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Thursday, October 14, 2010
Opening the mailbag: Agents, agents everywhere

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

"The Situation" doesn't follow the Pac-10 blog on Twitter. Therefore, you are just like him if you don't either.

So do.

To the notes.

SD Zald from San Diego writes: Ted, being that sports agents are all the news these days I have a question for you, more from a curiosity stand point. How involved are you personally in sports agents? Do you get information from them and do they ask favors in return? How much influence do you think sports agents have in shaping what is happening in college sports? Do you personally think that the NCAA's rules for governing agents and student athletes are outdated?

Ted Miller: When I was a columnist at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer covering all sports, I regularly talked to agents. Part of the deal. You learn as you go who has an agenda and can't be trusted and who is (mostly) a straight-shooter.

Since I've been doing the Pac-10 blog, that's not the case. There isn't as much need because I don't cover the post-eligibility side that much. I don't have anything against agents. And if I needed to talk to one for a story, I would. Scott Boras and Leigh Steinberg have both given me some great insights for past stories. What you need to realize about agents: Good reporters would not use them as a single-source for most news stories, due to their having an obvious agenda.

I have been contacted by agents. They will offer story ideas about clients -- typically features with some sort of feel-good angle. If it's a good idea, I'd do the story, though the agent would have no influence on how I executed the story. Some agents will contact reporters during contract disputes to give their side of the conflict. Nothing wrong with that. Or with listening, as long as the ear -- and the subsequent reporting -- maintains a fair and critical distance.

I've been contacted by agents who represent coaches who are angling for their client to get touted for a job. I would never write a guy is a serious candidate for a job if I didn't believe he was. When I was covering Washington, I was contacted by the agent for a well-known NFL assistant who wanted to be a candidate for the Huskies head coaching vacancy after Rick Neuheisel was fired. This story came out of that.

As for influence: Agents don't have influence, money does. We shouldn't see the players as wan little innocents. They know the rules. If they take money, they are breaking the rules. The vast majority of these players aren't taking money to help their sick grandmamas or to put food on their tables. They want stuff. They want to go clubbing with a full wallet.

Do I think there is a subculture out there in football, not unlike big-time basketball, where players are steered a certain way even before they get to college by agents or their representatives? Yes. In all regions of the country. But I can't prove it.

What should the NCAA's response be? Not sure what it can do. Title IX complicates everything. You can't allow players in the revenue sports to get paid because then all college athletes would have to be paid, based on Title IX. Perhaps the NCAA could set up a separate clearinghouse for agents to provide approved extra benefits to potential clients that would fall outside of Title IX coverage, but that probably would become a black hole of unintended consequences and corruption.

The NFL could do a better job of policing agents. Just imagine if a permanent ban from the NFL for agents -- and agencies -- was enacted for providing money and gifts to athletes with remaining eligibility. Sure there would be a lot fewer $100 handshakes.

Jeremy from Seattle writes: I'm just curious: will the Luchs confession about agents paying players mean that USC is more likely to win it's appeal? I know the cases are different, but it seems like with the new developments, the NCAA might reconsider.

Ted Miller: It probably should but it probably won't. The Appeals Committee has guidelines that limit its flexibility when considering appeals, in large part because the NCAA doesn't want appeals to be successful.

But you know how judges always tell juries not to read newspapers during trials? It's likely the members of the Appeals Committee will have read newspapers, and it is possible the changed environment today will at least color their ultimate ruling.

It should.

Jason from Los Angeles writes: Colorado took some heat after students rushed the field against a 1-4 Georgia team. We were 4.5 point underdogs at home and it was a night game at Folsom Field. We won on a fumble recovery inside a minute. Stanford was a 9 point favorite at home against an unranked, depleted USC team with a last second field goal and their fans stormed the field.

Ted Miller: The Pac-10 blog is not a fun police. If you want to storm the field after a win, storm the field.

Just make sure the game is over and your team has won*

*This is called the "Arizona Rule."

Alex from Las Vegas writes: Why is the Pac-10 considering a 9-game regular season schedule? Nine conference games plus a championship will make it very difficult for the Pac-10 champion to get a gaudy enough record to make it to the BCS championship. Ditto for the runner up to get an at-large invitation.

Ted Miller: Alex, but it's the wave of the future!

Both the 12-team Big Ten and the 10-team Big 12 will play nine-game conference schedules, starting in 2011. The Big 12/10 no longer will have a championship game, so it will basically become the old Pac-10, only with far more exotic destination cities.

It will be interesting to see if the ACC and SEC eventually do the same. Obviously, the eight-team Big East can't.

Clark from New Orleans wrote: You drop LSU a spot this week in your version of the Power Poll after the Tigers go on the road to beat Florida?Just get it over with and move Oregon State above LSU, too. You're a hack for the West, young man.

Ted Miller: I could be all snarky but I actually think you're right. That was a bad ranking move on my part. I'm going to play my Power Rankings this week as if I had LSU 15th, which is where I wish I had them last week.

And I'm actually a hack from Atlanta.

Nathan from Eugene writes:  I don't know if you heard about the friendly bet between former Oregon player Ed Dickson and John Harbaugh (of the Ravens), but here is the aftermath.

Ted Miller: Ha! That's good. Wonder if Jim Harbaugh saw that one?