As you probably noticed from the absence of regular posting on my behalf earlier last week and my mentioning of it in the previous Friday Wrap-Up, I was in Key West for a part of last week enjoying the sun and Duval St. Upon my return, I was greeted by multiple emails about a story by Josh Peter and Dan Wetzel in Yahoo! Sports. For a few months now, I have been focusing on the many problems regarding recruiting. Sixth grade quarterbacks are getting letters from colleges, trainers, and agents. Eighth graders are signing LOIs with universities. Eleven-year-old children are being shopped around by their parents. So am I really supposed to be shocked after reading the piece of Peter and Wetzel? I am appalled, angered, and worried, but not shocked. Legislators stress the importance of having agents register in each state and players’ associations require that all agents be licensed with their unions. But are we constantly dodging the true problem?
Our focus as a profession should be on our clients. How can we truly say that our primary focus is on making their careers stronger than if we were not involved in the process? We can negotiate contracts with better terms, seek out opportunities off the field/court of play (endorsements, sponsorships, speaking engagements, etc), manage their day-to-day lives (book flights for their family to see them, help them with investment opportunities, etc), and much more. We should be selling ourselves to the players based on the multitude of services we can offer. Why is there a need to pay runners to get this opportunity to display our value? And why should a player sign with an agent who is paying somebody else to secure that in-person meeting? Would that money not be better appropriated elsewhere? I would rather spend the $250,000 necessary to pay an AAU coach to put me in front of a player on the player himself in training, meals, traveling, housing, etc.
Pat Barrett is unlucky. He is one of many AAU coaches taking money and offering a meeting with his former players in return. He got singled out in the popular Yahoo! Sports article, but oh well. Nothing is guaranteed, but that is besides the point. Why should a lottery pick have to go through a guy like Barrett in his agent selection process? What does Barrett truly bring to the table? Is it that he has his former players’ best interests in mind? Doubtful, or else he would offer his services for free. He is a basketball coach…that is all. His ability to coach has been noted, but does it translate into his ability to properly select an agent…especially when agents are throwing money at him instead of brochures that highlight their expertise, professionalism, and care for the player?
Just as Pat Barrett is not the only AAU coach taking money in return for connecting agents with players, Kevin Love is not the only high profile player targeted by runners. It is truly a sad state for basketball players and basketball agents who want to make a living the proper, ethical, and professional way. The barrier of entry to become a basketball agent is set very high when you hear stories about agencies spending millions of dollars on recruitment. The real question, though, is who benefits? The player? The player does not see any of the money being handed off to runners, coaches, recruiters, etc. Instead, the player gets told by someone being paid off, who he should end up signing with. The agent will still benefit off of the commission and the runner/coach/recruiter will make his cut. The player ends up being the only loser, by not signing with an agent for any of the right reasons.
It turns me off daily. I have discussions with my Basketball Director about how hard it is to break into the industry when you want to do it the right way, but are constantly bombarded by these stories. We live this crap out. No matter how well Austin Walton understands the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, no matter how savvy he is about structuring contracts, no matter how much material he shows a family about Dynasty‘s innovative techniques, in the end, it often comes down to money. The problem is that there are not enough players reading this. Sites like this are hidden from their view. This site garners roughly 5,000 page views per day, but no runner/coach/recruiter is going to pass along a link to this story to a lottery pick. It is not in their best interest.
We need to make some changes if we truly care about our sports. Let us start by informing the players about the current landscape of recruiting. Let us put the decision making power into their hands (along with their families). They are the only people who truly know what is best for them.
There is no need for me to call out Ceruzzi Sports (unless it is found to have violated NCAA rules by providing funds to Derrick Marcano, the uncle of former Syracuse freshman Donte Greene). The company is just trying to survive in a world where these crazy recruiting budgets are necessary. However, I truly believe that there will come a point where we will empower the player and his family. They will see through the mess and look for companies based on their platform of services. In fact, they may find these advances to runners/coaches/recruiters to be so demeaning that companies who spend their money on this type of recruiting are completely ruled out of the picture. And even if the majority of players do not see through this disgusting form of recruiting, there will always be those high-profile players that do. Those are the players that I am interested in representing, anyway.
I hope that the agencies recruiting players the right way print out the Yahoo! piece and use it to their advantage. I truly believe that education is the answer. If players become aware of what exactly goes into recruiting, I believe that the selections they make for representation will change.
I will close with a paragraph in the Yahoo! article that particularly stuck out to me:
“You could count on one hand the number of draft picks doing it the right way,” said Marlon Brown, who has spent most of the past four years as a recruiter for two different New York agencies, including Ceruzzi Sports. “In fairness to the prospect, a lot of times they don’t know.”
Education is the answer. If you have a connection to a basketball player, whether he be 11-years-old or retired from the game, I ask that you pass this piece and the Yahoo! Sports article on to him.
Also, check out Marc Isenberg’s take on the situation.