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Volume 21 No. 1

Labor and Agents

Liz Mullen
Back in 2007, agent Gary O’Hagan advised his client Marc Trestman to take a job as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.

O’Hagan, who heads IMG’s coaching division, had signed Trestman as a client in 2002, when he was quarterbacks coach of the Oakland Raiders. Trestman also had experience as a positions coach and as an assistant coach. But in 2007, O’Hagan said, “He needed to prove he could manage an entire team.”

That experience has now paid off for both groups. Trestman was named head coach of the Chicago Bears earlier this month, and that move added another head coach to IMG’s roster, joining the New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin and the Washington Redskins’ Mike Shanahan.

New Bears coach Marc Trestman
Assistant NFL coaches didn’t used to have representation, but more of them are now signing with agents, O’Hagan said last week, although he wouldn’t speculate on a percentage that retain representation.

Just as being an assistant coach is a path to becoming a head coach, the track to representing someone who is a head coach can begin with representing that person when he is an assistant coach. Of course, that progression to head coach can take years, so both the coach and the agent must be patient along the way.

“I was really proud of what Gary did with Marc,” said Sandy Montag, IMG senior corporate vice president and managing director of clients. “He was a client for 11 years. They really worked together, and it paid off.”

IMG also represents Lovie Smith, whom Trestman replaced. “Lovie wants to be a head coach again,” Montag said. But with no NFL head coaching jobs currently available, Montag said, “At this point, it looks like Lovie is going to look at his options for next year.”

> UNDERCLASSMEN SET DRAFT RECORD: NFL player agents for months have been privately predicting that a record number of underclassmen would declare for this year’s NFL draft. Earlier this month, the NFL announced that, indeed, a record 73 college football players have declared, up from 65 last year.

Agents could not pinpoint an exact reason for the increase but said contributing factors could be the revocation of the Junior Rule, thus allowing agents to talk to underclassmen, and that this is a difficult year to predict who the top draft prospects might be.

Gil Brandt, former head of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys and an writer who invites prospects to the draft for the league, said he thinks the most likely reason for the increase is agents talking to players. He added that of the 65 players who declared last year, only 44 were drafted.

“I look at some of these guys of the 73 [who declared this year], and they don’t belong,” Brandt said. “They should stay in school and get an education because they will need it later in life.”

Brandt did not name names or predict how many players would not be selected, but he said he was concerned with the large number of players declaring.

“I am concerned for two reasons,” he said. “A guy who comes out and fails [doesn’t get drafted], in most cases, is reluctant to go back to school, and he is reluctant to go back to his hometown.”

> SIGNINGS FOR SCHWARTZ & FEINSOD, BUS COOK: Schwartz & Feinsod has signed Rutgers cornerback Logan Ryan for representation in the NFL draft. Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod will represent him. Bus Cook Sports has signed Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks for representation. Cook, who is best known for representing former NFLer Brett Favre, will represent Banks.

> ENCORE SIGNS DYSERT FOR MARKETING: Encore Sports & Entertainment has signed Miami University quarterback Zac Dysert for marketing work. Dysert will be represented by Chris Stuart, Encore president and CEO, and Luke Munson, Encore director of player marketing. Encore is based in Carlsbad, Calif., and represents New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, among others, for off-the-field work. Priority Sports & Entertainment agent Mike McCartney will handle Dysert’s playing contract.

> WASSERMAN NBA SIGNINGS: Wasserman Media Group has signed New Orleans Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez and Charlotte Bobcats center Bismack Biyombo for representation. Wasserman Vice Chairman Arn Tellem and executive vice president of basketball B.J. Armstrong will represent them.

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

The labor strife that nearly interrupted the 2011 football season appeared to take a toll on the finances of the NFL Players Association, leaving it with a deficit of $36 million for the fiscal year that encompassed that year’s lockout, according to the group’s tax return covering the period.

The return was filed with the IRS earlier this month.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith was the union’s top-paid executive at $3.5 million for the fiscal year ending Feb. 29, 2012.
Combined with a $20.8 million loss in the year leading up to the owner-imposed lockout — a reflection of work-stoppage insurance the union bought — the NFLPA’s deficit is $57 million in those two years, according to the tax returns. In that stretch, ending Feb. 29, 2012, NFLPA net assets fell nearly $50 million, to $166.8 million, a 23 percent dip and resulting in the lowest level in six years.

“These numbers reflect the Goliath-like position of the NFL and the difficulties that the lockout weapon poses for the union,” said Bill Gould, a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board in the 1990s and now a Stanford law professor.

The NFLPA, which made the tax return available as required under federal disclosure rules for tax-exempt groups, declined to comment on the figures contained in the document. The disclosure rules do not obligate organizations to comment on the returns.

The NFLPA faced a significantly better-funded NFL, the task of keeping its players united, and the challenge of funding a legal battle both during and before the lockout, which began in March 2011. Legal expenses for the fiscal year ended Feb. 29, 2012, were more than $11 million, and the five top outside contractors the union was required to list on its tax return were all law firms, the recent return shows.

With labor peace assured until 2021, the union clearly has time now to build its reserves back up. It has historically done so by holding back royalty payments owed players and through annual dues.

While the loss for the most recent return may have been fueled in part through repaying players for those royalty payments that had been held back in past years to build the lockout fund, that would not have been the only reason. Revenue dropped to $82.3 million from $92.8 million, while compensation costs rose by $5 million, to $20 million, according to the last two years’ returns.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith was the union’s top-paid executive in the period, receiving nearly $3.5 million, an amount that includes payment from the union’s for-profit merchandise and licensing arm, NFL Players, the former Players Inc.

Ira Fishman, a former executive at Smith’s old firm, Patton Boggs, who joined the NFLPA as managing director in 2009, earned $1.46 million, according to the tax return. Richard Berthelsen, the now-former general counsel of the union, earned just more than $1 million in his last full fiscal year at the NFLPA.