ESPN.com reported Tuesday afternoon that Alabama officials are looking into a trip allegedly taken by rising junior defensive end Marcell Dareus to a Miami party hosted by an agent.
Dareus is the latest name linked to potentially improper dealings between athletes and the agents who stand to earn millions by landing them as clients.
Football players from South Carolina and North Carolina have also been linked to the same party as Dareus, but none have the amount of hype entering the 2010 season as the Huffman product does, who was the defensive MVP in January’s BCS National Championship game win against Texas.
While it is still unclear if the NCAA has opened an investigation into the matter, any further violations by the school would potentially be more troublesome for Alabama than the other schools mentioned. The school remains under NCAA probation stemming from the last summer’s ruling on the textbook scandal.
The issue at hand for Dareus surrounds who paid for the early-summer trip to Miami. According to NCAA rules, any athlete who accepts transportation or other benefits from an agent shall be ruled ineligible.
Communicating with an agent is not illegal, but there can be no talk of a contract of any form if the athlete hopes to retain eligibility.
Given the recent outbreak of stories involving players interacting with agents, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban told ESPN something needs to change.
“Right now, agents are screwing it up,” Saban said. “They are taking the eligibility of players. It’s not right that those players do the wrong thing.
“We have a great education process here. We have a full-time worker who meets with players and their families and does everything else.”
The school did not respond to requests for further comment Tuesday evening, but the topic is sure to be a hot one when Saban and Alabama players attend its turn at SEC Media Days today in Hoover.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive also addressed the issue of agents in an interview with the Associated Press conducted before the Dareus story appeared on ESPN.com. He said the SEC brought in a consultant to help member institutions deal with agents contacting players.
Alabama took a new step this spring to keep the two separate when it barred agents from attending the football program’s pro day, in which NFL scouts evaluated players eligible for the draft.
Dareus, projected as a top-10 draft pick in 2011 by several experts, is expected to be a star on the Tide’s rebuilt defense this fall. His tackle on Colt McCoy knocked the Texas All-American out of the BCS title game, in which Dareus also scored a touchdown after intercepting a shovel pass and putting a few moves on potential tacklers.
Dareus was also featured with linebacker Dont’a Hightower on one of the four covers for the program’s 2010 media guide.