University of Alabama

Alabama football: Coach Nick Saban organizes teleconference about agents

Continues talk against rogue reps

By MICHAEL CASAGRANDE

Special to the Ledger-Enquirer

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The agent issue hasn’t gone away.

So Nick Saban is being proactive.

The Alabama football coach said he organized a teleconference between a few of his college peers, athletics directors, the NCAA, agents, the NFL Players Association and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Still waiting to hear from the NCAA about the eligibility of defensive lineman Marcell Dareus after an investigation into his possible dealings with agents, Saban said everyone should be held accountable when rules are disregarded.

After referring to rogue agents as “pimps” during SEC Media Days in July, he called them “bootleggers” at Thursday’s news conference.

Punishing players who have contact with those agents operating against the rules or laws also should be considered, Saban said.

“Is it not conduct detrimental if a player does the wrong thing in college and gets suspended for his senior season just so he can play in the NFL? It hurts the NFL,” Saban said. “It hurts the college. It hurts the player. It hurts everybody. So why shouldn’t he get suspended for conduct detrimental just like Roethlisberger or some of the other guys that doesn’t do the right thing?

“Now, I like Ben Roethlisberger. I have respect for him, and I don’t mean that in a negative way, but he’s being suspended right now for not doing the right thing in a particular circumstance.”

Agent and Alabama alumnus John Phillips was not involved in the teleconference but agrees with Saban’s call for action.

“There has to be punishment across the board,” Phillips said. “Whether it’s from the IRS or making guys lose draft spots, something has to happen.”

Saban said it was up to the other parties involved in the call to identify themselves. Several news agencies confirmed Ohio State’s Jim Tressel and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops took part in the call. The Associated Press reported Florida’s Urban Meyer also participated. Messages left for the NFLPA were not returned.

For Saban, the glaring problem surrounds rising stars in the junior class. Both recent Tide problems involving agents — Dareus this summer and Andre Smith before the 2009 Sugar Bowl — dealt with juniors who aren’t allowed contact with agents by rule. Seniors are allowed to meet with agents, but juniors can’t have any contact until after the final regular-season game or conference championship game.

The competition to land one of these players likely to enter the draft early, however, typically extends beyond the legal limits. The Dareus investigation conducted by the school and the NCAA probes a summer trip taken by Dareus to a Miami party hosted by an agent. Players from several other SEC schools — Florida, Georgia and South Carolina — are under similar investigations.

“Where you have prohibition, you have bootleggers; it’s always been that way,” Saban said. “All of our problems have always been with our juniors here, guys that come out early. Why is that? Because nobody is allowed to talk to them. Our seniors, we have times of the year when we bring their families in, we have agent education programs, we bring agents in this building, and they have professional meetings with those guys at certain times of the year.

“All we want is the opportunity so that it doesn’t have to happen on the street corner, that there aren’t any of these decisions being made on the street corner.”

Saban also clarified reports that he had banned NFL scouts from attending Alabama practices. They are not being admitted to practices now, he said.

“I don’t think it’s fair to our players for people to come in here and evaluate our players when it’s 110 degrees outside and we’re going through two-a-days,” Saban said.

“So, I don’t really want the guys here when we’re going through two-a-days. It’s especially hot this year and what I told people is we’ll put out a schedule some time after August 25. So we didn’t close this to the NFL for any particular reason.”

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