When the NCAA grilled former Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant last year regarding his relationship with Deion Sanders, the NCAA had a broader goal in mind.
We’d previously heard, via multiple league sources, that the NCAA was interested in learning whether agent Eugene Parker was funneling money or other things of value to prospective clients via Sanders.
Given the potentially inflammatory nature of that allegation, we previously had not articulated it quite so directly. We’re less concerned now that Bryant has confirmed publicly what the NCAA privately had been exploring.
“I just felt like the NCAA thought that there was something going on,
but I didn’t even know [Parker] then,” Bryant said at a press conference in Tampa, per PewterReport.com. “They thought that Deion was a
runner for him, but it wasn’t anything like that. Deion just wanted to
be a mentor and make sure everything was right. I felt like there was
nothing wrong with that.”
Since “runners” rarely if ever do their “running” for free, the NCAA apparently suspected that Sanders and Parker had some type of financial arrangement. And since “runners” cause players to run afoul of NCAA regulations only when players receive things of value, the NCAA presumably believed that cash and/or gifts were being funneled from Parker to Bryant, through Sanders.
Bryant claims he never received any gifts from Sanders or from any agent or booster. But given that Bryant already has admitted to lying once, it’s hard to give his present words much credence. Without Sanders or Parker voluntarily submitting to interviews with the NCAA and/or voluntarily relinquishing documents or other tangible items, it’s impossible to know whether Bryant is telling the truth.
And that’s the fundamental problem in cases like this. The NCAA has no jurisdiction over agents and other persons not officially affiliated with a member institution. So if they choose not to cooperate, the NCAA can do nothing.
Still, there’s reason to at least be suspicious. Bryant now claims that Deion never talked to Bryant about Parker, Deion’s former agent, and that Parker never talked to Bryant about Deion, Parker’s former client. So, in other words, Bryant knew that the NCAA believed there was a connection between Parker and Deion, and Bryant never asked Deion, “Who’s this Eugene Parker they keep mentioning?”
Somehow, Bryant became aware of Parker. And even though the NCAA’s interest in Parker’s activities indirectly caused Bryant to miss most of what turned out to be his final year of college football, Bryant opted to do business with Parker.
It’s unknown whether the NCAA is still looking into Parker and Sanders and Bryant. As mentioned above, such investigations tend to hit dead ends pretty quickly, given that folks like Parker and Sanders have no legal obligation to talk.
But based on Bryant’s comments from Friday, there’s still enough smoke to justify an effort by the NCAA to keep looking for some fire.