Virginia Tech Players Tell Their Agent/Runner Stories

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.

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  • Dtpieracci

    The very best way to scrutinize, choose and interview prospective representatives for college athletes is to have a professional act as a gatekeeper, confidant, advisor and mentor. he or ashe will ask the right questions, be able to aid in evaluation, assist in college versus professional commitment, review prospective contracts and agreements and be the true agent of the athlete and his or her family.

    • There can be an even larger problem if that professional has side deals with the agents he recommends.

      • just a lawyer’s opinion

        There are no side deals that a true advisor shall have if he is to act as an independant advisor and be true to the agency principles and his client the athlete. The advisor would be violating his relationship with the client if he were to be associated with anyone else but his client the athlete. A conflict of interest would create a mal practice claim by the athlete, and even disclosure would not be a defense since the agency relationship would be violated ab initio. How can a lawyer be associated with someone he is suppossed to be impartial, fair to his client and conflict himself or herself out of the relationship. The contract with the client would simply state that her or she has no prior or ongoing business relationship with any of the people he or she is reviewing, if in fact there were any side deals this advisor would be responsible for any professional advice or recommendations that were not neutral. It would be like a judge or mediator or arbitrator having a business or monetary rlationship with a party to an action before him or her; there have to be professional standards beyond what is now in effect with agents and athletes. I personally have acted as a “true agent” for clients and have never had nor considered having anything but a unbiased, neutral, professional, relationship with the client whom I represented or I could not act as an imparital advisor and attorney with the best interests of my client, his or her family and needs paramount. Why would anyone act as advisor and have a conflict outside disclosed or undeisclosed relationship with someone he or she is honestly reviewing for just such “deals”? The canons of ethics, integrity, and morals have to be upheld.

  • 48fooseball48

    Funny thing is, if you read the full article you will see that Tyrod Taylor talks about how he is going to start his agent vetting process after the season is complete but ended up signing with an agent the day after the bowl game. I do believe that every player interviewed was talking directly out of their ass.