The NCAA Won't Be Lied To (Or, Why To Avoid Deion Sanders)

Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Byrant has been suspended for an entire year, not for breaking rules, but for lying about not breaking rules. Because misleading an NCAA investigator is the worst crime a human can commit.

If case you forgot, Bryant spent some time hanging out with Deion Sanders last spring. That alone is not an NCAA violation—but probably should have been (more on that in a second)—but the NCAA started asking a lot of questions, so naturally Bryant assumed that he was in trouble. He panicked and told the investigators that he hadn't met with Sanders. When asked, Sanders told the truth and said he had. Now Bryant, a junior, is suspended until September of next year, which effectively ends his college career.

That seems a little harsh, doesn't it? Yes, I know lying is bad and examples must be made, but it's not like he was lying to cover up a murder. Or any crime for that matter. He was confused about a set of rules that no one on the planet fully understands and he screwed up. A missed game or two might have sent a better message about the sanctity of amateur athletics, since the end result of this suspension is that Bryant will almost certainly go pro—and probably never finish his degree. Yet, the NCAA acts like they did him a favor by not banning him permanently.

But there is another issue here: Why did he assume that he had violated an NCAA rule? Maybe because meeting with a former NFL player, who is not an alum of your school, to talk about how he can help you prepare for life as a pro athlete doesn't exactly feel like it's on the up and up. Sanders, who is an NFL Network commentator during the season, has built a nice little side business "mentoring" current and future pros on how to survive life in the NFL. That also includes a pre-combine prep school, called "Prime U," that is meant to help players improve their draft standing, but also learn tips on "managing off-the-field lifestyle." Except it's not clear that Deion's advice is really helping anyone.

As a future Hall of Fame cornerback, Sanders probably has some unique insights about the position, but at least four cornerbacks who participated in the camp last spring went undrafted, while only two got picked. One of the actual stars of the camp was Michael Crabtree, who got some spectacularly bad advice from his agent Eugene Parker, who just happened to be the agent of ... Deion Sanders. (Sanders claims that Parker was never present while meeting with Bryant, and that may be true, but that was the main reason for the NCAA's concern about their relationship. Parker has reeled in other clients associated with Prime U—like Ohio's Mark Parson.)

Now Dez Bryant is ruined because he assumed that even talking to Sanders was a bit shady and Sanders failed to properly assure him it wasn't. Deion's intentions may very well be good—and not just a ploy to get his buddy Parker new clients—but that doesn't mean he's doing these players any favors. Nor does it excuse the short-sightedness of the NCAA. But perhaps he should keep his hands off college footballers until they actually are ineligible, instead of just making them that way.

Dez Bryant decision a head-scratcher [USA Today]
Deion Sanders: No rules broken in relationship with Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant [ESPN]
Receiving Deion Sanders' help may have hurt Crabtree, Bryant [Tim Cowlishaw]