Agent-player relations remain concern in Big Ten

CHICAGO — Penn State running back Evan Royster will most likely be a mid-to-early-round draft pick in next year’s NFL draft.

The senior could have gone pro and made millions last year, but he decided to retain his eligibility and play out his senior year at Penn State. Still, when an agent contacts him to offer him money or gifts, he hangs up the phone.

“I will let them contact me or whatever,” he said. “If they’re going to offer me, it’s pretty much, shut the door. Coming from my family, that’s not the belief we have at all.”

The NCAA, of course, does not allow a student-athlete to accept gifts or contracts from agents until the completion of their collegiate career.

“I guess the way you gotta look at it is it’s just part of the game,” Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell said. “Whether it’s right or whether it’s wrong, it’s the rules, so if you want to play college football you gotta follow them.”

Players receiving money and gifts from agents has been a hot issue around college football in previous months. In July, sanctions were put on Southern California after former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush received a car when he was in college.

A few weeks ago, an offseason party in Miami which reportedly involved both agents and players from North and South Carolina was a main topic of conversation at SEC media days, culminating in Alabama coach Nick Saban comparing agents to pimps.

Big Ten coaches voiced their own opinions on the matter at the Big Ten Media Days at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago on Tuesday.

“If I cheat, I’m going to lose my job,” Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster said. “I’m going to be fired. Period. If an agent cheats, what happens to him? Nothing. The NFL Players Association has to get something together that says, ‘If an agent’s involved with an ineligible athlete, he needs to lose his license for a year, two years,’ whatever it may be.”

Brewster added that agents aren’t looking to simply pay athletes, but loan them money, which he said athletes sometimes fail to realize.

He also said players had to be on the lookout for rogue agents at media days.

“This place has been swarming with agents for the past two days,” Brewster said. “Agents are all over this city, they’re in the hotel. You think that there hasn’t been a ton of contact between agents and these seniors that are all here? It’s a joke.”

Wildcats building on ‘foundation of success’

With his team coming off back-to-back bowl appearances for just the second time in school history, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald emphasized the start of a “foundation of success” for his program to build upon.

One way the young coach is looking to do that is through continuity. Despite having a new starting quarterback for the third straight season, the former NU linebacker emphasized the seamless transition from year to year as an important key to continued success for the Wildcats.

“We’re one of only 27 teams in the country not to have a coaching change in the last year,” Fitzgerald said.

That kind of loyalty starts at the top. Fitzgerald is one of the youngest coaches in all of college football, and with a track record of success already, other programs or the NFL could come knocking with big offers sooner or later. However, Fitzgerald stressed that he’s at Northwestern for the long haul.

“I’m not here leasing the role or renting the role (of head coach at Northwestern),” Fitzgerald said. “My experience in the NFL was about as long as it’s taking me to drink this cup of coffee. I have no ambition for that.”