Add Alabama to the growing list of football programs reportedly dealing with issues involving sports agents.
ESPN.com reported Tuesday that Alabama officials are probing a trip allegedly taken by junior defensive end Marcell Dareus to a Miami party hosted by an agent.
Dareus is the latest name linked to potentially improper dealings between athletes and the agents who stand to earn millions by landing them as clients. Football players from South Carolina and North Carolina also have been linked to the same party, but none have the amount of hype entering the 2010 season as the Huffman, Ala., product who was the defensive MVP in January’s BCS national championship win over Texas.
Any further NCAA violations by Alabama would be more troublesome for the school than the others mentioned. The school remains under NCAA probation, stemming from last summer’s ruling on the textbook scandal.
The issue surrounds who paid for the summer trip to Miami. According to NCAA rules, any athlete who accepts transportation or other benefits from an agent shall be ruled ineligible. Communicating with an agent is not illegal, but there can be no talk of a contract of any form if the athlete hopes to retain eligibility.
With the outbreak of stories about players and agents, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban told ESPN something needs to change.
“Right now, agents are screwing it up,” Saban told the website. “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.”
The school did not respond to requests for further comment Tuesday evening, but the topic is sure to be a hot one when Saban and Alabama players attend SEC Media Days this afternoon in Hoover.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive also addressed the issue of agents in an interview with The Associated Press conducted before the Dareus story appeared on ESPN.com. He said the SEC brought in a consultant to help member institutions deal with agents contacting players.
Alabama took a new step this spring to keep the two separate when it barred agents from attending the football program’s pro day in which NFL scouts evaluate players eligible for the draft.
Dareus, projected as a top 10 draft pick in 2011, is expected to be a star on the Tide’s rebuilt defense this year. His tackle on Colt McCoy knocked the quarterback out of the BCS title game. Dareus also scored a touchdown after intercepting a shovel pass.