Last week, I reported that Gaylord Sports lost a baseball agent to a law firm. That baseball agent is Gregg Clifton, and he left to go practice at Jackson Lewis, a firm that specializes in labor and employment issues. Many people in the industry believe that Clifton did not necessarily leave voluntarily, and that he was somewhat pushed out by Terry Bross, who no longer wanted to share the title as head of Gaylord’s baseball division (Bross and Clifton were both Vice Presidents). Clifton describes ulterior motives.
A recent Associated Press report (Editors Note: Click the link. It is a fantastic read) found that more than half of the 42 states with sports agent laws were not enforcing their requirements. In the past six months alone, coaches at college football powerhouses like Alabama, Florida and USC have called for restrictions on agents and financial advisers that threaten the eligibility of their players. When asked about the study and the negative publicity surrounding agents, Clifton says it’s one of the reasons he decided to leave the business.
“One of the things that was disappointing to me was that there were less lawyers involved [in the sports agent business],” Clifton says. “We had folks coming into it with no knowledge of what it takes to be a sports representative.”
Spitz [a labor and litigation partner in Jackson Lewis’s Atlanta office] adds that with many schools wanting to protect the eligibility of their athletes, college programs will be looking for legal counsel to represent them in negotiations with the NCAA or other organizations to handle investigations stemming from those disputes.
Are there really less lawyers involved in the business? Less lawyers than when? If anything, I would think that there are more lawyers, since people who decide to sit for the NFLPA examination have to possess a post-graduate degree, and many decide to go the law school route. Additionally, I doubt that everyone knew what they were doing when they entered this profession 10+ years ago.
I understand why the AP article and others like it might dissuade someone from entering this profession, but to persuade someone who is entrenched in a successful baseball division to make a quick exit is not as clear to me. I do think that Spitz, Clifton, et al. may be on to something with positioning their sports law practice as an entity that can help schools with legal/NCAA issues. While the media attention has died down a little bit since we first heard names like Marvin Austin and Wesley Saunders, NCAA and state investigations continue. Politicians are also getting more involved, and may soon call for some chance on the state/federal level.