The NCAA's Agent Enforcement Crusade Threatens To Be Epidemic

The NCAA declared Investigeddon last weekend, hiring Michael Bay to spill fireworks over message boards and ESPN by launching, announcing, or leaking investigations of star players at North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida in the wake of some very dumb tweets from UNC DT Marvin Austin (pictured).

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As one toxic player (Austin) directly implicated another (SC TE Weslye Saunders) and Florida got roped in for something that may not be directly related but is remarkably timed for something totally independent, something occurred to me about how these cases are different than the NCAA's run-of-the-mill case wherein coaching staff X or booster Y violates bylaw Z. Those incidents are self-contained errors by one coaching staff or one set of overzealous fans with no knowledge of goings-on that could damage other universities. Meanwhile, the NCAA's agent crackdown is contagious. It has an infection rate.

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Player A tweets something about bottle service at a South Beach club, bringing in a cavalcade of NCAA investigators. They then levy the recent explosion of Dez Bryant's senior year for lying to NCAA investigators and the tearful details spill out, implicating other players living large on an agent's dime. Agents operating in one of the 38 states where futzing with college athletes has legal consequences results in another round of bargaining that implicates another round of athletes at other schools, at which point the process starts over again.

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Thus the unprecedented quickfire investigations at three BCS schools with another two rumored to be on the way. The NCAA's previous enforcement crusades were self-contained exercises; what happens when players start losing their eligibility and teams get hit with violations for things they know their opponents are dealing with too? The infection rate goes up. Sooner or later it's a George A. Romero movie starring Wake Forest and Duke as the sole survivors. Dawn of the Dead Eligibility, call it.

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Whether this is good or bad depends on your stance, and your school's implied stance, on the NCAA's amateurism guidelines. It does, however, raise some serious questions. Is a $100,000 payment the world's largest secondary violation? Who exactly is getting hurt here anyway? Can the NCAA actually level the playing field? Is all this how North Carolina has managed to recruit vastly out of proportion to their reputation and on-field performance?

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Answers here won't be forthcoming for years, but at least the wheels are in motion.

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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