Contract Negotiation Sports Agents Sports Law

Agent or Advisor?

The Sports Law Blog made a post on July 24th highlighting Phil Kessel’s (hockey player at University of Minnesota) contract negotiations with the Boston Bruins. An agent by the name of Wade Arnott is serving as an advisor instead of as an agent. He is not receiving any money for his services as an advisor, but it is expected that right before Kessel signs with the Bruins, Arnott will contractually become his agent and receive commission.

An agent is documented by the NCAA as anyone who represents any individual in the marketing of his or her athletic ability. That definition is extremely vague, and allows for an agent to be an advisor before any true marketing is done on behalf of friend/client.

Free until advisor becomes agentSection 12.3.4 of the NCAA Bylaws explicitly allows for advisor panels to exist. Importantly, it states that an advisor can review a proposed professional contract, help in securing tryouts with teams, and even assist a student-athlete with the selection of an agent [The NCAA’s Regulations Related to the Use of Agents in the Sport of Baseball].

Main benefit of being labeled as an advisor: Your friend (client) can maintain NCAA eligibility – this allows a player considering leaving college early for the pros to return to his/her college team if contract negotiations with a professional team fails. Signing with an actual agent would end friend’s (client’s) college eligibility.

Jason Wood, an agent in the state of Florida, does an excellent job of breaking down the advisor vs. agent relationship leading up to the June baseball draft [Agents vs. Advisors]:

August through June Draft
Families speak with agents about the possibility of the agent representing their son in the next amateur baseball draft. They tell you about their themselves and how they can help families through the draft process.

January through June Draft
The list of potential agents is narrowed down and evaluated more closely. A second meeting between the parties may take place. A family may even disclose to an agent they have chosen an adviser to help them through the draft process. During this time the agent analyzes the market and establishes parameters that will help the player determine if he will accept an offer from a Major League Baseball team.

June Draft
Once the team has presented the player with an offer that is within the families financial parameters and it looks likely that the player will sign a professional contract, the transition from adviser to agent is almost complete. When the team finally does give the player an acceptable contract and it is clear he will sign with the club, the adviser becomes the agent.

Once a professional contract is signed between player and team, the advisor is officially an agent. I like to think about it like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. It is the same creature at a different stage acting in a new manner.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

4 replies on “Agent or Advisor?”

[…] This is the classic case of a Scott Boras holdout working in the end. Hochevar was selected in the 2005 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers after playing at the University of Tennessee. After failing to reach an agreement on a contract, Boras held him out a year and had Hochevar play for the independent league Fort Worth Cats. Boras was Hochevar’s advisor at the time. It looks like Boras strikes again, taking a risk that could have held Hochevar out for another year, but ending up with the nice reward for his client. […]

[…] By the name of…Michael Bush. The star running back of Louisville broke his leg in his first game of the 2006 season and should be one of the top picks of the 2007 NFL draft if he comes out early. Many different sources report that Todd France is a favorite to represent Bush, but instead of signing with an agent and losing eligibility, Bush should just start looking for an advisor instead of an agent. […]

[…] I’ll admit that I have a major advantage in Canada. Athletes playing in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) have no limits as to when they can sign with an agent. Essentially I can sign a player at any time. So, when I want to establish contact early, I can. I can speak to a player and sign a player at any point. I do sign many Canadian football players who are playing D-1 football, so I know about the stringent rules in place. We all know that the role of the “family advisor” is growing in most college sports as well. Agents aren’t dealing with players directly, but they are providing families with advice. So, there is a way to go about speaking to and signing players at a young age – but, the key is establishing contact early. […]

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