If you haven’t read Mark Schlabach’s piece on the Green saga, stop and do so right now. It goes a long way towards filling in the gaps about how the NCAA wound up on Georgia’s doorstep in the first place, why it took the organization the time it did to reach a decision about the suspension and why the unusual language about agent involvement appeared as it did in the NCAA’s announcement.
Based on that and a few other things I saw on the intertubes yesterday, here are some follow ups:
- It’s not the honesty with the investigation that matters as much as the honesty behind the original decision to sell the jersey. Quite frankly, it strains credulity to believe, as Hawkins insists, that neither party was aware that memorabilia sales are a no-no under current NCAA rules. Both sides have been in the arena and I have a very hard time believing that neither has received compliance training on the matter (particularly in A.J.’s case, seeing as he’s a member of the program that played a fundamental role in the rule being instituted in the first place).
- Georgia is going to have a tough time on appeal. I don’t see much for the school to hang its hat on, other than the obvious misrepresentations made by Hawkins to Green. But it’s still hard to avoid A.J.’s willing participation in the transaction. Is there something in the background that may have colored his judgment, as evidently was the case with Dareus? The school had better hope so.
- Chris Hawkins is the perfect nightmare. If you’re Mark Richt, Nick Saban, Urban Meyer or the coach at any other high-profile program, this story is going to keep you up at night. Hawkins isn’t an agent in the formal sense, nor is he employed by one. He’s a free-lancer trying to make a play by building relationships with players and agents in the hopes of brokering contacts. He’s not somebody you can ask the NFL to regulate and if you’re a college coach, you’ll never see his like coming at your players until it’s too late.
- If Hawkins is the perfect nightmare, college football presents the perfect storm for him. There’s no outlet for young football players to get paid for plying their trade; they have no choice but to go to college for at least three years in the hopes of some day signing a professional contract. Meanwhile, they observe the money flow to schools. I’m not saying this to excuse A.J. Green, but it’s also not hard to see how a sense of entitlement can build up as you watch the school make money from your name while denying you the very same opportunity. As I said yesterday, I believe in the NCAA’s goal of preserving some sense of amateurism in the sport. And for a host of reasons, I don’t think it’s practical (or likely legal) to pay some or all college football players and stop there. But the schools have a responsibility that I think is being woefully neglected, and that is to find the pressure points and devise ways to ease the sore spots. Whether that’s better education, formalizing a process by which players can sign with agents/financial advisors while still playing college ball or more radical steps like convincing the NFL to fund a developmental league that would pay players (yeah, right) I don’t know, but the schools had better start coming up with something. I’m afraid that what we’re seeing right now is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
- I wouldn’t want to be North Carolina’s athletic director today. That one’s pretty much obvious on its face, isn’t it?
UPDATE: If you want to hear how A.J.’s Pied Piper came on to him, check out these Hawkins quotes from Joe Schad’s Twitter feed –
Hawkins: “Why can the NCAA and Universities can sell these kids jerseys and one that is given to the kid he can’t sell if he chooses to? …
Hawkins: ” I bet a scholarship costs $150,000 but the NCAA and Universities make millions off you….”
Hawkins: “Why is it a problem if I want to buy his jersey from him when he’s the one who performed for it?”
Sure, he didn’t know it was a rule violation. Sure.