USC administrators talk agent summit

USC athletic director Pat Haden, vice president for athletic compliance David Roberts and senior associate athletic director Mark Jackson hosted an agent awareness summit Tuesday at USC in an attempt to gather different perspectives on the changing role of agents and gather notes from fellow schools on their compliance practices. The six-hour event, held in the Founder's Room at USC's Galen Center just off campus, featured a number of prominent attendees from the college and professional football fields, including pro agents Jimmy Sexton, Tom Condon and Rick Smith, every Pac-10 athletic director, SEC commissioner Mike Slive, multiple NCAA representatives, NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson and NFL Players' Association agent administration director Mark Levin.

Jackson said the event was Haden's brainchild. Here are a few of the highlights from the news conference held by the three USC athletic administrators after the event:

(Haden, on his main takeaways from the event)

For me, a person who's in a new profession, seven months of a new profession at an institution that's on NCAA probation, selfishly I was looking for the best practices by other institutions in our conference. We also had the SEC involved, as well. There were two main takeaways for me: one is that lots of Pac-10 schools seem to be using extenders of compliance, if you will -- that is, trainers, athletic staff, people who are around your student-athletes a lot more than the compliance stuff or others that might answer questions for student-athletes, might be a resource for them. And then having position coaches, particularly on a football team, have their antennae up and be strong enough and disciplined enough and courageous enough to ask tough questions and, if appropriate, talk to compliance about those issues. That was one strong takeaway, more tactical than strategic.

The other takeaway for me was that we need -- I, as USC's athletic director really need -- to embrace the concept of our guys here who really want to go to the NFL and NBA. The discussion was, 'We're kidding ourselves if we don't believe in our heart that every one of these guys want to go to the NFL or NBA. So, if you start with that, then that's OK. Embrace that, but have a dual track where you can encourage that and support that, but on the other hand it's not mutually exclusive to doing well in school. I have been one that often starts with a negative and says, 'Hey, your odds of going to the NFL are remote.' We can kinda flip the switch a little bit. That's not what they want to hear. If they're gonna trust us -- and they may never, our student-athletes may never trust a bunch of guys who are a lot older than they, in suits -- we're gonna have to kinda think how they think. And I guess maybe a third takeaway, as I'm thinking here now, is really having some sort of ombudsman in the athletic department that can really be a counselor to them, that is viewed independent of us and that can give them real advice about choosing an agent and what do you do if you sign a big contract and those kinds of things. It was useful to me to hear the other Pac-10 athletic directors who've been doing this much longer than I and I came away with some interesting concepts, but for me personally it was really a different mindset for me.

(Roberts, on his own takeaways)

I've been here relatively a short period of time -- roughly six, seven months now -- and I'll give you a few takeaways from the athletic compliance point of view. The first one was gratifying to me. We heard a lot of what our colleagues in the other conferences are doing and I can report to you that we're pretty much doing what they're doing and we've come up with some of the ideas, as Pat said, to use extenders. We're using our strength and conditioning people, our video people, our equipment people and making sure that they're educated and they're letting us know what's going on, so that was a very good feeling. Another point, and we've talked about it in the professional sports panel that we have, is getting to our athletes right off the bat, when they first get here or even before. The views they have are ones they may even have been formed before they get here, so we have to have an open mind. The last thing that was talked about that is very much in the future is changing legislation, whether it be what the NFL does or the NFLPA or the NCAA, and there were some creative ideas there too that were clearly down the road.

(Jackson, on his)

It was a great room of people that were willing to engage in thoughtful discussion and came up with a lot of great thoughts and topics. I think for me, simply, the way we broke it down at the end of the day was we looked at how we can operate within a current framework of rules to be effective administrators, and with the current landscape that's out there we looked at ways to build our relationship with the NCAA and our compliance office, but, more importantly, ways that we can reach our student-athletes to protect their integrity, to protect their eligiblity and do the things necessary for them to succeed on all levels as student-athletes. Within that framework, there's a lot we can do. We can communicate better, we can build a level of trust, we can start earlier with the education process. I think one thing that was evident to us was how early does that have to start. Different sports have different examples but that's something we're very cognizant of and trying to make a real strong effort to do that more effectively. I think the agent perspective for us, having those folks in the room, really gave us the front-line perspective of what's out there -- things that maybe we're not aware of and the true realities of the situation. We have to work within that framework, but where does that framework maybe fall short? And that's the reality of the situation. What we've discussed -- really, the second part of the discussion was -- was 'OK, that's the reality, how are we going to do that moving forward? How can we best serve these athletes moving forward? And that conversation revolved around an idea or a concept to develop a national, consistent curriculum that satisfies all agendas involved, and those are the agendas of all the different groups that were in the room today. One thing that came out of this summit today was that there was a sense of cooperation from all entities to not only proactively educate better but to look at the system as a whole and to find way to possibly do it better. I think we did have some substantive ideas and thoughts, and from getting and gauging the response from people leaving I think it was a really worthwhile day in sum, and for us to take the lead as a university on it was I think really special.