Says they must have allegiance teammates, team, coaches and university
By ANDY BITTER
HOOVER, Ala. — While his state counterpart opened SEC Football Media Days with a scathing rant against unscrupulous agents, Auburn coach Gene Chizik had a different emphasis Friday: He stressed the responsibility of the player.
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“A lot of this has got to go back on the young guy,” Chizik said. “He’s got to have an allegiance to his school; he’s got to have an allegiance to his teammates; he’s got to have an allegiance to his football team and his coaches and his university.
“Hey, if they know right from wrong and they choose to do wrong, then they don’t really have an allegiance to the people I just mentioned.”
Four SEC teams have been entangled in NCAA probes looking into players receiving improper benefits from agents.
Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus and South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders are being questioned about an agent’s party in Miami. Ex-Florida offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey denied allegations that he received $100,000 from an agent while still playing for the Gators.
Alabama coach Nick Saban and commissioner Mike Slive lashed out against rogue agents Wednesday, urging the NCAA to establish a new national policy.
Chizik said he is in favor of changing legislation to curb improper contact with agents, but he added that it would be hard to regulate.
Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba is familiar with runners for agents and the rules surrounding them.
“They usually introduce themselves,” Ziemba said. “You know who you’re dealing with. And you also know the rules about all them. And you’re responsible for those rules.”
Ziemba doesn’t feel like an aggrieved college athlete who needs a handout.
“I get a college education in exchange for my services on the football field,” he said. “I think that’s going to prove to be more valuable than a few hundred thousand dollars right now. I’m not pressed for money. I’ve got a roof over my house, a bed to sleep in.
“And I’ve obviously got plenty of food to eat,” the 320-pounder added.
Zac is back
Auburn’s players rejoiced when safety Zac Etheridge got medical clearance earlier this week after suffering a neck injury last October that threatened his career.
Josh Bynes is especially happy to have another veteran signal caller on defense.
“If he sees something I don’t see, he’ll come up to me and say, ‘Josh, do this, this and this on this play’ or ‘Watch that guard,’ ” Bynes said. “Zac is like another linebacker out there on the field helping me out with a lot of things.”
Chizik said the team will consult with the medical staff to determine Etheridge’s workload in August. He did not know how soon Etheridge would be unrestricted in practice.
Auburn had all but one player of its 32-member signing class qualify academically this offseason, something Chizik called rare. Wide receiver Jeremy Richardson, who already has enrolled at East Mississippi Community College, is the lone exception.
The Tigers are still short of the NCAA-allowable 85 scholarships, however.
“We’re getting real close,” Chizik said. “I don’t think we’re quite there yet. … It’s going to have to be multiple years that we do this to get the numbers where we need to be.”
Those freshmen might be thrown into the fire early. Auburn still isn’t deep, something Chizik tried to convey to the freshman class in a recent meeting.
“We hope we eventually get to the point where (we say), ‘Hey, if some of them are good enough to step in and help us, that’s great. But if they’re not and they can’t do it right now, that’s fine too,’”Chizik said. “We’re not really there. We’re more to the point of, ‘I expect you all to play, and, if you prove that, you can.’
“They know our expectations in terms of us needing them to fill a role somewhere either on offense, defense or special teams.”
Six Auburn players were recognized on the media’s preseason All-SEC teams, tied with Arkansas for third-most behind Alabama (12) and Florida (10).
Ziemba and Bynes made the first team. Receiver Darvin Adams, running back Mario Fannin, kicker Wes Byrum and Etheridge were voted to the second team.