SBJ/January 9-15, 2012/Lagor and Agents

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  • Agent searches increasingly move to campus

    Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III was set to interview representatives of five sports agencies this past weekend — with the meetings scheduled to be held on the Baylor University campus and with athletic department compliance representatives on hand, part of a growing trend in the recruitment of future NFL players, agents and others say.

    An increasing number of major, NFL-player-producing universities are encouraging their student athletes to use university facilities as well as have university staff or consultants hired by the university sit in on agent-search presentations and interviews. The development comes at a time when several major programs have been rocked by scandals involving NCAA rules violations.

    Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is orchestrating his agent search with help from his school, Baylor.
    Photo by: ICON SMI
    “We certainly have seen a greater awareness of the issues at hand among our members, as well as an increased dialogue of best practices, such as agent searches being held on campus,” said NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn, in an email.

    Numbers are hard to come by; Osburn said schools are not required to report to the NCAA how many interviews are being held on campus or how many university compliance representatives are sitting in on interviews. But multiple agents said more schools than ever are having compliance officers involved in the agent-selection process or are hiring outside consultants to help student athletes with agent-education issues.

    Cornerstone Sports Consulting, a company founded by former Washington Redskins vice president and former NFL player agent Joe Mendes, started out advising a few schools on agent issues four years ago. Now, Cornerstone is a consultant for 11 Division I schools, including North Carolina, Oklahoma and Washington.

    “There is a movement towards bringing the agents on campus and to try to take control of the process and help players and their families gain information to make a more informed choice,” said Cornerstone’s Jack Mula, who joined the firm in 2010 after working as general counsel of the New England Patriots and as an NFL player agent.

    Cornerstone is hired and paid by the schools and will sit in on agent searches for student athletes if the athletes and their families want them to — at no charge to the athletes.

    Another consulting firm, Collegiate Sports Advisors, was similarly hired by the University of Memphis for its services. Company co-founder Jason Belzer said he and fellow co-founder Darren Heitner sat in on agent interviews conducted by defensive tackle Dontari Poe — who Belzer said ultimately interviewed 17 agents before selecting CAA Sports’ Jimmy Sexton to represent him.

    Belzer said university officials’ concerns about potential eligibility issues in the wake of schools’ recent scandals was “absolutely” the reason more universities were hiring consultants or having compliance representatives involved in agent searches.

    Warren Zola, who for a decade has chaired Boston College’s Professional Sports Counseling Panel, agrees with that assessment.

    “Because of the scandals, schools are recognizing they can get themselves into hot water, and because of that they are more engaged in bringing compliance officers in,” said Zola, whose group advises BC student athletes. “Or, if they don’t have expertise on campus, they are bringing in consulting firms to consult with their student athletes.”

    This past weekend, Griffin, his parents and Baylor compliance officials were set to hold interviews with prominent agents from at least five different agencies: CAA, Athletes First, Lagardère Unlimited, Maximum Sports Management and Select Sports Group, sources said.

    Officials for the five agencies either would not comment or did not return phone calls for comment. Chad Jackson, Baylor senior associate athletic director for compliance, also would not comment on the identities of the agents or agencies who were scheduled to give presentations to Griffin — but Jackson did say Baylor and its compliance officers have been involved for months with helping the Griffin family deal with the onslaught of requests by agents who are interested in representing the quarterback.

    Griffin, a junior, as of last Thursday had not formally declared for the draft, but his availability was widely expected. Jackson said Baylor compliance officers attending the agent interviews would ensure that Griffin retains his eligibility should he opt to stay in school.

    Baylor has also provided assistance and counsel to running back Terrance Ganaway and wide receiver Kendall Wright on their agent searches. It’s part of the school’s effort to become more engaged in the athletes’ actions not only while they are in school, but also as they look to move on from campus.

    “Our goal as a compliance office is to make sure that everything we do adheres to NCAA rules and regulations,” said Jackson, who was hired by Baylor in August. “But beyond that, we feel like our role is to provide support to the student athletes. Administrators and coaches would not be employed without student athletes.”

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  • Former player Sims signs first big prospect for NFL draft

    Liz Mullen
    The season for signing top prospects for the 2012 NFL draft started in earnest last week, and former NFL player-turned-agent Thomas Sims signed his first big prospect: University of North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples.

    Coples was ranked last week by NFLDraftScout.com as the No. 11 prospect in the draft. Sims, who joined Allegiant Athletic Agency in 2010 after a short NFL playing career in the 1980s, will serve as the lead agent for Coples. Agency president and NFL agent Chad Speck will co-represent him.

    Quinton Coples of North Carolina signed with Allegiant Athletic Agency.
    Photo by: ICON SMI
    Coples played defensive end and defensive tackle at North Carolina, but Sims said he will play defensive end in the NFL. “They played him at tackle at UNC on different schemes, but his natural ability is to rush the passer,” Sims said.

    SIGNINGS FOR ROSENHAUS, SELECT, PRIORITY: Rosenhaus Sports signed Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still for representation in the 2012 NFL draft. Agents and brothers Drew and Jason Rosenhaus will represent Still, who was ranked No. 8 by NFLDraftScout.com last week. … Select Sports Group signed Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright. NFLDraftScout.com ranked Wright No. 15 last week. Agents Vann McElroy, Jeff Nalley and Graylan Crain will represent him. … Priority Sports & Entertainment has signed a number of prospects for this year’s draft, including Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner and Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins. Priority also signed North Carolina State linebacker Audie Cole and Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead. Agent Kenny Zuckerman will represent Wagner, agent Mike McCartney will represent Cousins, agent Deryk Gilmore will represent Cole, and agent Rick Smith will represent Pead.

    Schaffer
    SMITH, SCHAFFER SUING EACH OTHER:
    NFL player agent Lamont Smith and his former business partner of more than two decades, NFL player agent Peter Schaffer, are suing each other after Schaffer left All Pro Sports & Entertainment last year, taking about 50 player clients with him.

    As first reported in the Denver Business Journal, an affiliated publication of SportsBusiness Journal, Smith sued Schaffer in state court in Denver in September, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and misappropriation of trade secrets, among other things. Schaffer countersued in November, alleging tortious interference of contract and breach of contract, among other things.
    Smith

    Smith alleges that Schaffer received payments that were supposed to go to APSE, including money that former APSE client and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith owed to the agency after he fired them and signed with agents Drew and Jason Rosenhaus. The lawsuit alleges that Rosenhaus Sports advised APSE that there was an agreement between Rosenhaus Sports and Schaffer for repayment of money advanced to Smith for training and other things, but that none of the money went to APSE.

    Drew Rosenhaus declined to comment.

    Schaffer alleges that Smith diverted millions of dollars from APSE without corporate approval, including paying with APSE funds travel, meals and other expenses of a “youth/high school”-aged basketball team, thereby jeopardizing those athletes’ college eligibility.

    Smith said the allegation regarding paying expenses for a youth basketball team is not true, saying, “It was a team of professional athletes that went overseas.”

    Both Schaffer and Smith said the lawsuits were filed after they were unable to settle their differences over their split, but both indicated there was still a chance they could settle matters.

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

    Print | Tags: Labor and Agents
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