SBJ/August 22-28, 2011/Labor and Agents

More colleges telling football agents to keep their distance

Liz Mullen
With college football season set to begin, an increasing number of NCAA Division I schools are sending letters and emails to NFL agents, multiple agents said, asking or telling them to limit their contact with college football athletes.

“You used to get a letter or two a few years ago,” said one agent. “Now, you are getting emails from every school.”

Another agent said there were no letters 10 years ago, a couple five years ago and dozens now. As a result of actions by some of the schools, this agent said, agents may not go to a lot of college football games this fall.

“It used to be you could go and talk to the players, but you can’t sign anyone or give them anything. But now, the schools have taken it to another level,” the agent said.

It’s not clear exactly how many schools are sending out letters this year. Agents requested anonymity for fear of being targeted by NCAA investigators. Some agents even declined to give the names of schools that had contacted them for fear that might identify them.

AP IMAGES
Alabama has told agents to avoid off-campus contact with players until after the season unless coach Nick Saban authorizes it.
SportsBusiness Journal did obtain one email, sent out in July by University of Alabama compliance coordinator Matthew Self, informing agents that the traditional preseason interviews with student athletes had been canceled as a result of the NFL lockout and late start to the league year.

“We understand that many of you are scrambling to get your current clients under contract and into camps and thus it would have proven difficult for many of you to come to campus,” stated the letter. Self did not return a phone call.
Additionally, the Alabama letter stated, “All off-campus contact is prohibited until the end of the season, or such time as otherwise authorized” by football coach Nick Saban.

Agents said messages from other schools were different in language but most were aimed at limiting contact as well as making sure that agents registered with the school. Some agents said they received letters after sending their agency’s brochure to college football players, which is within NCAA rules and a common practice in recruiting.

Some agents questioned the legality of the schools’ limiting contact with agents.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said in an email, “This correspondence is not being sent at our direction.”

Some agents suggested that the schools were taking the action as a result of the scandal surrounding the University of North Carolina last year, in which more than a dozen athletes were accused of violating NCAA rules and suspended. Agents were interviewed for this story before the publication last week of a Yahoo! Sports story alleging that a booster with ties to a sports agency had given benefits, impermissible under NCAA rules, to at least 72 student athletes at the University of Miami over the last decade.

Schools have been increasingly proactive about trying to regulate and be informed about student-athlete contact with agents in recent years.

Tim Tessalone, sports information director at USC, said in an email that the school has taken a multipronged approach to student-athlete agent education, one that includes bringing in NCAA representatives, putting on agent awareness seminars and providing information to agents regarding NCAA rules. This year, for the first time, USC is sending a letter to agents who attended its pro day this spring, Tessalone said.

Tessalone said he did not know why other schools were sending letters but that the USC letter to agents was “in the process of being distributed.”

CAA SIGNS BASKETBALL COACHES: CAA Sports has signed University of Wisconsin at Green Bay basketball coach Brian Wardle and University of Washington assistant basketball coach Raphael Chillious for representation. Both coaches will be represented by a team of agents led by Bret Just.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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