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HOOVER, Ala. - "Agents that do this, I hate to say it, how are they any better than a pimp?"

The words belong to Alabama football coach Nick Saban, he of the 2009 national championship ring. The sentiment is shared by the entire Southeastern Conference today, be they coaches, players, league executives or fans.

Suddenly embroiled in an NCAA enquiry concerning improper contact with sports agents that is already targeting players at South Carolina, Alabama, Florida and Georgia - as well as Atlantic Coast Conference member North Carolina - the league's annual Football Media Days event has been swallowed whole by Agent-gate.

"Given the surreptitious nature of these matters, it is difficult, if not impossible, for institutions to know what might have taken place," said SEC commissioner Mike Slive at the start of Wednesday's opening session.

"We're mindful of the complexities involved in a young person's transition from collegiate participation to the role of professional athlete ... These discussions (involving agent contact) include a review of current NCAA rules, which in my view are as much a part of the problem as the solution ..."

Slive is a lawyer who once advised schools caught in the NCAA's crosshairs. He knows better than most what is good and just about the current rules, as well as where improvements could be made.

So even though he publicly applauded the NCAA's decision to establish a committee to study the issue, Slive was quick add, "It's a good beginning as long as the committee is composed of individuals who deal with this problem on a regular basis, including coaches, conference personnel, compliance officers, athletics directors, faculty members and former student-athletes who have been through the process.

"The review should include a fresh analysis of all issues impacting the transition of student-athletes from the collegiate level to professional competition."

This was supposed to be a Media Days celebration for Slive's ninth year in the job, especially as it pertains to football, which has won the last four BCS titles, including the Crimson Tide's perfect 14-0 mark a year ago.

Beyond that, the league led the nation in largest total attendance for the 29th consecutive year, saw its CBS package ratings rise by 20 percent, saw the SEC title game become the highest-rated non-bowl game on any network since 2006 and evenly distributed $209 million to the league's 12 institutions due to television and bowls.

And it wasn't just football that excelled. Forty percent of sports sponsored by the SEC were either the national champion or national runner-up.

Yet for all that success, Agent-gate hasn't been Slive's only summer worry. There was Damon Evans' ugly dismissal as Georgia's athletic director after being charged with a DUI while clutching the red panties of a woman other than his wife. There was Tennessee's bar brawl, followed quickly by two Georgia players arrested on alcohol-related incidents. LSU is under NCAA investigation for improper housing and transportation for former defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who left the team after last season.

"While there are occasional high-profile situations where an institution and the conference are tarnished by a student-athlete's bad behavior," said Slive, "there are far more circumstances where our student-athletes exemplify the character we expect from them."

One of those student-athletes exemplified that character on Wednesday when asked what he would do if approached by an unscrupulous agent.

"If people are flashing money in my face, I'm not saying I wouldn't think about it," said Kentucky running back Derrick Locke, the preseason first-team All-SEC pick. "But I wouldn't put my team at that kind of risk. Besides, you can't do anything with the money. You driving a (Mercedes-) Benz, how did you get it?

"Just wait your time. You don't want somebody taking your wins, something you and your teammates have worked so hard for. My team's out there sweating, passing out and I take the money? That would be selfish."

It would and it was, if it happened. But possible punishment may also lead to plausible prevention. Said Slive of the changes he hopes the NCAA will consider in the months ahead, "We in the SEC look forward to being active participants in this review."

Instead of being uncomfortable targets in an active probe of jock pimping.

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