A former sports agent told Sports Illustrated he paid college football players early in his career, and several of them confirmed it to the magazine.
In the Oct. 18 edition, Josh Luchs said he paid more than 30 players from 1990 to '96, including many who didn't sign with him.
He said quarterback Ryan Leaf, the second pick in the 1998 draft who famously flopped in the pros, took more than $10,000, most of which he voluntarily paid back after signing with another agent. Leaf declined to comment on specific allegations.
Luchs told the magazine he also paid first-round picks Jamir Miller and Chris Mims. Miller, a linebacker from UCLA taken 10th by the Cardinals in 1994, declined comment. Mims, a defensive lineman from Tennessee taken 23rd by the Chargers in 1992, died in 2008.
The former agent also said that while he was recruiting Ohio State receiver Santonio Holmes in 2005, Holmes said he had been taking money from an agent for a couple of years. Holmes, now with the Jets, told the magazine and ESPNNewYork.com that the story was untrue.
Luchs was suspended for a year by the NFL Players Association in 2007 over the handling of a commission check. He says he's telling his story because "I don't want my career to be defined by that suspension."
Luchs says he didn't pay players while working with Gary Wichard, the agent linked to the investigation of NCAA violations at North Carolina. But he says Wichard and John Blake, the Tar Heels assistant who resigned amid the investigation, worked together in violation of NCAA rules in 2002.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that the league has talked to college coaches and agents about reports that a coach was on an agent's payroll.
"We had a report today from our college relations committee on our relationship with agents and college coaches. This is an area of great concern by the coaches on the college level, and we want to be responsive to that," Goodell said in Chicago, site of the NFL's fall meetings. "I think there is going to be an effort with college coaches and the agent community itself, possibly the NFL and NFLPA and to work together to bring a solution."
Luchs said Wichard used ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper to help recruit players, describing a 2000 meeting with Stanford defensive lineman Willie Howard in which Wichard had arranged for Kiper to call as he talked with the player.
Kiper told SI that he "would never promote Gary or another agent to a player" and denied that the call was prearranged.
"Conversations with players, which are occasionally facilitated by agents, are a valuable way to get to know the players," Kiper said in a statement. "These conversations have never compromised my integrity and my 32-year record supports that. "
Luchs sued Wichard for breach of contract after leaving his agency and lost the lawsuit. Wichard filed the grievance with the NFLPA over Luchs' handling of the check.
Wichard and Blake declined comment through their lawyers.
Luchs says Jonathan Ogden, the Baltimore Ravens' 11-time Pro Bowl tackle, wouldn't take money but accepted Janet Jackson concert tickets in violation of NCAA rules. Ogden confirmed the account.
Luchs lists more than 20 other players he says he paid: Michigan State's Tony Banks; Arizona's Rob Waldrop; Tennessee's Chuck Webb; Portland State's Darick Holmes; Illinois' Mel Agee; USC's Travis Claridge, Phalen Pounds, R. Jay Soward and Delon Washington; Colorado's Kanavis McGhee, Joel Steed and Greg Thomas; Washington State's Leon Bender, Torey Hunter, Singor Mobley and John Rushing; and UCLA's Chris Alexander, Ryan Fien, Carl Greenwood, Othello Henderson, Vaughn Parker, Matt Soenksen and Bruce Walker.
Alexander, Greenwood, Henderson, Mobley, Soenksen, Soward, and Walker confirmed receiving money. Fien, Hunter, Steed and Waldrop said they did not receive money from Luchs.
Banks, Parker, Pounds and Rushing declined to comment on the allegations. Holmes, McGhee, Thomas, Washington and Webb did not respond to requests to comment.
Agee, Claridge and Bender are deceased.
Luchs says Dana Stubblefield, J.J. Stokes and Keyshawn Johnson declined to take money from him.