So you didn’t think there was any upside to Washington State being the Officer Barbrady of college football these last couple of years?
At least when there isn’t a whiff of NFL talent on your team, the likelihood plummets that a parasite will come slinking around to lay a little bread on a player as earnest money now toward being his agent later. Which means envious teammates won’t be cadging similar handouts. Then when he’s disgraced and eyeing a book deal 15 years later, the ickball won’t re-emerge from the ooze to tell all – and maybe embellish a good bit – to a national magazine, dragging your school through the sleaze.
See? Isn’t all this losing worth it?
Well, suit yourself.
But if the Cougs ever truly make it back to competitive, some of their guys are going to be bankable in the eyes of subspecies we’ll call A Piece of the Action. And those fellows care not a whit about antediluvian morality, the NCAA, its bloated rulebook or any probation noogies.
They care about a percentage.
Of course, many of the players feel the same way.
We know this because a couple of weeks back, the NCAA suspended 13 North Carolina football players for doing business too early with an agent who purportedly employed a Tar Heels assistant coach as his wrangler. Before that, former USC running back Reggie Bush returned his Heisman after the Trojans were put on probation largely for goodies his family received from prospective agents.
Surely he wasn’t the only Trojan taking money; just the only one who burned someone and thus got ratted out to the NCAA.
And speaking of rats, now we have Josh Luchs, recently excommunicated from NFL agenthood, baring his shady past for Sports Illustrated – naming more than 30 players who he says took money from him before their college eligibility was exhausted. Five of those names were once stitched across the backs of crimson jerseys at WSU.
Three of them – Torey Hunter, Singor Mobley and John Rushing – helped the Cougs to two bowl games in the early 1990s. Mobley confirmed Luchs’ account to SI. Rushing declined comment. Hunter, the only one drafted and now an assistant coach at Eastern Washington, denied (see accompanying story) that he took so much as a dollar – though he knew teammates who did.
Luchs also said he had Ryan Leaf, who quarterbacked the Cougs to their first Rose Bowl in 67 years, on a monthly dole that Leaf, after signing with a different agent, eventually paid back with $10,000 in cash. Leaf has already copped to years of childish, rude and even criminal behavior recently in an earnest effort to rehabilitate himself and his image; for some reason, he would only acknowledge knowing Luchs. Maybe he understands the cockeyed mania that can forgive prescription drug abuse, but not defiling the chastity of college football.
Oh, and in an extra-classy move, Luchs said his payroll also included Leon Bender, who is no longer alive to defend himself. This man must bathe in 30-weight.
Enough players have confirmed Luchs’ story that we can believe some of it – but so what? Current events revealed as much. Do we care about 15-year-old dirt because it was dished here? Heck, we laugh now about Hugh McElhenny’s oft-told tale that he took a pay cut to go from the University of Washington to the NFL a half century ago. There is an NCAA statute of limitations that figures to derail any sanctions against the Cougars or other vulnerable schools – not unlike bogus instant replay rules that exist to “get the calls right,” but only in limited quantity.
But it’s clear that what Jose Canseco is to the culture of Getting Juiced, Luchs aspires to be in the culture of Getting Paid – and already there are corners proclaiming this story a “blockbuster.” Except all it will do is get a few preening senators to float some get-tough-with-agents legislation for their re-election profile, and it hardly takes a blockbuster to do that.
A blockbuster would change the landscape, and this won’t. The old British amateur ideal died its deserved death in golf, tennis and, finally, the Olympic Games. It survives only in American college athletics, as universities sold themselves to become the minor leagues for the NFL and NBA. Now, not just the entertainment divisions of those institutions, but the academic sides as well, get fat on the sweat and broken bones of young men, who receive a college education – not an inconsiderable return, until it’s contrasted against the obscene salaries of their coaches and the billions reaped in TV ca-ching.
The sad fact is, Josh Luchs was more up front about his endeavor than the schools are. That’s hardly a flattering comparison.
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