Saban, Meyer call for unscrupulous agents to face discipline

University of Alabama coach Nick Saban didn't pull punches Wednesday at the Southeastern Conference Media Day when discussing the improper contact with college athletes by unscrupulous agents, comparing the agents' behavior to that of a "pimp."

Saban also said he wants the NFL Players Association to get involved and suspend agents whose dealings help cost players eligibility, sending a message through their bank accounts.

"That's the only way we're going to stop this happening, because it's ridiculous and it's entrapment for young people at a very difficult time in their life," said Saban, who coached the Miami Dolphins from 2005-06. "It's very difficult for the NCAA to control it, and it's very unfair to college football.

"I think we should look into doing something about that."

Florida coach Urban Meyer said it's impossible for a coach to keep agents or their "runners" off campus and that they need to be "severely punished" by either state laws or the NFL for wrongdoing.

"It's epidemic right now," Meyer said at the SEC event. "It's always been there, but I think we've reached a point where the magnitude of college football is really overwhelming. We've really got to keep an eye on that."

The NFL, though, seems unlikely to get involved. Told of Meyer's comments, league spokesman Greg Aiello noted in an e-mail exchange with The Associated Press: "The agents are regulated by the union."

Asked whether the NFL might prod the NFLPA on the matter, Aiello wrote: "The union's comments make clear that no encouragement is necessary."

In an appearance on ESPN radio earlier Wednesday -- before Saban's remarks -- NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said: "I think that any agent or contract adviser who does that, and preys upon kids like that in college, is something that we're going to deal with extremely aggressively. Frankly, God help those agents if they're found to be in violation, because I've given our players ... the green light to take the most aggressive steps that they want to take.

"If those steps include me or someone else in our office making a criminal referral under certain circumstances, that's what we'll do."

Saban was upset about the rash of recent agent-related incidents that have resulted in NCAA investigations at several Southeastern Conference schools.

"I don't think it's anything but greed that's creating it right now on behalf of the agents," Saban said during a rant at the Southeastern Conference media day. "The agents that do this -- and I hate to say this, but how are they any better than a pimp?

"I have no respect for people who do that to young people. None. How would you feel if they did it to your child?"

Meyer said the amount of money available in NFL contracts has fueled the problem.

"The intensity to get them to sign these ridiculous contracts that are being signed is unprecedented as far as the agressiveness of these agents to go secure players," Meyer said.

Agents, not national titles, were the primary topic on Day 1 at the Wynfrey Hotel. Three SEC teams -- Florida, Alabama and South Carolina -- are investigating allegations involving improper contact with an agent. Saban and SEC commissioner Mike Slive emphatically said it was time for a change to NCAA rules governing agents.

Slive said he wanted the NCAA to change its philosophy for dealing with agents from one based on rules enforcement to a policy that is more oriented toward educating student-athletes.

He said the current NCAA rules "may be as much part of the problem as they are the solution."

Saban confirmed that Alabama is looking into a trip defensive end Marcell Dareus took to an agent's party at Miami's South Beach. South Carolina is looking into claims from the same South Beach party with tight end Weslye Saunders.

Florida and the NCAA are reportedly investigating whether offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey -- now an NFL rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers -- received $100,000 from a sports agent's representative between the SEC championship game and the Sugar Bowl.

"I did not accept $100,000, it is an absolutely ridiculous claim," he said in a statement through his attorney. "I have completely cooperated with the investigation and answered any and all questions put to me."

It's hardly just an SEC issue, and it appears the rest of college football is paying attention.

At Miami, players said Wednesday they're reminded "constantly" about the rules prohibiting contact with agents. And the investigations that have come out in recent days led to a reiteration of those rules, Hurricanes wide receiver LaRon Byrd said.

"It's kind of crazy," Byrd said. "You look at things like that, and I feel like those guys are being selfish, not looking out for the team. That's something we always instill. It's all about teamwork here. I would not put my teammates in danger, in jeopardy of losing games or damaging this program because I want to be greedy and take gifts or take things."

Alabama is among SEC schools that use former NFL executive Joe Mendes to counsel players and families about dealing with agents. Heisman Trophy running back Mark Ingram said Tide players are educated about dealing with agents or their representatives.

"We have a great program in our organization that teaches us how to deal with situations like that," said Ingram, a junior. "Everybody is educated on how to deal with situations and how to approach those situations.

"My focus is on this team and this football season. Anything else is irrelevant."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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