In an excellent piece by Don Kausler Jr. of the Birmingham News, we finally get Marcell Dareus' side of the Agentgate story. I'll reserve comments on the intricacies of how these claims would potentially affect Dareus' eligibility for Pete, who is far more knowledgeable in the ways of the NCAA than I am, but from what I know of NCAA rules and regulations this all sounds like good news for both Dareus and Alabama. Quoting Kausler:
Dareus attended the party but claims he was lured to Miami under a false pretense, a source close to the family said. When Dareus discovered there were agents at the party, he asked to leave. Then he received grim news that his mother, Michelle Luckey, had died, and he abruptly returned to Birmingham.
The friend who arranged the trip was Marvin Austin, a star defensive lineman at North Carolina, a source close to the Dareus family said.
The plane fare to Miami was paid for by Austin, but when Dareus arrived in Miami, he paid Austin for the ticket and received a receipt, the source said. Austin also arranged for a hotel room, but the source said Dareus did not use the room.
So far, so good.
As long as the flight was arranged by Austin himself, I don't think that should be an issue regardless of whether or not Dareus paid him back. Austin is a long-time friend of Dareus -- not a booster, agent, advisor, marketer, university employee, etc. -- so that type of purchase should not be considered an illegal benefit. Now perhaps Austin paid for the flight with money that he received from an agent, but that would be a concern for Austin, not Dareus. Furthermore, with Dareus repaying Austin, the value of the plane ticket should be a complete non-factor in terms of the impact on his eligibility. He received something, and apparently paid fair market value for it. No harm, no foul, perfectly legal transaction. Furthermore, if he indeed did not use the hotel room that Austin secured for him, it too should have no impact on his eligibility. There cannot be an illegal benefit bestowed upon an athlete if he never accepted the benefit in the first place.
The plane receipt is also key here. While I'm sure UA compliance would love to believe everything that Marcell is telling them, they cannot merely accept his word at face value. They need hard evidence, and a receipt is key in moving his statement from an uncorroborated claim to a matter of fact that can be objectively substantiated. He will have to corroborate any statements that he makes, and by having receipts for where he repaid Austin for the value of the plane ticket is the easiest and most direct way of doing that. Hopefully he has some type of documentation establishing that he did not use the hotel suite in question as well.
Also, according to what Kausler writes, Dareus wasn't exactly outed by UA compliance for his role in the matter. Far from it in fact:
Last week, when reports surfaced about Austin's possible involvement with agents, Dareus was urged to call Alabama coach Nick Saban, a source close to the family said. The player and coach met late Sunday morning.
On Monday, Dareus met with Mike Ward, Alabama's associate athletic director in charge of NCAA compliance, the source said.
So, for those 'Bama fans who wanted to throw Dareus under the bus this time last night, it seems like Dareus did the right thing here in every way that he could. Not only did he apparently leave the party when he figured out what was going on, it was also he that voluntarily step forward and spoke with Coach Saban and UA compliance regarding the matter as soon as he realized that it may be an issue. Hats off to Dareus for that.
Now, of course, we're still holding our breath on this one, and we will do so until Dareus is cleared in this matter. Nevertheless, based on what Dareus says -- and he has some evidence to prove his story -- I don't believe that he actually did anything wrong, and furthermore he did the right thing by coming forward of his own volition to let UA know of what happened. For now, consider this very, very good news. Perhaps now it makes perfect sense why Saban so vehemently denied that Dareus had been ruled ineligible earlier in the day.
Hope for the best.