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USC's Pat Haden says schools have to understand professional aspirations of its athletes

USC's conference to educate administrators on agent issues draws praise from NCAA. Haden says he's "flipped a switch" in what to tell student-athletes about the NFL and NBA.

February 08, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • USC Athletic Director Pat Haden says he realizes college athletes dream of playing in the NFL and NBA regardless of how much the odds may be stacked against them.
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden says he realizes college athletes dream… (Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire )

Five years ago, yelling from the second floor of Heritage Hall, a USC assistant football coach admonished a group of agents gathered in the lobby below to leave the premises.

On Tuesday, with the Trojans on NCAA probation for issues related to agents and former athletes, USC threw open its doors in welcoming three agents to take part in a school-sponsored "summit" at the Galen Center.

Tom Condon, Jimmy Sexton and Rick Smith participated in the event that included representatives from the NCAA, the Pacific 10 Conference, the Southeastern Conference, the NFL and the NFL Players Assn. The goal was for administrators to better understand and manage issues regarding agents.

USC Athletic Director Pat Haden said during a news conference that comments from the agents during the six-hour seminar "kind of flipped a switch" for him in regard to guiding student-athletes toward graduation and their professional goals.

"The discussion was, 'Hey, we're kidding ourselves if we don't believe in our heart that every one of these guys wants to go to the NFL or NBA,' " Haden said. "I have been one that often starts with a negative, to say, 'Hey, your odds of going to the NFL are remote.'

"That's not what they want to hear. If they're going to trust us … we're going to have to think how they think."

Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA's vice president of enforcement, attended the event and praised USC for organizing it.

"The agent summit … was a productive, candid discussion of what educational and investigative efforts are currently working, as well as different approaches the NCAA and its members may want to take," Roe Lach said in a statement. "[Senior associate athletic director] Mark Jackson and Pat Haden of USC are to be credited for bringing those groups to the table. We expect today's dialogue to be a positive contribution to the current, ongoing efforts to address agent issues within the NCAA membership structure."

Haden said he would explore utilizing "extenders of compliance" on campus, be they position coaches, athletic trainers or other personnel. He also spoke of creating an "ombudsman" position for a younger USC graduate to bridge the gap with student-athletes about agent-related issues.

He acknowledged, however, that "we're never going to get to the solution to this problem without the help of the NFL and the NFLPA." Haden said NFL vice president Ray Anderson delivered a "very strong message" that the league was "going to be looking to post-graduate penalties" for players who are responsible for NCAA violations and that "you can't escape accountability just by shuffling off to the NFL."

The conference was organized to cover a range of agent-related issues in all sports.

"I learned about track and field," Haden said. "Now I have something else to worry about."

But football was the focus.

"One of our jobs in compliance is to get to know these people," said David Roberts, USC's vice president for athletic compliance, "To track them, to see them at our pro days and to register them."

Roberts said he was unaware of another school that had dealt with a situation involving a student who was also an agent. The NFLPA decertified USC student Teague Egan after he gave Trojans tailback Dillon Baxter a ride on a golf cart last season, making Baxter temporarily ineligible. Egan is appealing the ruling of decertification.

"I think we're a party of one on that one," Roberts said. "No one had a companion story."

Haden also addressed last week's AOL FanHouse report that the NCAA would cite Coach Lane Kiffin with a failure-to-monitor violation for alleged recruiting infractions during his short tenure at Tennessee.

Haden said he had read the report, which cited unnamed sources, but declined to comment on the allegations. He said he was "absolutely supportive" of Kiffin, who has been "more than compliant" at USC.

"The Lane Kiffin I'm dealing with is not the one I read about," Haden said. "But he's never going to overcome that reputation. I'm afraid he's not going to rehabilitate that.

"That's OK. I've told him, 'As long as we don't have an intentional major violation here — and you've got to win games too — that we hope you're our coach for a very long time.' And that's what I anticipate."

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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