Photo: 6 Magazine
The State of Alabama has extremely strict rules governing player agents operating in their midst. Unlike most anywhere else, agents who contact a student-athlete are charged with a misdemeanour in Alabama. Worse, agents who fail to register as such in the state are charged with felonies.Two agents are currently falling victim to these absurdly punitive laws.
The first is Gary Wichard, a California-based agent that allegedly reached out to Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. He didn’t have an Alabama licence. Interestingly, Wichard was introduced to Dareus by an associate coach at North Carolina, John Blake. (Blake and Wichard are also at the centre of an ongoing NCAA investigation of the Tar Heel program.)
The second agent, Raymond Savage, was an NFL agent for six years in the 2000s. In 2005 he sent a colleague to visit a seriously injured Alabama receiver in the hospital and was charged with the aforementioned misdemeanour. Then it was found that he never secured an agent licence in Alabama. After failing to appear at a court date earlier this week, a Tuscaloosa judge issued a writ for his arrest. He plea bargained, but then failure to appear in court and will now be tried for the felony.
Assistant Attorney General Don Valeska had this to say (via The Birmingham News):
“We want the message to go out that nobody comes to Alabama without following the law and talks to college athletes about going pro.”
Wichard, whose case has received a great deal of publicity in Alabama, is up next.
Why Alabama has decided to bear down so heavily on sports agents makes little sense. Maybe in small-town Tuscaloosa where Crimson Tide football reigns supreme, agents have to abide by these petty rules, but the rest of the world stopped lending any credence to the word “amateur” a long time ago.
These so-called amateur athletes generate millions of dollars for universities like Alabama each fall Saturday. They schedule their classes around practice so that they’re prepared to appear on national TV each weekend. Then, the university exploits their talents by pouting their number on a jersey and selling it for $50 at the campus bookstore.
These rules are only scaring agents away. The same agents that aid athletes in securing a living the university never allowed them to pursue.
One former NFL agent, Mike Strope has long advised other agents “not to ever represent any player that is a resident or goes to school in the state of Alabama.”
Time to heed his warning.
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