Athletic Directors respond to former agent's tell-all

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By this point, I’m sure many of you have read the Sports Illustrated interview with former NFL agent Josh Luchs. If you haven’t, it’s a fascinating read.

Over the past six months, the NCAA’s vigilance on the relationship between student-athletes and agents has tightened. The investigation regarding illegal benefits received by former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush brought on a two-year postseason ban and a loss of 30 scholarships for the Trojans.

A little over one month later, the University of North Carolina found itself in a similar investigation and it’s possible that the Tar Heels program could suffer a fate similar to that of USC.

According to Luchs, “agents have been giving kids money for decades,” but only recently has there been a price to pay. As you can imagine, there are a lot of questions on how to deal with this problem. Who gets the blame and the penalties? Who monitors the student-athletes? The list goes on. After all, it’s a large subject to tackle. 

At least some responsibility, if not most, has to lie at the university level with presidents and athletic directors. North Carolina State AD Debbie Yow, who has been an outspoken activist on the agent problem, believes there’s education already in place to warn student-athletes about the dangers of illegally dealing with agents.

“There’s education left and right. There’s abundant information. It’s not a matter of education, it’s a matter of temptation,” Yow told CFT. “It takes tremendous character to say ‘no’ to an agent and go to the university compliance office.”

But responsibility is a two-way street.

“You need to be ready to follow through,” explains Yow. “It’s the responsibility of the administration to look and see who’s getting into games for free.”

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck agrees. “There’s adequate education available for student-athletes, but we can’t ever do enough. We need to follow those [NCAA] rules to a tee. It’s very important that we make sure our players understand that agents don’t follow NCAA rules.”

Ignoring NCAA rules is something to which Luchs openly admits, but justifies “that the schools and the NCAA were making money while the players, many of whom came from poor families, weren’t getting anything but an education, which many of them didn’t take seriously.

Upon hearing that statement, Luck responded bluntly that, “Mr. Luchs is ignorant. He clearly doesn’t understand the importance of higher education or the NCAA.”

“There are a number of student-athletes who star in high-profile sports, but that number is minuscule,” elaborates Yow, who brings up a good point. While Luchs dealt with star players 100 percent of the time, potential pro’s may make up only 5 percent of a university’s student-athletes. For the rest, a paid education is priceless.

It’s also worth more than the $500 or $1,000 in gifts often given by agents. At NC State, student-athletes can apply for financial assistance with the Student Opportunity Fund, which provides assistance for travel, food, necessary purchases and more.

Say what you will about the NCAA, but the tagline “Most of us will be going pro in something other than sports” has validity to it.

However, Yow is not completely against star athletes benefiting from their success, a la Georgia’s A.J. Green. “If a jersey of a particular student-athlete is selling well, then a small percentage of each sale can go to an escrow and then, upon graduation or leaving the university (whichever comes first), the kid gets it.”

Ultimately, according to Yow, there are two scenarios in which student-athletes get involved with agents: they give in to temptation, or they receive benefits without knowing it’s an agent or a runner.

As far as the first scenario, the responsibility must lie with the university to educate the student-athlete about the dangers of dealing with agents, as well as with the student-athletes themselves to decline the benefits. If a student-athlete is “duped” into a fancy dinner or a concert, knowing who to talk to and how to handle the situation can go a long way between reporting an incident and getting ruled permanently ineligible.

As we’ve seen in the past six months, student-athletes and their respective universities are beginning to find that out the hard way. 

New Mexico AD Paul Krebs in hot water for Scotland golf trip

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New Mexico AD Paul Krebs (right) had it all figured out. He wanted to go to Scotland to play golf (who doesn’t) but he didn’t want to pay for it (who does?). So he came up with a solution: he’d turn it into a UNM fundraising trip and make the school pay for it.

The school sold 23 packages to travel across the pond for a getaway of luxurious accommodations and bucket-list golf, but put the bills of himself, two UNM executives and a handful of local businessmen on the school’s dime. Lots of dimes, in fact. The trip cost the Lobos nearly $65,000.

“The trip was a working trip and it was designed to immerse us with these donors. It was an intensive experience and I understand why people may question it,” Krebs told KRQE-TV earlier this month.

Despite his attempt at justification, it appeared Krebs knew from the start the trip was an ethical no-no. The $65,000 bill was classified as a basketball tournament on UNM’s accounting paperwork, and Krebs failed to disclose the nature of the June 2015 trip to acting president Chaouki Abdallah until last week.

“VP Krebs came to me and told me that he wanted to tell me something that he had forgotten or did not tell me before,” Abdallah told KRQE. “I was not happy.”

It is not clear why the UNM Foundation or the Lobo Club,  non-profits that handles the school’s and the athletics department’s fundraising efforts, respectively, did not cover the cost of the trip, especially since Lobo Club executive director Kole McKamey was one of the UNM officials who was on the trip. Putting the bill on the university’s ledger also appears to be a violation of the state’s anti-donation laws. The $24,000 cost to take the Albuquerque businessmen has since been refunded by an anonymous donor.

“(Krebs) told me about it in no uncertain terms,” Abdallah told said. “He didn’t try to sugarcoat it. He said I made a mistake. I didn’t tell you about it before. Here’s what happened. I’m going to try to fix it.”

 

Miami Beach Bowl officially moves to Frisco, Texas

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The Miami Beach Bowl was an unnecessary bowl game played in a metro area already populated by bowl games — but at least it was in Miami. Bowl games may have lost their luster over the past decade-plus, but it’s hard to complain about being sent to South Beach in December for a football game.

The Miami Beach Bowl is no more, and it’s now been reincarnated as another unnecessary bowl game to be played in a metro area even more populated by bowl games — and it won’t be anywhere near as interesting as Miami.

Meet the Frisco Bowl, the newest ESPN-created postseason college football game to be played in the scenic locale of Frisco, Texas.

The north Dallas suburb will host the game at Toyota Stadium, a 20,500-seat outdoor venue that’s home to MLS club FC Dallas as well as the FCS National Championship every January. The Frisco Bowl will also compete for sponsorship dollars and public attention with the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, the Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas and the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.

“We are pleased to be able to host this game in one of the most vibrant football markets in the country,” said ESPN vice president of events Clint Overby. “The infrastructure and facilities that exist in Frisco are outstanding and will be an excellent venue for the teams, players, administrators and fans traveling into the marketplace. We look forward to working with civic organizations and businesses in the area to create an annual event that embraces the spirit of the community.”

The first annual Frisco Bowl will pit an American Athletic Conference team against a to-be-determined conference at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 20.

2017 Texas signee sees felony drug charge reduced to misdemeanor

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It appears the door to one member of Texas’ 2017 recruiting class arriving in Austin this summer has opened a little wider.

In late February, Reese Leitao was arrested at his Oklahoma high school on a charge of possession/delivery of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to sell within a thousand feet of a school, a felony.  Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman is reporting, Leitao pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug possession charge.

As part of the plea agreement, Leitao received a four-year deferred sentence; provided he stays clean during that time, the charge will be wiped off his record.  The American-Statesman writes that, “[a]ccording to Leitao’s attorney, Leitao has ‘some probationary work,’including speaking engagements at schools, and will be under the supervision of the district attorney.”  A $1,000 fine was part of his punishment as well.

The ball is now in the hands of first-year UT head coach Tom Herman as to whether Leitao will have a football future with the Longhorns.

“I’m happy,” the attorney, Allen Smallwood, told the newspaper. “Hopefully the University of Texas will be happy.”

At the time of Leitao’s arrest, a statement attributed to Herman said that “[w]e’re collecting information, will talk to Reese and his family, let the legal system run its course and then address it further at the appropriate time.” As of this posting, the university has yet to publicly address the development.

Leitao was a three-star 2017 signee, rated as the No. 19 tight end in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma.

Miami All-American, NFL Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy dead at 48

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One of the most physically-gifted and talented players in the history of Miami Hurricanes football is gone way, way too soon.

The Orlando Police Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Cortez Kennedy passed away earlier today.  He was just 48 years old.

No cause of death has been determined, with the OPD stating that “at this time there is nothing suspicious to report but we are conducting an investigation regarding his unattended passing.”

After starting his collegiate playing career at the junior college level, Kennedy moved on to the University of Miami, earning All-American honors in 1989.  In 2004, he was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The third overall pick of the 1990 NFL draft, Kennedy spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Seattle Seahawks.  In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Not surprisingly, Kennedy’s sudden passing has brought an outpouring of emotion from those connected to the football program.