NCAA seeks insight on rogue agents

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA is taking a new approach to weeding out rogue agents.

Hours after the NFL Players Association issued a statement opposing suspensions for college violations, an NCAA spokeswoman acknowledged Wednesday that such a punishment was not "currently" under consideration by a panel.

Later Wednesday night, spokeswoman Stacey Osburn confirmed in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the governing body had also been gathering information from former agent Josh Luchs.

The goal is to dissuade agents from providing improper benefits to college players -- and players from taking benefits and running to the NFL. The panel seeking solutions is looking at a wide range of possibilities.

"Everything is on the table and nothing is off it," said Rick Smith, a Chicago-based agent who serves on the panel. "And we're nowhere close to saying this is our proposal, so the NFLPA coming out with a statement is really premature."

The union, league, NCAA and other entities are discussing ways to halt the problem of agents, and college players, who break the rules. A series of high-profile cases are currently under investigation by the NCAA.

And now Luchs, who was decertified by the NFLPA last week, is helping, too.

Luchs recently told Sports Illustrated that he paid more than 30 college players from 1990 to 1996 to aggressively recruit players for his boss and is now out of the agent business.

Osburn said Luchs is not considered a consultant and Luchs said he is not being paid. Instead, he wants to make things right.

"They wanted to pique my brain and they wanted my input, and I told them of course, it's an honor," Luchs said in a phone interview. "I feel like the first 10 years of my career, I was part of the problem and now I have an opportunity to be part of the solution."

The NCAA is willing to take whatever help it can get.

On Monday, the NCAA said the panel would identify areas of "greater collaboration," including enforcement efforts by state officials dealing with sports agent laws. Two days later, the NFLPA made clear where it doesn't want the discussion to go.

"The NFLPA is opposed to any penalty being imposed upon a player in the NFL for conduct relating to the receipt of benefits in violation of NCAA rules while the player was in college," it said. "However, we will continue to discuss with the NCAA and others issues relating to the conduct of agents certified by the NFLPA as they interact with NCAA players."

So where do talks go from here? It's anybody's guess.

Current NCAA rules prohibit players from accepting gifts and money from agents or signing with them before their college careers end.

Any infringement of those rules can jeopardize an athlete's remaining eligibility and put the school in danger of facing additional NCAA sanctions, as was the case with Reggie Bush and USC's football team.

Smith told The Associated Press that the opening round of talks focused almost entirely on categories that need to be discussed.

One of those was post-NCAA enforcement, or penalties that could be imposed after the player turns pro, though Smith emphasized no formal proposals have been made and none is expected for at least three months.

The NCAA is treading carefully.

"It should be understood that the development of any post-NCAA penalty will be considered by the NFL and NFLPA and those groups will agree upon what is appropriate," Osburn said. "What's important is that at the current time all key stakeholders are discussing how best to address the issue."

Contact with agents has been a longtime concern for NCAA officials, dating back at least as far as the late 1980s when Cris Carter was declared ineligible before his senior season after the NCAA determined he had signed with an agent.

Now the NCAA is mounting a wide-ranging investigation into players at several schools.

Players at defending national champion Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina have all been caught up in the investigation, and six North Carolina players will not be allowed to play this season because of the probe.

Perhaps, Smith said, that is why five national championship-winning coaches -- Mack Brown, Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Bob Stoops and Jim Tressel -- urged the NCAA to bring all of these groups together.

"I think it's everybody finally putting their hands up and saying enough," Smith said. "They said it's time to stop talking and let's get to work.

Smith thinks the solution has to include stronger sanctions -- suspensions or not.

"I think at the end of the day some people have to have some healthy fear," he said. "Every group that is part of this problem -- the certified agent that crosses the line, the uncertified agent like the runners and the unscrupulous student-athlete -- there has got to be some fear of ramifications."