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Being a Sports Agent: Examining the Profession of Athlete RepresentationIn fulfillment of the Requirements forThe Esther G. Maynor Honors CollegeUniversity of North Carolina at PembrokeByRicky Stone IIExercise & Sport ScienceApril 29th, 2014Ricky Stoitf IIHonorsCollege SDr. Jeff Holies, Ph.D.Faculty MentorMark/vlilewiczyMilewicz, Ptf 5. s CollegeRonDeanVEsther G. Mirror HonorsDa

AcknowledgmentsThis work was very important to me outside of fulfilling an educational requirement. Theinformation that I was able to compile along with the assistance I received throughout thisprocess not only allowed me to complete my research, but also provided me with more insightinto the industry of athlete representation. I would like to express gratitude within this work tothe following individuals:Dr. Jeff Boles, Ph. D.Sam RenautJarrett G. MeadorsWithout the efforts that these gentlemen put forth, I would have more than likely ended uphaving to restructure the approach of my study into a completely alternate, less satisfying versionof the initial thesis that I desired to complete. The individuals listed above offered their personalnetwork contacts to contribute to the progression of my endeavors at the most crucial moment ofthis process. I am extremely grateful for the deeds that I was able to request and receive fromthese people.2

TABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract. 2Introduction. 3Review of Literature 4Analysis .13Discussion . 20Conclusion .25Methodology .26References .27AppendicesAppendix A:Survey Questions .30Appendix B:IRB Approval .33Appendix C:Email Cover for Survey Instrument .34ii

ABSTRACTBEING A SPORTS AGENT: EXAMINING THE PROFESSION OF ATHLETEREPRESENTATIONByRicky Stone IIExercise & Sport ScienceThe University of North Carolina at PembrokeMay 2014Anything that remains relevant in society over time faces changes with progression in cultureand technology, including goods, services, laws, and especially professions, that may seemstrange to imagine life without. The tricky thing about professions is that if they don‟t respondwell to adaptations, they are usually eliminated if a substitution can be created to yield similarresults. This is not any different for athlete representation, which is a profession that has seenmany changes but still is a necessary field to prevent professional athletes from being takenadvantage of by organizations and vice versa. This is an examination of how modernadvancements, controversy, and motivation have collectively shaped the perspective of the fieldfrom the opinions of those currently involved in the profession. A survey was sent to severalagencies to gather data about the general response to issues such as the impact of social media,aggressive agents, certification regulations, and the future of the profession, among other things.While analyzing the data collected from the survey, this thesis will provide brief backgroundinformation on the main pillars that sustain this profession. The information offered will provideinsight for people who may have a serious interest in this occupation to the casual inquirer whowould just like to discover facts about this line of work.2

IntroductionAthlete representation is a very complex and misunderstood profession. The people whoparticipate in the profession have faced a heavy amount of scrutiny over the issues that plagueagents who do their work the wrong way. This criticism has subsequently caused theseprofessionals to close themselves off from the prying minds of the outside world. Not muchthought is given to all of the duties that this career entails and how the people who are in thisfield respond to the demands. When the controversy becomes larger with each problem, how dothese professionals react? One may even become curious as to how someone could becomeinvolved in such a profession when the few avenues to obtain information are disguised so muchthat aspiring agents work hard for years to get a foot in the door, leading some to resort tounethical tactics in order to scale the ranks of success in an accelerated manner.This study has been developed to dig deeper into the mysterious operations of sportsagents, athlete representation and their respective impacts on each other‟s careers. The constantevolution of society and the workings of modern sports will often throw a wrench into plans ofsuccess for both athletes and their agents. How do they adjust? How do they feel watchingdamaging incidents unfold? What steps should be taken in order to move towards a more stable,secure environment for the practicing professionals currently in the fray, as well as the futureprofessionals who desire to take part in the industry the RIGHT way? Origins of careers as wellas potential pitfalls and worries are discussed and examined through analysis of a survey alongwith a review of literature, articles, and other various sources of information that provide themost insight on topics that may be of concern to anyone who has an interest in the professionpopularized by the likes of Scott Boras, Drew Rosenhaus, Bill Duffy, and perhaps mostfamously, Jerry Macguire.3

Review of LiteratureAthlete RepresentationThe sports agent is the link between the personal and professional life of the athlete,arranging and securing the opportunities for the individual to prosper playing sports during thephysical peak years of their life. The athlete should carefully select his agent, the person whowill represent him in business negotiations. The agent is trusted to advocate on behalf of theathlete, and more importantly, the agent is cognizant of how much the athlete is making, couldmake, and will be able to make in the future. Agents may often act as athlete‟s personalmanagers, working to advance athletes‟ reputations, vocations, and earning potential. The agentis the essential link between the general business world and the athlete.The sports agent may be involved in many aspects of an athlete‟s professional life, butthe agent‟s primary responsibility is keeping the athlete employed and in compliance withcontractual obligations. An additional aspect of athlete representation can include the agent‟sbackground in specialized education, as far as what additional services to offer along withrepresentation. Sports agents traditionally assumed various roles according to the needs of theirclients (Davis, Mathewson, and Shropshire, 1999).The role of a sports agent has expanded greatly. According to Jones (1999), professionalathletes were left on their own to negotiate the terms of their contracts. Agents currently managethe terms of anything that an athlete participates in, from the athletic front to entertainment fronts(commercials, movies, TV shows, etc.), all of which they expect to receive compensation for.The profession of sports representation is credited to the relationship between Bob Woolf andEarl Wilson, former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, which ultimately led to the careerdevelopment of the athlete agent (Jones, 1999).4

The main duty that the sports agent serves is representing the athlete in contractnegotiations with a professional sports organization. Sports agents are brought in to reach anegotiable and fair agreement for the athlete to sign without personal conflictions interferingwith the nature of business. Leigh Steinberg could possibly be credited with sparking a growthworldwide in this industry by allowing a director to loosely base the movie Jerry Maguire off ofwhat took place in his life over the course of a year (Roberts & Torre, 2012). The life of a verysuccessful sports agent can be almost as glamorous as those of the athletes that he or she mayrepresent, but there is a lot of hard work that goes into reaching such a level of success.The Athlete-Agent BackgroundMost athletes are focused on becoming the best competitors they can be and lack theknowledge or composure to conduct themselves properly in business negotiations. Because suchnegotiations determine the athlete‟s job and earnings, the agent is obligated to act in good faithand loyalty while representing his athletes, the legal definition of a fiduciary relationship (Jones,1999). In any occupation, less stress allows a person to be more successful, and that pertains toprofessional athletes as well. Agents represent athletes whether they participate in individual orteam sports (Dailey & Fenech, 2003).An agent may have many different routes to becoming a representative of currentprofessional athletes. A few paths may include being a former athlete, which may drive them tohelp following athletes avoid the same disadvantages and pitfalls that they may have beenexposed to during their career or a former front office executive for a professional sportsorganization may have realized an injustice in how contract negotiations have been handled andmay desire to set a new standard for this process.5

The athlete-agent tandem will often work together in order to ensure success for oneanother and themselves by striving for advancement in the right ways. In an ideal scenario, theagent will work to provide long stints of employment and financial security for their clients inorder to build a reputation that attracts more current and future clients while the athletes willwork hard to assure that the agent will have statistics to support more years and dollars on thenext round of contract negotiations along with income opportunities from many other avenues.Protecting the AthleteOver the years, agents and agencies alike have used ways to manipulate and even trickathletes into entering a representation agreement before they have decided who would be theright person to handle their business on their behalf. Player agent regulations have been soughtafter following repeated stories of improper business practices used to secure clients (Davis,Mathewson, & Shropshire, 1999).Former United States president Teddy Roosevelt expressed a desire to have the earlystages of collegiate football ruled by a governing body that could create and institute regulationsthat made the game safer, leading to the creation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association(NCAA) (Jones, 1999). The NCAA has taken many steps to combat injustice while at the sametime making sure that the student athletes as well as the athletic departments are more aware ofthe terms of amateurism in order to abide by them more effortlessly. The excuse that manyplayers use to escape severe punishments on their behalf is that they didn‟t know about the rules,but as Feinstein (2010) states, “Not only do players know the rules, the rules are pounded intotheir heads.”One specific problem that has plagued many successful NCAA sports programs has beenthe involvement of boosters. Boosters are usually alumni of the school who are doing very well6

financially who willingly donate large amounts of money towards athletic programs of a schooland graciously support various fundraising efforts. There are good boosters and bad boosters inthe world of college athletics and the bad boosters are the ones who knowingly or unknowinglywill jeopardize the eligibility student athletes have to compete in sporting events for the school.A positive example of booster support is gas tycoon T. Boone Pickens, who has donated over 500 million to his undergraduate alma mater of Oklahoma State University in the early 2000s,according to Forbes (2010). The football stadium was named after him following his generouscontributions to the university to show appreciation for his deed. This type of support does notdraw NCAA investigation because it benefits the school and the athletic department as a wholerather than a few key individual athletes. A negative example of booster support occurred withthe University of Miami athletic program and booster Nevin Shapiro. Shapiro made largecontributions to the university‟s athletic program and had the student athlete lounge named afterhim but he was charged in 2010 for running a Ponzi Scheme that robbed many creditors andinvestors of millions of dollars, he also gave money and expensive gifts to important Miamifigures such as then Miami Heat player Shaquille O‟Neal and the Miami police chief (Hanks,2010). He was also the center of an NCAA investigation due to his gambling habits that heheavily cashed in on because of inside information he‟d receive from members of the footballteam and its coaching staff (Thamel & Wolff, 2013). His illegal activities (he was also believedto give money, gifts, and favors to various members of the Miami Hurricanes‟ student-athletepopulation over the time period from 2002-2010, consisting largely of football and basketballplayers), along with his criminal findings led to the university‟s athletic program undergoing athree year period where they lost three scholarships each year in addition to its‟ self-imposed twoyear postseason ban which they served the last two seasons (Daniels, 2013).7

One way that the NCAA attempts to keep the problems in the past is that they require allstudent athletes to be honest disclosing any information during investigations, regardless ofpossible outcomes. “Knowingly furnishing the N.C.A.A. or the individual‟s institution false ormisleading information concerning the individual‟s involvement in or knowledge of mattersrelevant to a possible violation of an N.C.A.A. regulation” is prohibited by NCAA bylaw 10.1(d) (Evans, 2009). This rule was violated by current Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryantwhen he played at Oklahoma State University. When initially questioned about a meeting he hadwith NFL legend Deion Sanders one day in Texas, Bryant denied that he went into Sanders‟home for dinner, but later investigation confirmed that Bryant had dinner with Sanders in hishome, causing Bryant to be ruled ineligible for his junior season (Evans, 2009). Although Bryantwas one of the most dynamic college players in the country, missing the majority of his juniorseason caused his draft stock to plummet to the 24th overall selection of the NFL draft. Thisshows that even actions punished during your collegiate career still may have a noticeable impacton the professional end as well.Another way that the NCAA attempts to protect student-athletes is making it illegal tomake contact with members of professional sports organizations. The professional sports leaguesand the NCAA work together to levy the punishment towards the offending sports organizationas a whole. In 2011, the NBA issued a fine of 50,000 to the New Jersey Nets (now the BrooklynNets) because one of its owners had went into the locker room of the Kentucky Wildcats tocongratulate the team following a win in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Men‟s CollegeBasketball Tournament. In the rules policed by the NBA, team personnel are not allowed to havecontact with basketball players who are ineligible for the draft (NBA, 2011). It just so happenedthat the owner in question was Shawn Carter, better known as rapper Jay-Z. Many of these8

young men were probably fans of the superstar entertainer and Carter likely wanted to be seensolely as a celebrity fan but as an owner he is not allowed to interact with amateur athletes.Carter obviously meant no harm with his actions, but this maneuver made by other team officialsin the past could easily persuade top talents to leave school early.Agents vs. AgentsAs in any profession, there is heavy competition amongst those in field, and athleterepresentation is no different. Hindrances that put agents in a finite operation space to obtain andsatisfy clients are met with other agents who are often trying to reach the same potential clients,while resorting to underhanded and most of the time illegal tactics to win their favor. Theathlete-agent contract currently serves as the strongest and only tool that keeps agents fromlosing their clients right under their eyes. Competition in any nature is an efficient way ofseparating those who really want to reach desired goals from those who aren‟t willing to workfor those same result, but there is obviously no way to police the competition when thecompetitors go to extreme lengths to cover up what they have done in order to excel.The biggest strike against sports agents, more so in earlier times, was that they wouldfinancially support amateur athletes in hopes of securing a client and having a head start onagents that would legally recruit clients the proper way. This would often include but was notlimited to giving money to players for family members, paying for social outings with friends,and buying food or clothing for the athlete. One agent has told of his experience of thesechronicles on the road to success in this field. Josh Luchs tells how he first began to give athletesmoney and then he was shown how to lure in more athletes by learning under the wing of a moreseasoned agent who was doing the same thing but had achieved more by doing so (Dohrmann,2010). The actions committed by Luchs and those he worked with came to light well after he9

attempted to walk the straight and narrow by doing well the right way at a new agency, whichled to his dismissal.In the current state of this profession, many agents are under an umbrella and worktogether at agencies. They will pool their resources in order to keep current clients satisfied whileusing a collective clientele to lure in more clients. Karcher alludes to this trend occurring as earlyas 1995 in which agents have been persuaded to join a larger entity and bring their success withthem (as cited in Disbarring Jerry Maguire, 2007, p. 230). One legal and acceptable way thatagents can build credibility is the old fashioned way, and that is to obtain clients that will excelin their sport inside and outside of the playing scope to urge organizations to throw millions ofdollars to acquire their services. When other rising athletes notice that the same agent representsseveral established, prosperous athletes, it will draw interest and a desire for similar results.Social Media, Secrets, & ConsequencesTwitter, the popular micro-blogging site that allows one to send informative blasts to allof their “followers” in no more than 140 characters per post, has transformed into an avenue usedto broadcast more information than what should be known. For example, the University of NorthCarolina Chapel Hill faced sanctions in 2010 from the NCAA due to a tweet from former starTar Heel football player Marvin Austin. This tweet offered investigators insight to possibleviolations committed by agents who paid for Austin to enjoy an outing at a lavish nightclub inMiami, Florida. These findings also led to investigations at Marvin‟s school in Chapel Hill,where several infractions were found within the football program separate from this particularincident (Carter, 2013). The NCAA handed down sanctions to the football program in addition tothe self-imposed ones issued before the ruling came down, a tactic often employed to avoidharsher violation penalties that could perhaps cripple the program. Although this is an extreme10

case, tweets and other social media posts can be incriminating evidence against anyone,including the person who posted the information.A lot of athletes, professional or amateur, use social networking to communicate withother athletes or to send fans personal updates on a more frequent basis than a news report or asanctioned team press release. This may seem beneficial to diehard fans that enj