Posted on 21 July 2010.
With the recent news of several college football players, including former Florida offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey and UNC potential All-American DT Marvin Austin taking part in a party in Miami that was hosted (or at least partially financed) by a sports agent, it made me wonder why we are not hearing more about the truly guilty party–the sports agency responsible for the party itself.
In nearly every case in which money, suits, hotels and plane tickets are illegally given to amateur athletes, the agents or “runners” for the sports agencies that dispense the money and gifts are not even an after thought. We instead criticize the 18-22 year old who often comes from little to no money, for accepting these gifts.
While I am not making a case for these student-athletes to accept money and gifts while they are supposed to be protecting their amateur status, the media and the NCAA are too enthralled with what is truly the secondary issue.
What is happening to the agencies and individuals who are guilty of a range of illegal activities including fraud, bribery and at least in the case of Reggie Bush, extortion. In Bush’s well-documented case, his parents allegedly moved into a beautiful, furnished home in the Los Angeles area that was financed by a sports agency.
While Reggie Bush is still facing the music from his USC days, sports agents like Mike Ornstein are a mere afterthought when it comes to any wrong-doing (google images)
The major reason the entire story was leaked is because Bush spurned that particular agency and signed with another one at the conclusion of his NCAA career. Do the names Michael Michaels, Lloyd Lake and Mike Ornstein ring a bell? How many times have their names been mentioned in the past six months, which has been loaded with media coverage on Bush, USC and the scandal involved? That’s because the media and the NCAA are not talking about them. Their focus, rather, has been on the student-athletes. If Michaels, Lake and Ornstein have been mentioned at all, I must have missed it, and given the website I write for, I follow college sports as much as anyone.
Still wondering who those individuals are? They are the marketing agents from two separate sports agencies that tried to woo Bush into signing with them. Michaels and Lake did so by financing Bush’s family’s living quarters, among other things.
When Bush chose Ornstein instead of them, Michaels and Lake promptly sued Bush. The grounds on which the law suit existed is beyond hysterical. Basically, Michaels and Lake improperly paid a college athlete and his family and extorted them so that Bush would sign with their agency. When that didn’t happen, they tried to take Bush to court. I don’t exactly have any sympathy for them. The only way Michaels and Lake could be more corrupt is if the money they were providing the Bush family was laundered from a drug lord.
Ornstein and his associates allegedly provided suits, hotel stays and weekly payments of $1500 to the Bush family, and he was caught on tape saying the gifts given to Bush and his family were “loans.” Ornstein also claimed that he had no knowledge that these “loans” were a violation of NCAA rules and guidelines.
I never went to law school, and I have not gone through any of the certification requirements to be a sports agent, but even I know that when you pay an athlete based on his or her talents, you can call it whatever you want…an I.O.U. a loan or anything else; that effectively makes that athlete a professional because he/she is getting paid in some capacity because of performance on the field or court.
Still, some way, somehow, all of the attention in the NCAA investigation has Bush, USC and the coaching staff as the unethical and repulsive individuals that either accepted gifts or turned a blind eye to it. All the negative attention focused on what truly is the result of a huge problem. Unfortunately, our focus has not been on the cause of the problem.
When the NCAA unleashed their stiff sanctions against USC, they simply acknowledged the symptom and not the individuals who are really the corrupt ones.
I’m sick of hearing about what the NCAA plans to do to make an example of USC. What are we doing to the agents providing all of these gifts and temptations, all the while, knowing they are engaging in illegal activity? I don’t care how ethical you are–if you come from a poverty-stricken community and you are twenty years old, and someone offers your family a better place to live and some spending cash, you would be a hypocrite to say you wouldn’t at least consider it.
For Bush, his credibility is shot and his family is embarrassed. For Pouncey, his Florida team may be forced to forfeit their Sugar Bowl victory and potentially lose scholarships, and for Austin, it is being reported that he will likely be suspended for his entire senior season, which could cost him millions of dollars in the NFL Draft next spring.
The agents, on the other hand, will quietly wait until this latest scandal blows over, and they will attempt to buy their next new crop of young clients. And they will face limited to no consequences for ruining the lives of these young athletes. The example that needs to be set should be targeted at the agencies who allow this to happen.
Orstein, Michaels and Lake should be banned from attending Pop Warner football games, let alone high school and college games after the level of unprofessionalism and lack of ethics they have shown. A second violation from an agency should be grounds to shut the agency down all together.
Unfortunately, unless something drastically changes, the NCAA and the media will continue to hold our 18-22-year old athletes to an extraordinarily higher standard of character, ethics and integrity than the grown men and women who are giving their all to deceive and compromise the student-athletes we should be protecting.
This article is an attempt to shed more light on the actual crooked individuals and plead for stiffer, more stringent penalties for the corruption. So far, the media and NCAA have failed miserably.