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Volume 20 No. 41

Labor and Agents

Liz Mullen
Kauffman Sports Management Group, a Los Angeles-based firm that represents NBA coaches and general managers, has opened a college coaching division and has signed University of Nevada-Las Vegas coach Dave Rice as one of the division’s first clients.

The firm also has signed U.S. Naval Academy coach Ed DeChellis, Air Force Academy coach Dave Pilipovich, UC Irvine coach Russell Turner and UNLV associate head coach Justin Hutson for representation.

Veteran NBA agent Steve Kauffman founded and owns Kauffman Sports. Kauffman said he had interviews set up with other college basketball coaches in the coming weeks, both head coaches and high-level assistants.

“We have meetings set up with four or five coaches at the NCAA regional tournament [games] and probably about a half-dozen at the Final Four,” said Kauffman, who was commissioner of the minor league Continental Basketball Association in the 1970s, about the same time he started representing NBA players.

In the subsequent years, Kauffman went on to represent a number of great NBA players, including Dominique Wilkins, Wayman

Kauffman signed UNLV’s Rice (top) and Air Force’s Pilipovich.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES (2)
Tisdale and Doc Rivers. But the National Basketball Players Association prohibits agents from representing both NBA players and coaches, and in 2008 Kauffman switched to representing coaches.

Today, his NBA coaching clients include Golden State’s Mark Jackson, Utah’s Tyrone Corbin and New Orleans’ Monty Williams. He also represents numerous assistant coaches. Additionally, he represents Rod Higgins, Charlotte president of basketball operations; Milwaukee general manager John Hammond; Indiana general manager David Morway; and Donnie Walsh, former general manager and special consultant to the New York Knicks.

Kauffman said he had not represented college basketball coaches previously because, unlike the NFL, there is not a lot of crossover between college and pro coaches, and because “I had always set up shop as an NBA guy.” That changed after some college basketball coaches approached him about entering the business.

As things have developed, Kauffman said the fact that he no longer represents NBA players is appealing to college basketball coaches. “It’s sometimes a sigh of relief [for the coaches] because they think sometimes these [other agents’] agendas are to represent the players,” Kauffman said.

The NBPA does not prohibit NBA player agents from representing college basketball coaches.

EXCEL SIGNS WEEKS: Excel Sports Management partner and MLB agent Casey Close has signed Oakland A’s second baseman Jemile Weeks for representation.

CAA SIGNS FREENEY: CAA Football has signed Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney for representation. Agents Tom Condon and Ben Dogra will represent him.

YEE & DUBIN SIGNS GOLFER: Yee & Dubin Sports has signed its first golf client, Christina Stockton, who will be featured in the coming season of the Golf Channel reality series “Big Break.” The firm, which represents about 25 NFL players, including New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, also signed Denver Broncos restricted free agent wide receiver Matt Willis.

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

NFL player compensation for the 2012 season will consume a greater percentage of revenue than described in the collective-bargaining agreement because the calculated figure came in low enough that it triggered a provision requiring a player cost amount of $142.4 million per club.

Without the provision, the cap could have been as low as $113 million instead of the $120.6 million at which it was set, sources said, though others said the cap would have been about $115 million. There is also nearly $22 million in player benefits per club.

A combination of factors, such as softness in local revenue and expense deductions and credits in the eight-month-old CBA, served to drive down what the salary cap would have been without the floor.

Under a section titled “floors,” the CBA states, “If, in the 2012 or 2013 League Year, the Player Cost Amount … is less than $142.4 million per Club, then the Player Cost Amount shall be increased to $142.4 million per Club.”

That is what happened with the 2012 cap, which the league and NFL Players Association spent weeks setting. Under the CBA, the maximum percentage of revenue that players can receive in 2012 is 48 percent, but that is before revenue deductions and cost credits reduce the figure by a few percentage points. Conservatively, presuming the league generates $9.6 billion in revenue in 2012 (a $200 million increase from 2011), and if the players’ share were 46 percent of revenue after deductions and credits, that would deliver an amount of $138 million. Subtracting from that amount the $22 million for benefits, the cap would come in at $116 million.

The $142.4 million salary and benefits floor exists for 2012 and 2013, according to the CBA, meaning there could be potential for fall off in future years unless revenue rises faster. In 2014, the league’s new media contracts kick in and will drive the cap higher, but the upside could be stifled to some degree if local revenue remains sluggish.

The owners argued that the new 10-year CBA was necessary to create wider profit margins that would enable the league to invest in new stadiums and other businesses, things that in turn would deliver more cash to the players. The players had been getting more than 50 percent of revenue.

It’s early in that process. For example, 2014, the first year without a floor ($142.4 million was also the pre-set amount of team player costs in 2011) will see not just the new media deals sending revenue higher, but also likely a new stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., for the San Francisco 49ers. That one stadium could deliver new revenue in the low eight figures into the pool of money shared with players. The league also expects digital initiatives to generate more money, and, if the economy improves, more clubs could increase ticket prices. Many have kept prices flat in recent years.

Commissioner Roger Goodell several years ago set a league revenue goal of $25 billion by 2027.

Sources said there was no direct link between the NFL cap talks with the NFLPA and the penalties the league meted out to the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins last week for front-loading contracts in 2010. The league had told teams not to do that in the last year of the old CBA, an uncapped year, due to worries that clubs would be trying to reduce their costs when a cap returned. If a player signed a multiyear deal in 2010 and the team paid most of it that season, when there was no cap, the club would then have smaller cap hits in future years than if the salary had been spread out over many years.

Notably, in its comment about the front-loading sanctions, the league said the CBA envisioned low cap figures in the first few years of the agreement.

“The Management Council Executive Committee [the NFL’s labor group] determined that the contract practices of a small number of clubs during the 2010 league year created an unacceptable risk to future competitive balance, particularly in light of the relatively modest salary cap growth projected for the new agreement’s early years,” the league said.

Several media reports last week said the cap would have been less than $120.6 million, but the union, in return for agreeing to strip the Cowboys and Redskins of cap space and redistribute it to other teams, got a higher figure. Such an agreement, however, likely would have been unnecessary for the union, as the $142.4 million amount was already guaranteed in the CBA. It is possible the union wanted a cap figure at least as high as last year, but that debate would have been about the proper mix of benefits and salaries, and not about actually artificially increasing the amount teams could spend on players.

The NFLPA did not reply for comment.

The cap of $120.6 million represents only a maximum, and teams are free to spend as far under that level as they wish in 2012. In the first two years of the CBA, there are no minimum club spending requirements, though the league must average cash spending equivalent to 99 percent of the cap. Signing bonuses, which teams amortize, do count in their entirety toward the league average.

Teams also do not have to meet minimum spending requirements in individual seasons in the last eight years of the deal, but they must average spending 89 percent of the cap over the 2013 to 2016 seasons, and again over the 2017 to 2020 period.

The NFL Players Association will hold its annual meeting later this week in Marco Island, Fla., where it is scheduled to elect a new player president and several executive committee members. It also may move to eliminate the so-called “junior rule” that limits when agents can have contact with college underclassmen.

Additionally, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is widely expected at the meeting to stand for re-election. Smith, who began as executive director in 2009, received a three-year contract when he was voted to his post by the players.

Attempts to reach Smith for comment on this story were unsuccessful.

Two player leaders last week said they did not know of any new candidates who were going to run for the executive director job, adding that if an outsider did run, they doubted the candidate would win an election. These player leaders asked for anonymity, saying they believed union business should be kept private.

Replacements for NFLPA Player President Kevin Mawae (left) and executive committee member Tony Richardson (at podium) are expected to be chosen when the NFLPA meets this week. Executive Director DeMaurice Smith (right) is expected to stand for re-election.
Former Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks has said that he has been approached about running for the position and reportedly had been considering it. Attempts to reach Brooks through his marketing agent, Peter Miller of Jabez Marketing, were unsuccessful.

As for NFLPA Player President Kevin Mawae, who had filled that role since he was elected in 2008, he is no longer eligible for the post because he has retired as a player. Executive committee members Jeff Saturday, Domonique Foxworth and Charlie Batch have been named publicly as candidates who could run for that position, but it was not clear last week if any of the three, or if any other players, would run.

Attempts to reach Saturday, Foxworth and Batch were unsuccessful. Mawae declined via email to comment.
At least three additional seats on the 11-member executive committee are open as well, as Sean Morey, Tony Richardson and Mike Vrabel have retired.

Team representatives vote on the executive director position and on the executive committee members. Executive committee members typically are players who have previously served as their teams’ player representatives.
Meanwhile, Smith told NFL player agents at the NFL combine in Indianapolis last month that the union could act to eliminate the “junior rule” at the meeting. The rule has been unpopular with NFL player agents since it was passed in 2007. It prohibits them from having any contact with college football players until the players are three years removed from high school.

The late Gene Upshaw, who was NFLPA executive director when the rule was implemented, said at the time that the rule was at least in part a result of requests from college football coaches, including current Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who then was head coach at USC. Upshaw said college coaches wanted the NFLPA to stop agents from pestering young college football players and convincing them to declare for the draft early. Agents contend all the rule has done is give a competitive recruiting edge to marketing agents and financial advisers who are not regulated by the NFLPA. Additionally, the rule has not stopped college football players from declaring early, as this year there were a record number of underclassmen, 65, who declared for the NFL draft.