able to provide student-athletes with more information and more opportunities to learn what their professional potential might be than is currently allowed by NCAA rules."
Slive said the SEC already had taken steps to help member schools deal with agent issues before the recent NCAA investigations. The league brought in consultant Joe Mendes earlier this year to meet with officials at all 12 institutions, "and several have retained him to help provide the kind of information and knowledge that our student-athletes need to make good decisions about their future," Slive said. "And to do it the right way and not in violation of NCAA rules."
Alabama is among the schools enlisting the services of Mendes, a longtime NFL executive who was vice president of football operations for the Washington Redskins. He now runs Cornerstone Sports Consulting in Leesburg, Va.
Dareus, from Huffman, Ala., is expected to be one of defending BCS national champion Alabama's top defensive performers this coming season. He finished the 2009 season with 33 tackles, nine tackles for loss and team-high 6½ sacks. He returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown in the Crimson Tide's 37-21 victory over Texas in the BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl.
"The agents are all around you unfortunately," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told ESPN's Joe Schad on Tuesday. "I don't know if you can get away from them. It comes down to the player to be honest with himself because it's [extra benefits] going to be there for the good player if he wants it. We try to educate our players because really, we can't watch them all the time."
NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis didn't respond to e-mail requests from ESPN.com.
Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach cover college football for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.