Illegal Procedure: A Sports Agent Comes Clean on the Dirty Business of College Football (2012)

Rating: 7/10

It’s now official – the BCS is no more and will be replaced by a four-team playoff starting in the 2014-15 season. The announcement, which came on June 26, 2012, has many proponents of college football jumping for joy because truly, anything is better than the BCS system.

This much is true.

What is also true is that a four-team playoff will likely do little else but to add more games to the college football season. It will create added revenue, which will raise the stakes even more. And thus I ask, how would a four-team playoff help the football players themselves? Not so much, you say? Okay then, let’s carry on and pretend that this is actually important. 

In the world of NCAA college football, illegal procedure refers to ‘a penalty that includes movement by an offensive player before the snap.’ It costs a mere five yards to the offending team. But illegal procedure takes quite a different meaning the moment you step into Josh Luchs’s world.

Luchs exposed this world with the publication of “Illegal Procedure,” which was released March 27, 2012, with the help of writer James Dale. At 272 pages, the book is neither long nor short and is a quick and easy read. The book doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheels on what allegedly unfolds in college football – think of it as a longer version of the October 2010 Sports Illustrated story that featured many of the same accusations, storylines and allegations. This is perhaps where the books falls a little flat – the fact that it relies on the experience of one single individual. No matter how thorough and extensive Luchs’s research and narrative is, there will always be some people who say that his experience might be the exception.

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The book is an exposé on the world where Luchs spent the first part of his adult life. He spends little time dwelling on anything that doesn’t pertain to precisely that task – if we learn about Luchs’s upbringing, it’s only because it will be important a few years later, as he tries to find his niche in this messy, messy world. It’s a world where 19-year-olds can become licensed player agents in two months as long as they 1) complete the paperwork, 2) have no criminal record and 3) have $300.

It’s a world where agents will do just about anything and everything to sign college football players–they will pay college players, give them loans, tweak scouting reports on a player in order to better appeal to his ego and improve the odds of signing him, and feed Wonderlic test questions to their clients prior to them taking it. It’s a world where football coaches often have more power than University presidents and where school compliance officers reside on campus and get paid by the same people they are meant to keep a watchful eye over. It’s a world where runners are everywhere, where agents see anybody who is even remotely linked to a football player as a way into his world, into his life and, ultimately, as a way to sign said player.

It’s a messy world indeed.

Of course, this world is only true if you happen to believe Josh Luchs – because Illegal Procedurere lies pretty extensively and exclusively on Luchs’s narrative. I happen to believe him, but maybe you don’t.

Maybe you see nothing more than a man with an axe to grind and looking to take down the world that persecuted him. If that’s what you see, you also see a much different world. It’s probably a much less depressing world than Luchs’s description but still, not all is right. You still have to acknowledge the occasional rogue school. Like the U, where Ponzi Scheme perpetrator Nevin Shapiro allegedly gave the university he loved so very much the best team money could buy over and over again under the nose of school officials. Like USC, where superstar Reggie Bush and his family received gifts, living expenses, credit cards, etc. from agents Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels.

Like Auburn University, of which Mississippi State boosters will say it paid at least $180,000 to convince superstar Cam Newton to attend the school prior to his 2010 Heisman season. Like Penn State, where high-ranking school officials chose to turn a blind eye on horrific sex crimes for fear that it would sully the Penn State brand. Like UNC, where assistant coach John Blake would arrange for players to visit agent Gary Wichard. Like the Ohio State University, where five players traded OSU memorabilia for tattoos, got caught, suspended but not before then-head coach Jim Tressel and University president E. Gordon Gee strong-armed them into playing the lucrative Sugar Bowl.

Then, you might realize that in most cases, the punishment hardly ever fits the crime, so to speak. Soon enough, you might have to acknowledge that just about any school is a rogue school – that soon enough, the norm becomes that of the rogue school in that other world. Either that or Josh Luchs’s world. Take your pick.

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