The NCAA has had their hands full this past year dealing with agents, free hotel stays, pay for play schemes, trading of merchandise, coaches lying to them and most recently what appears to be a fantabulous gambling-weed distributing ring in lovely San Diego. That's a lot on their plate and with rulings still to come for several schools you'd think they'd be hard at work getting penalties handed down to the universities sitting in limbo.
You'd be wrong. They have yet to even address the USD situation, at least publicly, but they have taken the time to shoot an email to the NFL offices. An email that they asked to be forwarded to both players invited to the larger NFL/NFLPA draft events AND agents/draftees in the upcoming draft.
Basically the warning is as follows:
The letter from NCAA director of player security services Dena Garner emphasized that players not eligible for this year's draft can't receive benefits or services such as travel, lodging, meals or entertainment if they attend such parties. Each college athlete must pay for all of those things or he could violate NCAA rules.
In bold letters, Garner wrote: "Please do not jeopardize the NCAA eligibility of your friends or former teammates."
That said no one has actually seen the text of the letter. Even given my myriad of both real life friends and internet resources I've been unable to acquire the actual letter itself. Still working on it but given the leaked information I think it is fair to ask for some clarification given how difficult this is to truly comprehend for myself as a former player.
Here are my questions after reading the information:
Most draft parties I've been to or heard of are at a restaurant/bar or a house and they have free food and beer for all the attendees. Do the "current players" have to pay money for something that the hosts have already paid money to provide for all guests?
What makes a paid for draft party any different than when a teammate or teammate's parents take a group of players out for dinner or renting out a bar for drinks?
Does the NCAA really believe that at the draft party, when a client is waiting for the biggest phone call of their life, that this is the time agents run their game on current players?
Regarding travel, how do they distinguish between teammates grabbing a ride together vs footing a plane ticket for a friend? They're both free transportation if one teammate doesn't "put in" on gas.
When speaking to lodging, does staying at a friend's house count as an extra benefit? What about staying at a beach house that one teammate or former teammate's parents rent out? Is that different from a hotel, if so how?
I ask these questions because they are the first ones that pop into my mind when this situation is being discussed. These are legitimate situations that I've both witnessed and experienced. Teammates and teammates folks have cook outs with free food all the time, hell during the bowl game in 04 we had several folks over to my house for dinner. After games friends parents often take players out to eat and on special occassions parents have been known to open the bar up for teammates and friends.
Does the draft make these ordinarily ok actions taboo? Are these actions never ok?
Regarding agents, having been around the whole situation and the stress of it all the last thing on the businessman's mind is not worrying about his current client's future in favor or prospecting for next year. The best thing that agent can do for hoping to ink the current client's teammates is show that he's dedicated to the cause, that means working the phones keeping the waiting player updated on where he stands.
I've driven teammates home. I've rode home with teammates. I've driven out of my way to the beach to pick up another athlete and allowed said athlete to stay at my house for a week; all for free, is that a violation? When does friend stop and extra benefit begin?
If the NCAA is going to be vague in an attempt to scare off players from their teammates greatest career moments where is the line? I'm halfway shocked they didn't decide to retroactively investigate Mike Pouncey for being at Maurkice, his twin, Pouncey's draft festivities last year. In keeping with the Pouncey theme, what if Xavier Nixon, a guy who played one season with Maurkice, two seasons with Mike on what I'd consider to be one of the tightest knit groups on a football team, the offensive line, is invited to Mike's big day.
Should he sit it out because he's worried? Should he bring his own ground beef and a six pack to the cook out just to be safe?
The issue here isn't the warning because yes if these are agent sponsored meetings the athletes need to be wise. The issue here is the vague nature of their somewhat threatening warning to athletes. Be specific, let guys know what is and is not allowed instead of pouncing on a tip and snatching a kids eligibility away.