Meet the Bag Man
April 11, 2014 7:33 AM   Subscribe

"Bottom line: if you're successful in landing a player who is in turn successful on the field, and you can't abide people not knowing you had a hand in the process, you're in the wrong field of athletic support."
posted by jeather (17 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I was just gonna post this. My favorite bit was the guy who stopped paying in because of the coach swearing on the team plane. "[B]ecause he took the Lord's name in vain, that guy was offended by his morality and stopped illegally paying college football players." So many delightful layers to that sentence.
posted by Diablevert at 8:02 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was also contemplating posting this, and as I said to a friend of your quote "That's the most SEC thing that has ever happened"
posted by JPD at 8:18 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't want to put my hand in anyone's athletic support.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:34 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

That's the other team.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:27 AM on April 11, 2014

Fascinating stuff. Thanks for posting it.
posted by YAMWAK at 9:28 AM on April 11, 2014

I want nothing now so much as an illegal cash-boosting sports franchise video game. Football Manager except with American football, and basically no actual football regardless, and instead of managing a major league franchise you're riding sleeper cell herd on a bunch of car dealership owners from Georgia.
posted by cortex at 10:06 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

The last bit reminded me of Charles Barkley talking about trying to get Dirk Nowitzki to go to Auburn, specifically, "Everybody wanna give us a hard time about giving Cam Newton $200,000. That's called a good damn investment."
posted by Copronymus at 10:08 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Athletic support. Heh.
posted by jonmc at 10:17 AM on April 11, 2014

I want nothing now so much as an illegal cash-boosting sports franchise video game. Football Manager except with American football, and basically no actual football regardless, and instead of managing a major league franchise you're riding sleeper cell herd on a bunch of car dealership owners from Georgia.

I think my favorite image is of old rich southern men explaining to their wives why they've got a stack of burner phones. "No honey I'm not havin' an affair - I'm just payin' off players to go to the University"
posted by JPD at 1:00 PM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

See, and I thought one of the more interesting things was how they really liked the Athletic Studies fake degrees, because it essentially turns you into a gym teacher or coach, which is just another ad for the university. And it's odd how absolutely little they care about the athletes except as possible returns on investment -- but yet how much they'll do, even years before, to get their entire families a bit better off on the hopes that the kid will be an excellent athlete and choose your school.
posted by jeather at 1:46 PM on April 11, 2014

Since I missed this being posted here and came across it in the wild so then was going to post it, here's the quote I had pulled as the introduction because damn...

Remember, your job as a bag man isn't to hide the benefit. It's to hide the proof. In a region as passionate about college football as the American South, there's no real moral outrage when new cars or clothes or jobs for relatives appear.

"We can only get away with whatever's considered reasonable by the majority of the folks in our society. That's why it's different in the SEC. Maybe that's why we're able to be more active in what we do. Because no one ever looks at the car or the jewelry and says, 'How did you get that, poor football player?' They say, 'How did they get you that and not get caught, poor football player?'"

It was odd to read the quote from the bag man - ""If we could take a vote for these kids to make a real salary every season, I would vote for it. $40,000 or something." - because it doesn't jive with the rest of the story and, basically, all of the life choices described within. It's not just the NCAA and the individual schools that are It's the whole damned social structure.

(But, of course, as he says, there would still probably be bag men in those situations.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:25 PM on April 11, 2014

Why wouldn't that jive? If there's one person who understands that being a football player at an SEC school isn't the NCAA created ideal of "student athlete" wouldn't it probably be a bag man?
posted by crashlanding at 2:30 PM on April 11, 2014

Yeah, I agree; I realize I didn't phrase that right and that I left out a clause of my thought process. ("This is the last time I try to comment while also on a Friday afternoon conference call", he said, knowing that to probably be a lie.)

What I was thinking about was that when I see the NCAA or coaches talk about the "sanctity of the student athlete", it seems pretty self-serving, even if you might think they believe the bullshit. The bag man and the rest of the community who receives social perks that have been built up to support the broken system would definitely be affected by a major change in the status quo re: player payments, and I found it interesting - and frankly, charming - that this guy wasn't seeming to think about himself in that situation at all.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:56 PM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really love the contrast between the big name, visible boosters and the behind-the-scenes bag men who are more directly influencing the team. This money doesn't even buy the social standing you would think would be attached to it, because it has to remain at least a polite fiction that it's not occurring. They are only buying wins for their team. It's kind of selfless in a weird way.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:28 AM on April 12, 2014

Also, SB Nation is knocking it out of the park on the regular. Between them, Grantland and Deadspin, I think we are seeing some amazing sports journalism these days.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:33 AM on April 12, 2014


No, see, that's entirely how I can see someone starting to become a bag man. Sympathy for the kids, their families, it's not about the flashy stuff, it's about a job, or a dentist's appointment, or whatnot. These kids are so important, and so many people are making so much off them, and they can't even get the basic stuff.

And look, if you've got a reputation for being nice people who help kids, you start getting kids choosing your school, and it starts to win...because of your small investment.

It's a deeply complicated question, where the corruption is here.
posted by effugas at 4:19 AM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

That was a really interesting read.

It seems clear that there's almost nobody who doesn't think student athletes in big program sports should be getting paid for their participation, because the situation they describe is nowhere near clandestine enough that it wouldn't be uncovered if anyone was really going out of their to do that investigation. Secrets that involve that many people don't stay secret unless all the people that are supposed to want to know them don't really want to know them.

I know the NCAA occasionally hands down some big-ass penalties to schools that get caught buying players, but I'm guessing they only do that when someone has forced their hand by making one of these situations semi-public. The $70K conversation seemed telling on that front -- nobody wants to bring the whole system down, but occasionally one team will think it's worth it to burn another team.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:32 AM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

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