A big Yahoo report dropped today, presumably to ride/torpedo the momentum of SI's flawed Oklahoma State exposé. It claims that NFL agents and financial advisers funneled tens of thousands of dollars to five college players, including Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker.
This one may have legs. For one, these are programs and athletes people actually care about. The players involved are Fluker, Tennessee QB Tyler Bray and DE Maurice Couch, and Mississippi State tackle Fletcher Cox and WR Chad Bumphis. Fluker, Bray and Cox are now in the NFL, and Couch is still at UT.
For another, the financial transactions are meticulously documented—everything flowed through former Crimson Tide lineman Luther Davis, who allegedly served as the "concierge" for the agents. Yahoo has invoices, wire transfer receipts, emails, text messages, and bank statements, and has made much of it available. Sadly, not the one documenting 49 transactions totaling $33,755, hilariously titled "D.J. Fluker invoice."
Perhaps most importantly for those of us fatigued by college scandal after college scandal, this is an NFL story. Three agents, Andy Simms, Peter Schaffer and John Phillips, reportedly used Luther Davis as an intermediary to hook up players they presumably hoped to represent when they went pro. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book, a low-risk, high-reward venture to snatch up prospects early. Fluker, for example, signed an $11.4 million contract with the Chargers. Three percent, the typical agent's fee, is a cool $342,000.
(Many of these benefits are treated as loans. It's actually a logical system, one that disgraced agent Josh Luchs has argued should be made legal.)
You can be sure they weren't the only ones running the gig. And these transactions are meticulously recorded for a reason: if an agent feels like they got burned, they've got all the blackmail they need. It's no surprise that Yahoo obtained them from "a source with ties to the NFL agent community," i.e. another agent.
Yahoo completes the package with something sorely missing from SI's story: context. Dan Wetzel had a column ready to go pointing out the obvious—that this is not a moral failing on behalf of the agents or the middleman or the players, but a symptom of the amateurism disease.
It's all a big con. It all needs to change or these embarrassing revelations just continue on forever and ever – the slow, piling of straws on the camel's back that continue to ring out a simple truth: The core problem isn't the breaking of the rules, it's the rules that are being broken.
Sadly, most readers are going to ignore this in favor of the easy schadenfreude of bashing Fluker, the defending national champs, and their "tainted" trophy. As if the bad guy is the kid who was left homeless by Hurricane Katrina, because he let someone pay the rent on an apartment for his mother.