While we were stuck in the quagmire of the agent scandal two weeks ago Nick Saban's famous "pimp" quotes brought the reigning national champion coach plenty of flack. As he railed against the agents preying on the players.
A lot of folks went straight for the "Saban is bad" tagline and ignored the fact that Saban was asking for help with a system that ultimately holds the players responsible as agents, runners and financial advisors skate through the cracks. His message was lost due to his history of job hopping and the hypocrisy instantly associated with $aban chasing the dollars on the backs of 17-23 year old athletes.
Today one of Saban's pupils, Jimbo Fisher, waxes a bit more eloquently. In an interview with The Mac Attack out of Charlotte, NC the host Chris McClain questions Fisher about the recent agent issues surrounding college football and how he thought the NCAA, institutions and outside organizations should tackle the agent problem.
While Fisher doesn't go full "pimp" a la Saban he does drop the mob as a relationship that is analogous to how the world of dirty (not all) agents works. Saban's analogy focused on the predatory and lawless nature with which agents send runners, financial advisors and marketing agents out to prowl the campus and the lack of support from the NFL. Fisher takes this point, that most folks missed, and expounds upon it from several angles.
Compliance, smaller staff sizes, lack of centralized "football living quarters" are hit on by Fisher before he gets to the top down enforcement Saban touched on two weeks ago. The mob, perhaps the most notorious organization in American crime is dialed up as a method of describing the dynamic that exists between agents/agencies, the runners and the players.
Agents sit at the top as the Don. The Michael Corleone. The Tony Soprano. The Vito Genovese. The John Gotti. They're the bosses in this game. Their hands stay clean, hence Fisher's allusion to the RICO act what with the lack of big time mafia bosses that actually saw significant prison time in comparison to the underlings doing the leg work.
The structure is there; folks like the underboss, caporegime, soldier and associate all playing their part in concert with the agent. Starting at the bottom associates and soldiers are the players, the least connection but they're the earners. They do the dirty work, in this case build up earning potential through their play and draft stock. Always removed from the agent himself, these are the ones who are the first to fall when things go awry.
Moving up the chain you get your capos and the underboss.The folks who get in good with the associates. Instead of breaking legs, strong arming businesses and rubbing guys out they're getting in good with the players. These are the "runners" building the client base and making sure to diversify the Don's income stream by hopping from school to school. These are the guys meeting the mother, father, aunt or cousin who might be an "in" to another big pay day.
They're brokering the deals, making sure the money comes in and the "associate" stays happy and able to keep earning that potential income; because unlike the real "mob" the Don's whole game here is predicated on fat contracts in the next few years. It is an investment that pays dividends on the backend and once the associate is in the family's pocket they will forever owe them.
Now every agent doesn't operate in this fashion but the ones who do are slimy, ruthless and cut throat in their push to get young men to make poor decisions.Get the player to make a bad decision through plying him with gifts and that player is in your debt. If he tries to leave his association with the family he risks exposure and the possible loss of his eligibility.
Bear in mind folks, neither Fisher, Saban or myself have absolved the players or universities of their due responsibility. Compliance,education and due diligence are required from the player-coach-university angle.However, the ultimate issue broached by both Fisher and Saban is the need for enforcement from above; both the NFL and legal action.
If pressure isn't put on the agents and agencies that send their underlings out to do their bidding then what motivation is their from the agent side to stop?