It’s a harrowing but accurate assessment.
“At the end of the day, in my humble opinion, if an agent really wants to get to a player he will get to a player,” Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said.
The confirmation of that thought came earlier in the week when Sports Illustrated ran a first-person account from former low-level agent Josh Luchs. Luchs said he paid several Pac-10 players, including former Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf, during the ’90s. No players from Washington were named.
Sarkisian joked that he went to BYU, so “We didn’t see a lot of that stuff.” But the guys at USC did.
Reggie Bush’s alleged exchanges with an agent led to the current embarrassment the Trojans are dealing with. Now in charge of his own program, Sarkisian says he tries to curtail opportunity for agents.
“You do your best to limit their access as far as obviously practice time,” Sarkisian said. “What our responsibility is as coaches is to educate our players to the best of our abilities so when they get put in those situations, and we aren’t around, that they make really good decisions. That’s why we are educators first before coaches. … You’ve got to make great decisions and we need to educate them on making great decisions.”
It’s the not being around part that is a key issue. Coaches’ access to their players is limited. No such issues for agents.
“You can only do so much, you’re not around a kid 24/7,” former Washington quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo said. “Those guys have opportunity around them longer than you do. Hopefully you have a great relationship with the kid and that advice you do give them, hopefully they’ll heed that and they do listen and understand why you can’t take things from agents and not get in trouble. All you can do is give them the facts and talk to them and hopefully they respect you enough to listen to you.”
Tuiasosopo said he saw runners but not agents during his time at Washington, and “I never ever heard of (the runners) giving money or them taking care of stuff with my teammates.”
Tuiasosopo’s father, Manu, was the “buffer” between Marques and agents looking to get a hand wrapped around him. Marques Tuiasospo read the same Sports Illustrated story. It was not surprising.
“No, not really,” Marques Tuiasosopo said. “Kind of is what it is in that world. Those guys are trying to get a leg up and get some of these kids to come out and put these kids in hard positions. A lot of kids make the right decisions, some kids don’t.”
Limiting the interaction is difficult. The multi-layered NCAA is unable to police agent interaction. A powerful deterrent could come from the NFL if the league banned any agent that had contact with amateur players or banned any former amateur player that took money. That is unlikely, leaving the schools to wade through yet another aspect of the greasy money side of college football.
“We can keep them off campus, but if they want to see our players down the street and a player agrees to doing that, there’s nothing we can do about that,” Sarkisian said. “There’s a lot of things going on in this world that 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids can make mistakes in dealing with and that’s obviously one of them.
“It’s a tough situation. It’s going to take a lot of people involved to try to corral that thing and it’s hard right now.”