Book Review: Super Agent

Dr. Jerry Argovitz’s “Super Agent” is billed as the one book the NFL and NCAA don’t want you to read.

“This is not a kiss-and-tell story about Donald.  This book is about my life, and Donald was and is a chapter in it.”  That quote comes on page 303 of a total 318 pages in Dr. Jerry Argovitz’s and J. David Miller’s Super Agent: The One Book the NFL & NCAA Don’t Want You to Read.  The Donald referred to is actually “The Donald” — Donald Trump — who was an owner of the USFL New Jersey Generals and the recipient of blame (from Argovitz) for the eventual downfall of the football league.  Trump insisted that the USFL change from being a Spring football league to playing its games in conjunction with the NFL in the Fall.

As stated by Argovitz, Trump is a focus in Super Agent, but he is not the focus of the book.  Argovitz takes the reader through all 300+ pages via easy-to-read prose splashed with inspirational quotes, war stories and a willingness to call out individuals who were not always willing to agree with Argovitz’s line of thinking.  He explains how he began his professional career as a dentist, made boatloads of money in real estate, became a football agent representing some of the best in the game, turned into an owner of the Houston Gamblers of the USFL, eventually went broke and then built himself back up.  Now, in the fourth quarter of his life, Argovitz has decided to tell his life story, and in great detail.

A large section of Super Agent is related to Argovitz’s representation of 1980 NFL Draft No. 1 overall selection Billy Sims.  Sims, a running back from the University of Oklahoma, played only five seasons in the NFL, but was named to the Pro Bowl in three of those years and played all five NFL seasons for the Detroit Lions.  While Argovitz detailed the highs of representing Sims, he also touched on the lows, which included a lawsuit filed by Sims against the agent.  It was a suit wherein the concept of “fiduciary duty” was put on trial.  Sims won the suit based on the court deeming that Argovitz had an “egregious conflict of interest” as president of the Houston Gamblers and representative for Sims.  The judge said, in part,

“The law denies the right of an agent to assume any relationship that is antagonistic to his duty to his principal, and it has many times been held that the agent cannot be both buyer and seller at the same time nor connect his own interests with property involved in his dealings as an agent for another.”

Before the close of the story, Argovitz describes a chance meeting with Sims where Sims apologizes for his prior actions.

The most enjoyable sections of Super Agent revealed the inner workings of the USFL from its foundation to its eventual collapse.  But readers who may be more interested in Argovitz’s days as a sports agent will not be disappointed with the text.  Argovitz called out former player-agent Mike Trope as somebody to signed players to undated contracts and paid them under-the-table, and Argovitz told his partner Gene Burrough that he was not going to play by those rules.  Instead, as soon as a student-athlete’s eligibility expired, Argovitz brought the player to a bank and co-signed a note with him that could be repaid upon the execution of an NFL contract.

Argovitz also talks at length about negotiations conducted with NFL team executives, including owners, that went very sour during his day as an agent.  He had nothing nice to say about Baltimore Colts owner Robert “Bob” Irsay, whose team had drafted Argovitz’s client Curtis Dickey with the No. 5 overall pick in the 1980 NFL Draft.  When Argovitz told Isray that he was getting his standard 6% from Dickey to negotiate his rookie deal, Irsay purportedly offered to match the commission if Argovitz accepted the deal Irsay was offering as opposed to the one Argovitz had presented.  Argovitz reported Irsay’s action to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.  The rest is found in Chapter 23 of Super Agent.

In 2010, Nick Saban asked the question, how are agents any better than a pimp?  Agents in all sports were up-in-arms after that comment.  But as Argovitz explains in Super Agent, Saban was many years late on this theory.  When Argovitz was recruiting linebacker Hugh Green of the University of Pittsburgh to be his client, head coach Jackie Sherrill said to Argovitz, “you’re nothing but a fu**ing pimp.  I’ve got other plans for who will represent Hugh, and he’s going to make a sizable donation to the University of Pittsburgh.”  This was in 1980.

When Dr. Jerry Argovitz started as a football agent in 1979, the average NFL salary was $69,000.  Thirty-six years later, the average salary rose to $225,000.  Argovitz was making his mark in and forever changing the business of sport before I was born.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about his life and the variety of controversies he had to manage throughout his career.  It is definitely recommended reading for anyone interested in the history of football and/or the trials and tribulations involved in being a football agent.

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