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SBJ/January 9-15, 2012/Lagor and Agents
Agent searches increasingly move to campus
Published January 9, 2012, Page 5
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.
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.”