The University of Florida is investigating and has self-reported a possible violation to the NCAA regarding an alleged payment of $100,000 to center Maurkice Pouncey between the SEC Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl.
The payment is alleged to have been made by a representative of an agent, it was revealed in a story by Pat Forde on ESPN.com.
“We were made aware of some information in early June that we reported to law enforcement and we then shared with the NCAA and the SEC,” Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley said in a statement released to ESPN. “At this time we have no information that has indicated that there are any compliance issues for the University of Florida.”
Pouncey, whose twin brother Mike will take over at center in the fall, declared for the NFL Draft following Florida’s 51-24 victory over Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. X, 2010. The alleged payment was made sometime prior to the game and after Florida’s 32-13 loss to eventual BCS national champion Alabama in the Dec. 5 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. Pouncey was later drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If such a payment had changed hands and was known, Pouncey would have been ineligible for the Sugar Bowl. But with Pouncey having played in the game, Florida could be held accountable for using an illegal player and have to vacate the victory.
Pouncey is represented by Joel Segal, whose firm Lagardere Unlimited also represents Saints running back Reggie Bush, Titans running back Chris Johnson, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and lists former Florida players Riley Cooper, Channing Crowder, Alex Brown, Ciatrick Fason and Percy Harvin as clients.
It should not be concluded, however, that Segal, his agency and any of its representatives were the ones who made the alleged payment to Pouncey. In the competitive world of player representation, such payments have been made to players who later sign with another agent.
In the case of Bush, whose recruitment eventually caused the NCAA to sanction Southern California with a two-year ban on bowl participation plus the loss of scholarships, agents Michael Michaels and Lloyd Lake, who were pursuing Bush as their first client for their New Era Sports & Entertainment agency, provided numerous payments to the Bush family, including $54,000 in rent-free living at Michaels’ home in Spring Valley, Calif.
Bush later signed with Mike Ornstein, who also made various payments and gifts to Bush and his family before making several lucrative pre-NFL Draft deals for Bush, who later parted ways with Ornstein and moved into Segal’s stable.
Under Florida law, any agent found guilty of giving a player a payment that jeopardizes his amateur status is guilty of a second-degree felony. The agent could be imprisoned for up to 15 years and fined $10,000. The court also could force the agent to make restitution to any victim damaged by his illegal loan, which in this case could be Florida.
The NCAA acknowledged Monday that it was working “cooperatively” with Florida on the matter but refused any further comment. The institution also is looking into similar agent-related matters at both North Carolina and South Carolina.