Category: NCAA Football

Agents Beware…

Georgia-based football agent Terry Watson has been arrested and charged with violating N.C. Gen. Stat. 78C- 85-105, a well established, yet rarely enforced North Carolina statute within the Uniform Athlete Agents Act. A grand jury in Orange County North Carolina recently indicted the 39-year old head of Watson Sports Agency on 13 counts of athlete agent inducement and 1 count of obstruction of justice.

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The alleged improprieties stem from Watson’s 2010 interactions with 3 University of North Carolina football players: Greg Little, Marvin Austin, and Robert Quinn. Little and Quinn were declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA and Austin was kicked off the team in 2010 for accepting impermissible benefits. All three now play in the NFL. The prosecution alleges Watson offered the former Tar Heels cash, airfare, lodging, and other benefits (totaling $24,000.000) to induce them to sign an agency contract while at UNC. Section 78C-98 of the Act prohibits any such interaction.

“An athlete agent with intent to induce a student-athlete to enter into an agency contract, shall not: … (2) Furnish anything of value to a student-athlete before the student-athlete enters into an agency contract.”

In my honest opinion, the kicker and real reason that the state of North Carolina is criminally prosecuting Watson stems from the obstruction of justice allegations (Side note: two things you absolutely cannot do with regards to big brother: Not pay your taxes and lie under oath). Watson allegedly on numerous occasions refused to provide financial records to investigators. If convicted, Watson faces probation or up to 15 months in prison, and civil fines up to $25,000 on the agent inducement charges, and up to 30 months on the obstruction charge. Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall stated that he believed this is the first time nationally that an agent has been criminally charged with violating sports agent laws. “The truth is the institutions and the athletes – they may not realize it – but they really pay a price over time for this activity,” Woodall said. “Everybody allows it to go on, it’s just a wink and a nod, and I think people’s attention needs to be brought to this. I mean, it’s against the law.”

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The N. C. Secretary of State’s office has been looking into agents’ interactions with UNC football players since 2010, when the NCAA began a probe that found widespread violations within the football program.

Former UNC tutor Jennifey Wiley Thompson was recently charged with four counts of athlete agent inducement for giving cash and gifts to Little and being reimbursed by Watson. Little told the Secretary of State’s office that he used Thompson as a go-between so the NCAA couldn’t find a direct payment from Watson to Little. Sure enough, the NCAA did not uncover the payments from Watson.

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Criminal prosecutions for violations of athlete-agent acts are exceedingly rare. More often, states fine agents for violations or simply ignore many improprieties. This case, perhaps due the nature of the relationship between the prosecutor’s office and Watson appears to send a message to the agent world. While the water due to the NCAA’s own undoing may be murky, an agency should be aware of the consequences of a blatant disregard of the rules.  Furthermore, when an entity or individual is charged with obstruction of justice, all bets are now off. The prosecution is attempting to effectively enact the death sentence.  While the agent world is indeed cutthroat, cold and paranoid, honest will always be the best policy. A 3% NFL player commission does not equal a 30-month stint in the joint. Just sayin.

The Pay For Play Debate Seems Unending

Unknown The question of whether college athletes should be paid for their on the field exploits has been argued for many years. With the recent investigations into Texas A & M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Oklahoma State University football program, and the recent admission, by Houston Texans and former University of Tennessee running back Arian Foster, that he received extra payments for food and rent while playing at Tennessee, the debate has reemerged.  

“I don’t know if this will throw us [Tennessee] into a NCAA investigation — my senior year, I was getting money on the side,: said Foster. I really didn’t have any money. I had to either pay rent or buy some food. I remember the feeling of like, ‘Man, be careful.’ But there’s nothing wrong with it. An you’re not going to convince me that there is something wrong with it.”

Those in favor of paying college athletes generally point to the amount of revenue the athletes generate for their universities. The argument has merit, but the logistical nightmare of figuring out how a payment scale would be structured seems to be a sizeable obstacle. There are 120 schools who participate in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), with discernible levels of talent.   Determining what to pay one player in comparison to another would be a dangerously subjective process.  Is the quarterback, arguably the player with the most impact on the outcome of the game, the highest paid player on the team? It has been reported that the vast majority of FBS schools’ athletic departments do not turn a profit. Is it practical to require every school in the FBS to pay their players? If the players become employees of the university, collective bargaining, and other union practices become an issue. If the players are not happy with what they are being paid, college football could face player holdouts and work stoppages similar to the National Football League and other professional leagues. images From a legal perspective, there is no doubt that attorneys throughout the nation would benefit from a flood of legal inquiries and litigation regarding contract disputes as well as endorsement deals. But would paying players create more problems than it solves? Anyone who has gone to college without the benefit of an athletic scholarship knows the value (at least monetary) of that education. Not every player, even the elite, succeeds at the next level. These athletes are being given a certified back-up plan free of charge. They are given free room and board and a meal plan. Those who are complaining that they cannot pay their rent or afford groceries are individuals who have chosen to live in on or off campus apartments. A student-athlete can live a more than comfortable life on scholarship at these schools.   Courts have historically pleaded for judicial efficiency hoping to avoid frivolous lawsuits and an overcrowding of dockets. Issues listed above, and a myriad of others, would no doubt entice clever attorneys to craft allegations and claims related to paying college athletes that would substantially impair that sought efficiency. It would help if the athletes themselves recognized the value in the education they are being given, but that is another subject for another day. Some would say, just leave it the way it is. Those who deserved to get paid to play will eventually get their day in the NFL, and those who do not (the vast majority), will wish they had taken advantage of a free diploma.

The Last Hurrah of the Big East

Watching the #21 Cardinals defeat the #3 Gators the day after New Years, I couldn’t help but think about the road ahead for the BCS games and what college football is going to look like with the play-off berths in place. For years now, the BCS has been the story of the haves and the have-nots; AQ conferences raking in the lion’s share or BCS revenue each year while non AQ conferences pick at the scraps.  Louisville is a Big East team–long enjoying the spoils of a royal AQ lifestyle.  The Big East have been splitting the vast majority of bowl revenues with the other five AQ conferences and enjoying automatic bowl berths for their champions.  That’s all changing, obviously. Under the new system, the Big East has been demoted to a second tier conference and will be sharing 27% of revenues alongside Mountain West, Conference USA, the Sun Belt, and the Mid-American conferences.  There’s one “at large” bowl berth for the highest ranked team amongst from the “Gang of Five.”  That’s a lot fewer cracks at bowl glory for a team like Louisville, and more importantly a lot less money for the school. The new system will bring changes to local expectations as well.  For years, the Fiesta Bowl has been a huge mainstay of the Phoenix economy as part of the BCS (ask Russell Pearce about that); the play-off system is going to require the Fiesta Bowl to bid if it wants to retain that prestigious position.  Phoenix will still host a bowl game, but it might draw a lot fewer eyeballs in the future. So all around, when I think of college bowl games, I think of the changes that are coming. College football fans are excited at the prospect of a system that seems–on its face–to be fair.  The idea that the hardest workers and top performers should rise is as American as football itself.  For years much of the clamor in the BCS world has resulted from “lesser” teams gaining lucrative bowl slots.  The idea that every team will have an equal shot at bowl game glory (and funding!) has been warmly received by football fans and the schools who hope to gain from that process. There are a lot of questions as to whether college football fans are going to get that result, however.  The selection committee which is going to rank teams and determine placements has yet to be established.  The devil is in the details, and while broadly illustrated criteria such as “strength of schedule” seem straightforward, time will tell how they are applied.  There’s also, again, the money and guaranteed slots.  While the AQ system is gone, the five AQ conferences who AREN’T Big East will still have automatic bowl access.  And those same five conferences will still receive the largest percentage of revenues under the play off system, allowing them to better fund their programs.  The plum perch of the ACC, the Big 10, Big 12, PAC 12, and SEC remains largely untouched. Ultimately, non AQ conferences are going to do much better under the play off system.  They’ll receive more money, have more opportunity for bowl participation, and in general there should be more money spread around among more teams.  But the old AQ royalty of college football survive, and I think its reasonable to suppose we’re going to be seeing those conferences benefit the most. Unless, of course, you’re a Cardinals fan.