Mr. Agent? Do you mind if I kill you?

Boy, did Bill Shakespeare get it wrong.

He once penned, and pardon the paraphrase, that "the first thing we should do is kill all the lawyers."

Now we in the '90s know that what he should have written (the fact that I want to go to law school has nothing to do with this) was, "The first thing we should do is kill all the agents."

That seems to be the consensus these days, anyway.

To wit: In a first-of-its-kind move, Southern Cal filed a restraining order against agent Robert Caron last week after three Trojan football players were suspended for accepting money and gifts from him. Then the school filed for punitive damages against him because the money and gifts he gave them violated terms of the contracts the three players signed with USC, which stipulated that when they got their scholarships, they were to abide by NCAA rules.

Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson, whose teams have a recent history of players (and a member of one player's immediate family) accepting money and gifts from agents and boosters, discussed the problem of agents at media day on Monday.

He called agents the "biggest single problem" the NCAA faces and decried the NCAA's reactive policies, i.e. suspending players and putting programs on probation. He advocated the passage of laws nationwide that would allow universities to sue agents, as well as discussion with the NBA and the NFL to get the leagues to not deal with any agent who violates the code of ethics by tampering with a player's eligibility.

Let's be honest, the biggest single problem facing the NCAA these days is graduation rates and gender equity (at least it should be). That a few athletes every year screw up and take stuff they know they shouldn't doesn't strike me as a problem it's not even an annoyance.

It's just stupidity.

But let's look at this another way.

What I've always been curious about is, why can't athletes take money from boosters and agents? I mean, everyone else in the free world can take free stuff when someone offers it to them. But amateur athletes can't.

The NCAA tells athletes they can't accept money and gifts from agents or boosters if they want to retain their amateur status. They also tell the athletes they can't work during the season to earn some living and spending money.

What does the NCAA think will happen when someone comes up to an athlete who can't afford to pay his or her phone bill and offers to pay it for them, or maybe buys them a plane ticket, or a car?

While there is still an idealistic, almost Norman Rockwell-type image surrounding college athletics, the NCAA is overlooking the realities of life. It is almost as though the NCAA wants to hold these players hostage, and the agents might disrupt this relationship.

And whatever the NCAA decides to do about the agents, it still doesn't answer the question, "What are these athletes supposed to do to make ends meet?"

Agents do seem to be the vilified ones these days, and probably rightfully so. But while everyone has agents on the brain, it seems like no one is thinking about the players.

Until the NCAA starts thinking about the players, agents will always be in the picture.

Patrick Klein is assistant sports editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat. His column appears weekly.

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