A couple of days ago, Sports Illustrated writer George Dohrmann -- whose recently published book about the AAU machine, "Play Their Hearts Out," ought to be required reading for every college hoops fan -- landed a rather remarkable oral confessional from former agent Josh Luchs. Luchs admitted to paying college athletes within the first paragraph, and it was all downhill (or, really, uphill) from there.
Luchs' story spawned all manner of reaction, among them this description of the agent problem from SI's Michael Rosenberg. Rosenberg thoughtfully (and somewhat depressingly) argued that the agent problem is so intractable it may never be fully solved. But he does provide one solution: Make all compliance officers within athletics departments employees of the NCAA. That way, compliance officers at school won't fall under the spell of their coaches and athletic directors. Instead, they'd be beholden to the NCAA and NCAA alone. From Rosenberg:
The NCAA could make one huge, fundamental change to its system. Right now, compliance officers work for the universities they police -- their very existence is a conflict of interest. If those officers answered to the NCAA, but worked on individual campuses and had free reign to investigate there, that would give the NCAA a fighting chance. (The schools would have to pay the NCAA the money that they currently spend on compliance.) But that's just a crazy sportswriter idea.At first read, this idea sounded dead on. The logistics are a little challenging, sure, but in theory, why wouldn't the NCAA do this? It's ready-made.
Then Mr. Bylaw Blog, who works as a compliance officer and wrote an insightful, now-defunct blog on the topic, checked in on Twitter, and yeah, maybe the idea doesn't work so well after all.
1) You think coaches don't want to talk to compliance now? Imagine if we actually were cops employed by someone else to watch them. 2) The whole idea assumes that the sole function of a compliance office is to monitor & investigate, which way off the mark.
Indeed, a large part of the compliance officer's job is advisory -- answering coaches' questions about eligibility, explaining obscure NCAA rules, all that good stuff. It's not hard to imagine how difficult that job already is. NCAA-appointed compliance officers would be enemies in their own houses unwelcome outsiders viewed with suspicion rather than overtures of constructive partnership. That would make a tough job already tougher.
In the end, though, Rosenberg is right, even if the compliance officer idea isn't quite the trick. Here he is again:
Most of the time, though, when players take money, nobody will have any idea. To stop agents from paying players, the NCAA will have to stop college students from wanting money and thinking they're invincible -- and stop agents from wanting to land clients. Good luck with that.
Uh, yep. Sigh.