Caulton Tudor

Rule-breaking athletes need to be accountable

Posted November 4, 2013
Updated November 5, 2013

— While NC State fans are no doubt uneasy about news that a former football player Eric Leak continues to be a concern for the school, there seems to be little question that campus leaders are taking measures to maintain institutional control.

A report by WRAL Investigates makes it clear that while the Leak situation will continue to create anxiety on both the rules and image fronts, there’s no evidence that State has been inattentive to the potential lurking damage.

Barred booster shared townhouse, cars with former Pack players Browder: Barred booster shared townhouse, cars with former Pack players

As this story continues to unfold, Wolfpack fans and officials will ask themselves some of the same questions that have been posed at North Carolina, Ohio State, Southern Cal and any other school that has had to deal with agent/player contacts.

That question: How do you stop it?

The answer, unfortunately, is you probably can’t.

Shift Accountability to Athletes?

There are some radical cures being floated, the most popular of which is finding a way to put more of the onus on rules-breaking players.

One possibility in that regard is to completely revamp the scholarship agreement model, which essentially is a year-to-year casual contract between the school and the player (or player’s guardian in some cases).

If the scholarship agreement included a clause that made a player financially responsible for monetary and/or image damage that he or she knowingly brought upon the school, there’s little doubt that the extent of such rules violations would be decreased many times over.

But is it possible to incorporate such a clause into scholarship contracts? There’s much disagreement in the legal community. For one thing, the athlete would need to hire a lawyer before signing. Otherwise, such a contract almost certainly would be spiked by judges.

That said, the vast majority of the players who break the rules with agents understand what they’re doing when they’re doing it. In some cases, the athlete even initiates contact.

If UNC’s Marvin Austin or Southern Cal’s Reggie Bush knew they could have been sued for damages by their schools when they deliberately accepted illegal goods and money, there’s good reason to think they would have abided by the rules.

A more feasible solution might be to allow any college athlete to turn pro at any time regardless of the situation.

Here’s an example: After a great performance, let’s say an agent offered the athlete a $1 million signing bonus on the spot if he would quit the team immediately to avoid any injury risk during the remainder of the season.

Fans would be outraged, of course, but having the option to cash in on his accomplishments immediately might eliminate temptation for the athlete to break rules that would endanger the reputation of the rest of his team and the school.

Agents give college basketball and football players money and gifts for only one reason  - to land future clients. But that business model doesn’t work well in most other sports. In tennis, golf, baseball, soccer, etc., the athlete can go pro straight out of high school. College golfers and tennis players can turn pro when they chose, even in the middle of a college season.

A third route is the one the state of North Carolina is pursuing by aggressively going after rules-breaking agents and agent intermediaries. If the legal consequences are severe enough, there’s reason to assume at least some agents will abide by the statues.

But under-the-table payments are almost impossible to stop, whether the donor is an agent or overzealous fan. That practice has been going for decades and no doubt will continue to some extent regardless of state or even federal laws. And paying athletes a salary will not stop illicit money from changing hands.

For now, NCSU seems to be doing its best to protect both its borders and reputation. But ultimately, the first and last lines of defense are the athletes. That aspect of the equation may never change.

26 Comments

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  • Objective Scientist Nov 8, 1:46 p.m.

    Read this article, made a comment, then failed to look at it for several days. Just "scanned" through all of them... and there are some good comments. I'll add some additional thoughts;

    Whoever "writes the rules' - be it the NCAA or the Conference or the University - the rules should be simply and unequivocally stated - clear and 'to the point' - with no more rules than are absolutely necessary. All - ALL - to whom the rules apply - the Universities if the rule is from the NCAA or Conference, the athletic program administrators and every member of a coaching staff, and the PLAYERS/ATHLETES are all held responsible for KNOWING THE RULES and are accountable when they are broken! ESPECIALLY including the players/athletes. For the players/athletes... there MUST be clear consequences of a rule violation... including LOSS of SCHOLARSHIP, and REPAYMENT of scholarship costs and services/materials/equipment, etc. supplied to the athlete, etc., etc., etc. I could go on and on with examples. Bottom line - those INDIVIDUALS who violate rules should suffer significant consequences.

  • StunGunn Nov 7, 2:28 p.m.

    Allowing a player to go pro at any point in the season is neither fair nor feasible to a coach... View More

    — Posted by StunGunn

    Another option in dealing with impermissible benefits is to make them permissible. I would much... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Ken, like you said in another post, if the NCAA closes a loophole, somebody will develop another, and that is probably true as far as academics go as well. Look at what happened at Carolina. I'm OK with easy classes like "Rocks for Jocks", but I don't condone grades being changed, no-show classes, and things like that. There are young people who are very gifted athletically, but not academically. Where would these people go? The NCAA has dictated players be one year removed from HS to play in the NBA and (I think) three years removed from HS to play in the NFL. Other than playing in Europe, college provides the avenue for these kids to satisfy NCAA requirements.

    Tough situation, with no obvious answer. I agree with you: I'd rather see things done over the table instead of under it.

  • BISHOP5 Nov 6, 6:32 p.m.

    Allowing a player to go pro at any point in the season is neither fair nor feasible to a coach... View More

    — Posted by StunGunn

    Another option in dealing with impermissible benefits is to make them permissible. I would much... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Translation - it's not the athlete's fault for breaking the rules. Now then, anybody here willing to man up & take responsibility for the actions of others?
    Anybody will do. lol

  • Jewelry-EricLeak Nov 5, 9:18 p.m.

    Let's have NC State open their doors wide to investigation as UNC did. There will of course be... View More

    — Posted by QC

    ...exactly WHEN did unc "open their doors?" LMFAO They stone-walled with every fiber... View More

    — Posted by uncsuckz

    LMFAO at a fanbase that worships the NCAA's KING of cheaters, Jim Valvano

  • jmcdow2792 Nov 5, 5:15 p.m.

    Allowing a player to go pro at any point in the season is neither fair nor feasible to a coach... View More

    — Posted by StunGunn

    Another option in dealing with impermissible benefits is to make them permissible. I would much... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    I think you have hit the nail on the head. The rules are way to complicated and way to extensive. For example; if I as a minimal contributor (defined as booster) to State happen to meet a high school player, say working at the local McDonald's, and I casually say to him that he should think about attending State, then I have broken the NCAA rules. A lot of these rules are ridiculous. I don't pretend to know what the rules should be. However, I would think that a small committee of in the know people could come up with a complete rewrite given the guidance that the rules need to be simplified and made less restrictive on many fronts.

  • uncsuckz Nov 5, 4:42 p.m.

    Let's have NC State open their doors wide to investigation as UNC did. There will of course be... View More

    — Posted by QC

    ...exactly WHEN did unc "open their doors?" LMFAO They stone-walled with every fiber in their bank account....and still are.

  • Ken D. Nov 5, 3:32 p.m.

    Allowing a player to go pro at any point in the season is neither fair nor feasible to a coach... View More

    — Posted by StunGunn

    Another option in dealing with impermissible benefits is to make them permissible. I would much... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Hey that's right up there with making drugs legal to eliminate the drug problem, or giving... View More

    — Posted by 6Pack

    The Olympics had this exact problem. They solved it by letting the athletes receive... View More

    — Posted by uBnice

    And it wouldn't make the agents and runners any less sleazy. It would just allow them to slither out from underneath their rocks and operate in the open.

    My point is that there isn't anything inherently unethical or tawdry about players being rewarded for being good at what they do. The only thing that makes them (the players) "guilty" is that there are unreasonable rules in the first place.

  • uBnice Nov 5, 2:16 p.m.

    Allowing a player to go pro at any point in the season is neither fair nor feasible to a coach... View More

    — Posted by StunGunn

    Another option in dealing with impermissible benefits is to make them permissible. I would much... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Hey that's right up there with making drugs legal to eliminate the drug problem, or giving... View More

    — Posted by 6Pack

    The Olympics had this exact problem. They solved it by letting the athletes receive compensation. Ending prohibition did not solve the alcohol addiction problem but it sure took the violent culture surrounding illegal alcohol away.

  • 6Pack Nov 5, 1:27 p.m.

    Allowing a player to go pro at any point in the season is neither fair nor feasible to a coach... View More

    — Posted by StunGunn

    Another option in dealing with impermissible benefits is to make them permissible. I would much... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Hey that's right up there with making drugs legal to eliminate the drug problem, or giving amnesty to illegals who sneak into our country so they are no longer law breakers. That's the best idea I've heard yet. While we are at it, let's make sure we create as many rules as possible to penalize the players who follow the rules. Then we can change the name from NCAA to department of collegiate sports oversight. The government doesn't have control of that yet.

  • Ken D. Nov 5, 11:31 a.m.

    Allowing a player to go pro at any point in the season is neither fair nor feasible to a coach... View More

    — Posted by StunGunn

    Another option in dealing with impermissible benefits is to make them permissible. I would much rather have NCAA enforcement efforts directed to making sure athletes are legitimate students making satisfactory progress toward a degree.

    I don't care all that much if the star athlete is getting rewarded for his performance. So are star lawyers, and musicians, and doctors, etc.

    As fast as the NCAA finds a way to close one loophole, somebody will develop another. This is a war the NCAA can't win.

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