The agent-related article of last week that generated a lot of buzz in the sports agent community was a very long piece written by ESPN.com’s Andy Katz. While I was not able to put aside the time to give it a thorough read until several days after it was written, I am glad that I kept that tab hanging around and finally read it. So if you have not yet read the piece, Agents and coaches battle for prospects, go ahead and give it a try.
Adding a player as a friend on Facebook is an interesting tactic for an agent to employ. As Cameron Schuh, the Associate Director for Public and Media Relations for the NCAA, once told me, there are no restrictions between agents and student-athletes in the NCAA rules/bylaws as far as communicating through social networking … AS LONG AS no oral and/or written agreement has been made. Katz basically echos that statement in his piece.
Additionally, SPARTA and other laws are not particularly well-suited for online communication. So it seems as though an agent is not violating any particular rule by communicating with a student-athlete over a site like Facebook. And if an athlete is so bothered by agents contacting him on a social networking site, that athlete always has the option of not adding the agent as one of his contacts, or not having a profile on that site at all.
Coaches do hate it when agents have contact with their players, even if the agents are taking actions that are 100% legal. I will not mention any names, but I have already had an experience with a college coach leaving me a 3 minute phone message, screaming expletives at me and basically telling me that he would make sure I never sign another college basketball player again in the future. Was he out of line? Of course. Especially because he did not know that his player actually contacted me and asked that he be the one to break the news to his coach that he would be leaving early to play ball professionally. It was not my fault when the player did not tell the coach until a couple of days before leaving school.
That’s why I am not surprised at all when Katz writes that Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said to him, “Anybody that I find who goes behind my back to get my kids, I’ll do everything in my power to see that they’re not involved in the process.”
But is it any better if an agent goes through a coach instead of going directly to the player? Coaches might refer a particular agent to their players even if that agent is not necessarily the right fit for the particular player. Then we have to worry about shady coach/agent relationships…is the coach getting a cut of the action?
And yes, AAU coaches have taken the spot of college coaches as the emphasis for agents in building relationships for all the reasons mentioned by Katz. But many college coaches still have very tight relationships with various agents.
The moral of the story is that basketball is pretty dirty. There are a lot of different actors looking to benefit from an athlete’s talent. There is a lot of money in the game of basketball, so the fact that there is so much shadiness behind the scenes should not surprise anybody.