HOOVER, Ala. — A party on Miami's South Beach and sports agents were once again hot topics at the Southeastern Conference media days, with South Carolina and Georgia taking center stage on Thursday.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said tight end Weslye Saunders told him he did nothing wrong during his trip to South Beach; Georgia receiver A.J. Green insisted he's never even been to Miami.
The party at Club Liv in the Fontainebleau hotel in May has been the subject of investigations by the NCAA and several schools, including defending national champion Alabama and North Carolina.
Saunders "went with several players on a trip to Miami," Spurrier said Thursday. "I guess the question is, who paid for it?
Who paid for what they did while they were there? When the investigation is finished, I guess we'll find out about all the guys.
"I've talked to him briefly. He told me he's done nothing wrong. We'll let it play out."
Green, coach Mark Richt and the other Georgia players were under NCAA instructions not to comment on the investigation, which was disclosed Wednesday evening.
Green, the Bulldogs' star receiver, told reporters at the media gathering that he hadn't been to Miami — ever.
Beyond that, he said: "It's not my place to comment on it, and I don't feel I need to."
Richt told reporters of investigators that "we'll see what they gather." SEC officials twice warned that Georgia representatives wouldn't talk about the probe.
Alabama is looking into Marcell Dareus' trip to the party around the time of his mother's death on May 18. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, the former Miami Dolphins coach who Wednesday compared the actions of unscrupulous agents to the behavior of a pimp, wants the NFL and the NFL Players Association to punish rogue agents with suspensions.
Spurrier, who coached the NFL's Washington Redskins, was more subdued when asked if he agreed with that.
"I think they ought to be a little bit more active and help out in that regard," he said. "As coaches we do all we can to tell our guys the rules — you can't accept anything from boosters, agents or whoever. But it's hard to watch them all the time.
"It's a little bit of a difficult situation, but sometimes you've just got to trust your players to know the rules and wait until after their final game before they take the money. If you can get through your senior year .... you can accept all the dough they want to give you. But you have to wait until your eligibility is over. That's what we all try to teach our guys."
Arkansas' Bobby Petrino, a former Atlanta Falcons coach, said it was "wishful thinking" that the players association and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can solve the problem for the college ranks.
"We have to worry about what we can control, our education, our continuing to work on the decision making, the understanding of what's right and what's wrong, not try to think that somebody else is going to handle it for us," Petrino said.
NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah said Wednesday the group takes "violations of NFLPA rules by agents seriously and investigate them vigilantly. This situation is no different."
Meanwhile, teammates of Saunders voiced their support but shed little light on the trip.
"I really don't know what's going on except what people are reporting," Gamecocks linebacker Shaq Wilson said. "He's been working his butt off. He's been in there every day working out. He's a model student-athlete and I think he's a great person. I support him."
"We're just hoping for the best for Weslye," added fullback Patrick DiMarco. "He's in a tough situation right now."
Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, a fourth-year junior who was eligible for the draft after last season, said his policy with agents is to avoid them.
"Obviously as a college athlete you've got to be aware of who you're around at all times," Mallett said. "I'm not talking to any agents at this time. If they contact me, I tell them if I'm going to go to the NFL, I'll talk to them after the season.
"That's how I'm doing it, because I don't want to have to deal with any of the stuff that's going on."
Arkansas is among the SEC schools employing consultant Joe Mendes to help players and their families in dealing with agents.
Outside the SEC, the NCAA is investigating North Carolina players Marvin Austin and Greg Little regarding alleged improper benefits from agents, a person with knowledge of the probe has told AP.
North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said her office has begun an investigation about potential misconduct involving agents and two Tar Heels.
"It's probably got to be a federal issue because it's one of those things that cross state lines," said Duke coach David Cutcliffe, a former Mississippi head coach and Tennessee assistant. "It's not a North Carolina problem, obviously, and it's rampant through the country.
"We've seen it on the West Coast raise its ugly head just recently (at Southern California), and I've been in the Southeastern Conference for a long time. You're constantly looking for those signs. You see these people hanging around outside your gate after a game. After doing it for 30 years, you start figuring out who they are. It's something you'd like to see authorities — legal authorities — help us where there's a problem. It's bigger than the NCAA can manage."
At Georgia Tech, quarterback Joshua Nesbitt said he doesn't agree with college players taking money from agents, but he can understand why some might be tempted to do it.
"Overall, I think it's a bad thing to accept money when it's not your job to play," Nesbitt said. "But you don't know everybody else's situation. Their back might be against the wall and that's their last leg. Who's to say they're wrong?"