SBJ/October 20 - 26, 2003/Labor Agents

Firms put their money down months in advance for training-center slots

Eleven football player representation firms have paid a combined total of $60,000 in deposits to a top pre-NFL draft training center, even before the agents have signed a single client for the 2004 NFL draft.

Agents from major firms such as Priority Sports & Entertainment and SFX Football are among the clients who have secured 30 spots for their yet-to-be-signed draft prospects with Tempe, Ariz.-based Athletes' Performance, said Percy Knox, director of athlete recruiting for the training center. Athletes' Performance was started four years ago by Mark Verstegen, who formerly worked at the IMG Academies training facility in Florida.

This is the first year Athletes' Performance has sold the training spots in advance, and every one of the spots is sold, Knox said.

The player rep firms signed up for two or four slots each and put up deposits of $2,000 a slot, Knox said. That $2,000 goes toward a player's training costs, which average from $9,000 to $11,000 a player. Training varies by player but generally takes place for several weeks leading up to the NFL combine and the player's pro workouts at his university.

The other firms that have signed up with Athletes' Performance are Lock Metz & Malinovich, Momentum Sports Group, Sun West Sports, JB Sports, Sports Law and Management, Premier Management, Irwin Sports Management, TruSport and Professional Sports Marketing, Knox said.

"This gives us an edge in recruiting," said Kenny Zuckerman, president of athlete representation for Priority Sports, which represents about 55 NFL players and 30 NBA players.

While IMG sends many of its athletes to its own training center, most major agents contract with a training center or with individual trainers to prepare their players for the draft.

Most major agents who sign potential high-round NFL draft prospects pay for the athlete's training, although some agents ask players to reimburse them after they sign an NFL contract. Players and their families often consider an agent's pre-draft training plans as a major factor when selecting an agent.

Knox said that last year some agent clients complained that other agents were falsely telling prospective NFL rookie recruits that they could get training at the Athletes' Performance center. This year, agents who have deals with the company will get a certificate "that says this particular agent is one of 11 agents with exclusive access to our facility," Knox said.

For now, all agents have agreed to one-year deals with Athletes' Performance.

"If things work out, we will look at maybe locking these guys down for maybe multiple years," Knox said.

Athletes' Performance has trained athletes such as Levi Jones, Ken Dorsey and Nick Barnett for the NFL draft.

ASM SPORTS SIGNS TABUSE: ASM Sports signed Japanese basketball star Yuta Tabuse and has negotiated his one-year, non-guaranteed minimum wage deal with the Denver Nuggets.

ASM Sports negotiated the contract for new Nugget Yuta Tabuse.
Normally a player of that status would not garner much attention, but several Japanese media outlets have sent reporters to Denver to cover Tabuse's quest to make it in the NBA. Although the NBA has had Japanese-American players in the past, Tabuse would be the first player born in Japan to play in the league if he makes the Nuggets' roster, said NBA spokesman Terry Lyons. That decision will be made by the Nuggets just prior to the regular season.

Tabuse, a 5-foot-9 guard, played NCAA Division II basketball at BYU-Hawaii from 2000 through 2002 and was on the Japanese national team at the 2001 FIBA World Championship. He played in the JBL Super League in Japan and was that league's rookie of the year last year.

ASM principal Andy Miller represents about 14 players in the NBA, including Kevin Garnett. Miller has contacts in Japan because Garnett has endorsement deals there, including a deal with Japan Energy Corp. Tabuse and Miller connected when one of Miller's Japanese contacts asked him if Tabuse, who speaks English, could call him.

"[Tabuse] is only 22," Miller said. "He is a big name in Japan."

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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