An hour before the ball dropped on December 31, 2010, the Washington Post published a piece by Mark Giannotto titled, Virginia Tech football players work to avoid being distracted by agents. Tonight, the Virginia Tech Hokies will battle the Stanford Cardinal in the Orange Bowl, but as Giannotto pointed out, the game’s actors have been getting “blown up” by agents and their runners for quite some time. Giannotto quotes me in various sections of the article,
“The same rules apply to the extent that an agent can’t even buy a player a sandwich at Subway,” said Darren Heitner, chief executive of Dynasty Athlete Representation and a sports attorney with the law office of Koch, Parafinczuk & Wolf in South Florida. “But it definitely picks up around this time in terms of communication and really that’s why you see so many athletes choosing their agent the night of or the day after their bowl game. They have their mind set.”
Heitner said runners are usually the first form of contact between an agent and a player, and tend to be in the same demographic and close in age so they can relate more easily.
Earlier this year, the spotlight focused on the agent industry when North Carolina became embroiled in a scandal surrounding some of its players and coaches potentially receiving improper benefits from agent Gary Wichard. Then, in a recent Sports Illustrated article, former NFL agent and Wichard runner Josh Luchs alleged he paid more than 30 college players during his career.
The NFL Players Association subsequently suspended Wichard’s license for a year. Heitner said these revelations have made agents more careful in the short term, but the only way to initiate real change in the industry will involve the full enforcement of state and federal laws concerning agents.
“Certain states, their secretary of state, their attorney general have stated that they will go to the full extent of enforcing their laws,” Heitner said. “Will it actually happen? That remains to be seen. It’s funny because the sports agent profession is glorified in some ways, and in other ways, we’re seen as a bunch of slimeballs. But everyone wants to be an agent, so it’s an interesting disparity.”
Heitner said his biggest piece of advice to college players looking for representation is to take advantage of having so many suitors. He says players should ask questions about the best contract an agent has ever negotiated, how many deals have they been a part of or whether they have a legal background.