Ryan Leaf was paid to play college football for Washington State University, claims agent Josh Luchs in an article for Sports Illustrated. According to Luchs, he says that he met with quarterback Ryan Leaf in Pullman, Wash., back in 1996. Leaf was about to start his junior season for the WSU Cougars, and it seemed like he was ready to become a force in the Pac-10 Conference. Luchs calls Leaf a “whale,” basically a term given to someone who is going to be worth a lot of money to whoever is able to sign him. It was at this point that Luchs began to take advantage of Leaf.
It is clear that an agent has the upper hand when it comes to college students who are in financial need, and though we don’t condone Leaf accepting money from Luchs, it is really hard for a teenager in college to turn down the chance to erase his debt. In this case, it appears that Leaf was suffering from steep credit card debt, and Luchs agreed to give him money each month to help him pay that debt off. Luchs claims that the money amounts ranged between $300 and $700 per month, and he even convinced Leaf to sign a representation contract in order to stay loyal to Luchs while the debt was paid over what seemed like a full year.
Ryan Leaf had one of the best seasons in Washington State Cougars football during 1997, averaging 330 passing yards per game and leading the Pac-10 Conference with 33 touchdowns that year. He ended up finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting, right behind winner Charles Woodson and quarterback Peyton Manning out of Tennessee. Leaf was then given the award of Pac-10 offensive players of the year, and was selected to the All-American first-team. After he lost the Rose Bowl on a botched call by the officials, Leaf decided to enter into the 1998 NFL Draft, where he was selected second overall by the San Diego Chargers.
Leaf did not have a very successful career in the NFL, and he became one of the most notable draft busts in recent years. A quarterback for the Oakland Raiders may have surpassed him recently, but Leaf lives in the minds of Chargers fans as the reason they struggled for so many years. Now it comes out that Leaf was paid during his college days, at least according to Luchs, and his image as a college player is becoming as tarnished as his NFL reputation.
Did Leaf really take the money? If the NCAA decides to investigate and finds that he did take around $10,000 from this agent, WSU could be looking at losing wins from that year. But 12 years later, will the NCAA even care? WSU fans certainly might.