HOOVER, Ala. — When Florida coach Urban Meyer heard that his former All-America center Maurkice Pouncey had been accused via an anonymous tip of taking $100,000 from an NFL agent's associate just before the Sugar Bowl in January, the first thing he did was notify athletic director Jeremy Foley and compliance director Jamie McCloskey.
Then he called Pouncey.
"I called Maurkice and his mom, I talked to them," Meyer said Wednesday at the SEC media days. "I said, 'I need to know.' He said, 'Coach, I didn't do it.' I said, 'Okay.' He's never lied to me before."
Florida launched an internal review of the matter in June, including notifying law enforcement officials, the NCAA and the SEC. On Wednesday, Pouncey issued a statement through his lawyer, Stephen Stanfield, denying the allegations.
"I did not accept $100,000," Pouncey, who was drafted in the first round by the Steelers, said in the statement. "It is an absolutely ridiculous claim. I have completely cooperated with the investigation and answered any and all questions put to me."
In the midst of three internal investigations in the SEC, finding ways to keep agents away from players was the major topic at the media sessions. Along with Florida, Alabama and South Carolina are also investigating allegations involving improper contact with an agent.
Alabama is looking into a trip defensive end Marcell Dareus took to an agent's party at South Beach in Miami, while South Carolina is investigating whether tight end Weslye Saunders also was in attendance.
The investigations prompted SEC commissioner Mike Slive to call for a review and possible overhaul of NCAA rules relating to NFL agents.
"I think we need a national strategy for dealing with agents in college athletics, and in order to get there we need to sit down with a pad and a pencil and start from scratch," Slive said. "The issue from my perspective is that the way the rules are constructed, in my view, they don't provide the kind of access to representatives that would be available to other students who are trying to advance to another profession. This is a national issue."
Slive said every aspect of the rules should be addressed, including the possibility of allowing players to have agents while still playing. Although he doesn't sanction that idea, he said nothing should be excluded from the discussion if it will help alleviate the potential problems that exist now.
Alabama coach Nick Saban, a former NFL coach, said if agents continue to find unscrupulous ways to make contact with athletes, he'd be in favor of banning them from college campuses.
"I'm for doing something," he said. "I don't think the system as it is right now is very good.
Saban called on the NFL Players Association to enforce stronger sanctions against agents who violate the rules, including the option of suspending their license.
"We're a little bit in double jeopardy as institutions because we're responsible for the players in a circumstance that's very difficult to be responsible for what they do when it comes to agents," Saban said. "… It's something that is affecting college football in a negative way. It's affecting college football fans. It's affecting a lot of people. I don't think it's anything but greed that is creating it right now on behalf of agents. Agents that do this, I hate to say this, but how are they any better than a pimp? I have no respect for people who do that to young people. None."
Meyer also said he'd favor a ban if agents can't be stopped or held accountable for their actions.
"I'd be willing to align with something to make a change because it's not right," he said. "It's a dirty, dirty part of our business that's becoming more well-known. You think this wasn't going on 10 years ago?"
Florida is among 38 states that have laws designed to regulate sports agents, and Meyer said he'd like to see those laws more strictly enforced. UF spends extra money on security at away games in an effort to keep agents away and offers seminars to potential NFL-bound players and their families four times a year to keep them informed of the rules. And still, it may not be enough.
"I'm kind of tired of seeing student-athletes get penalized for predators," Meyer said.
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