Compared to the preceding 25 years, late president Myles Brand's eight-year tenure over the NCAA was a Pax Academia in the never-ending war against agents, improper benefits and other schemes to get "amateur" players in on the cut. But the Association is launching a hell of a comeback tour this summer: After kicking things off with a bang against USC, the Southeastern swing of "Agent-palooza '10" has already rocked the house with probes into agent-related activity at North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, where outgoing Gator lineman Maurkice Pouncey was accused of accepting $100,000 before his final game in January's Sugar Bowl.
Per ESPN, you can add Alabama to the list of stops, for a chat with defensive end Marcel Dareus:
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- University of Alabama officials are investigating whether junior defensive lineman Marcel Dareus broke NCAA rules by attending an agent's party in Miami's South Beach earlier this summer, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
Dareus, ranked as the No. 7 prospect for the 2011 NFL draft by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, is the latest prominent college football player to be entangled in an evolving NCAA investigation into illegal contact and conduct by sports agents.
"Our [university] compliance people are looking into it," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
The NCAA is trying to determine who paid for the players' transportation to Miami and lodging, food and entertainment while they were there.
More than anyone, Alabama fans are all-too-familiar with the NCAA hammer, but they can stop hyperventilating on at least one point: The South Beach party in question reportedly went down in late May, well after Dareus' MVP turn in the BCS Championship win over Texas in January. Assuming the investigation ends with the Miami trip, it won't cost the Tide that victory or any other en route to the title.
But where 2010 is concerned, the probe very well could cost them one of the top defenders in the SEC, and one of only three players on the entire defense with more than two career starts going into the season. Dareus was an overlooked member of front seven last year in the shadow of All-Americans Rolando McClain and Terrence Cody, but he led the best defense in the nation in sacks as a true sophomore and is (was) the only member of last year's regular defensive line rotation back this fall. His loss would be a significant hit to the Tide's hopes of repeating nationally or in the SEC.
For now, though, they're just asking him a few questions; we don't know if there's even a specific allegation against Dareus (or his Carolina friends Marvin Austin and Weslye Saunders). And we certainly don't know where the NCAA will pop its head up again. If you're the type who's really enjoying this bit of schadenfreude courtesy of the mighty Tide and Gators, we'll just assume your alma mater is next.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.