- Associated Press - Thursday, August 12, 2010

TUSCALOOSA, ALA. (AP) - A group of prominent college football coaches joined in a conference call with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the NCAA and others to address problems with unscrupulous agents that have led to investigations at several schools this summer.

Alabama’s Nick Saban, a former Miami Dolphins head coach, said Thursday that he helped organize the call with coaches he “had a tremendous amount of respect for,” the NFL Players Association and a handful of athletic directors and agents.

Florida coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, Mack Brown of Texas and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops also participated, the schools confirmed.

“We’re all trying to put our heads together to figure out what we can do to level the playing field so that everybody that’s in the agent community _ which some of them are very professional _ have the same opportunity to recruit players and that the bootleggers out there are guys that get punished and penalized,” Saban said. “And that the players that deal with them are going to have some of the same consequences.”

It’s an issue that has dominated college football headlines in recent months, everywhere from Southern California _ recently placed on probation _ to schools around the South.

The NCAA has been investigating alleged improper agent contact involving players at Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

“Where you have prohibition, you have bootleggers,” Saban said. “It’s always been that way.”

He said he has temporarily blocked access to Alabama’s practices for NFL scouts _ a possibility he hinted at earlier this summer because of the agent issue. Saban said access would be reopened sometime after Aug. 25.

He said the decision wasn’t related to agents, but that he didn’t think it was fair for his players to be evaluated during two-a-day practices in triple-digit temperatures.

Saban has been one of the most outspoken advocates of finding ways to ensure that rule-breaking agents whose actions lead to punishment of players face penalties as well, including suspension of their license for a year or two.

Saban also suggested Thursday that players who have improper dealings with agents could have the consequences carry into their NFL careers.

“Is it not conduct detrimental if a player does the wrong thing in college and gets suspended for his senior season just so he can play in the NFL?” Saban said. “It hurts the NFL, it hurts the player, it hurts the college, it hurts everybody.”

“We feel very good about our education program, but we also want to see if there is some way within the rules that we can make it easier to manage agents as they relate to college football,” Brown said in a statement.

The call left Meyer optimistic. He said late last week that he and others had “a great discussion” and “were trying to make some changes.” He said then he couldn’t go into details.

“The good thing is the other side of it wants to help,” he said at the time. “And when I say that, I mean they really want to help. So there’s going to be some positive things come out of this. I think real positive.”

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