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Sports Illustrated piece exposes underside of sports agent business

I often write PFT posts as an excuse to push all our great readers to a column or article written by someone with a lot more talent than myself.

This is one of those times. Do yourself a favor and carve out time on Tuesday to check out SI’s “Confessions of a Sports Agent” piece by George Dohrmann and former agent Josh Luchs.

Luchs says he paid more than 30 players from Ryan Leaf to Jamir Miller to Tony Banks in the 90’s.  He also talks about bringing Jonathan Ogden to a Janet Jackson concert because Ogden wouldn’t take his money, among many other stories.

Luchs ultimately treated giving gifts and money to players casually since it’s just part of the business. He points out that players ask for money; it’s not all about “dirty agents” going after the players.

Stunned would be the wrong word to describe my reaction to the article.  Everyone assumes large swaths of the sports agent business don’t play anywhere near the “rules.” We know NCAA athletes regularly treat rules regarding accepting payment from agents as seriously as pedestrians take jaywalking laws in New York.

If anything is a surprise here, it’s the frank nature Luchs approaches telling his background.  Dohrmann does a terrific job reporting.  Names are named from agents to Mel Kiper to players like Ryan Leaf and Santonio Holmes.  The piece should open a lot of eyes and inspire debate.

Check it out and we’ll reconvene here later to dive into the particulars more, including Kiper’s involvement.  Consider it like a PFT book club selection.

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36 Responses to “Sports Illustrated piece exposes underside of sports agent business”
  1. JRG3 says: Oct 12, 2010 3:30 PM

    interesting article. i dont agree with the bus rolling and it seems that was the purpose for it. but it is thought provoking and im sure will create alot of controversy

  2. Dayton Dolfan says: Oct 12, 2010 3:35 PM

    Im actually suprised at how little money they were paying players. true it was back in the day, but $550-$1500 month is not a lot.
    good article.

  3. wydok says: Oct 12, 2010 3:41 PM

    I haven’t read the whole thing yet since I am at work, but I skimmed it.
    All I can say is… finally. It was going to take a agent to rat out the entire system. Good for him.

  4. Kevin from Philly says: Oct 12, 2010 3:47 PM

    “Stunning would be the wrong word to describe my reaction to it.”
    That’s right – “stunned” would be the correct word. Did you “taking” English in college?

  5. dasboat says: Oct 12, 2010 3:58 PM

    Sadly, my response to this is a big “Duh.” I have assumed that the world Luchs described has existed for many years.

  6. diesel says: Oct 12, 2010 4:00 PM

    As much as I liked the article, I really enjoyed the responses at the end with denials by certain players and others readily admitting to accepting cash. Bout time someone exposed the Kiper connection which has been rumored for some time.
    Thanks for letting us know about the article.
    Is next month’s book club selection going to be “Quarterback of the Future”?

  7. kristoff says: Oct 12, 2010 4:02 PM

    dayton dolfan: 550 a month is a heck of alot if u r poor and dont have the time 2 work cuz u have 2 b up at 5am 4 practice,then go all day for class not 2 mention team meetings. i wlda been happy as hell back in 1990 for 550 free money a month. im kinda jealous

  8. Paul says: Oct 12, 2010 4:02 PM

    This is why the Reggie Bush/USC issue was a total joke. What they did wasn’t anything more than what is standard operations in big-time college athletics. They got busted largely to put USC back in its place. It was ok if Carroll recruited west of the Rockies, but when he was consistently successfully recruiting in hallowed SEC/Big 12 turf, it was time to get out the big sticks. When the U at Miami had paid staff to procure pot and cocaine (and who knows what else) for its players so they wouldn’t get busted on the streets – and didn’t get busted by the NCAA – that’s all you need to know about how this all works. When top recruits are wined nad dined with high class prostitutes and parties loaded with their drug of choice, you know what a joke this all is.

  9. Jagdbaer says: Oct 12, 2010 4:08 PM

    Very good read and the nonchalance of it all kind of hides the fact that what was going on was REALLY illegal. I wonder how the shows (Dan Patrick, ESPN, etc.) will react to this? So far nothing on ESPN website or the radio about this yet. Although Mel Kiper is probably having to field a lot of calls concerning his relationship with Wichard.

  10. theycallme_iPod says: Oct 12, 2010 4:11 PM

    Every good player takes money.
    It’s like an unwritten law ;)

  11. Otis Taylor 89 says: Oct 12, 2010 4:11 PM

    Tony Banks?! Say it ain’t so!!!!
    Wouldn’t he have fumbled away receiving any envelope from an agent?

  12. Love_Boat_Scandal says: Oct 12, 2010 4:14 PM

    Good article. But considering how much the NCAA exploits these young men and women and gains from them (jersey sales, etc.), I really don’t have a problem with agents paying them or fronting them money. Or with athletes leaving college early for the pros. College sports is a business, like it or not.

  13. mr_snrub says: Oct 12, 2010 4:20 PM

    $550 is a lot when you’re in college, especially when tuition, room, and campus meals are covered.
    Great article. Now, I look forward to a bunch of comments from people who didn’t bother to read more than a line. From the PFT reference article.

  14. cbrianwatkins says: Oct 12, 2010 4:31 PM

    Love_Boat_Scandal says:
    October 12, 2010 4:14 PM
    Good article. But considering how much the NCAA exploits these young men and women and gains from them (jersey sales, etc.), I really don’t have a problem with agents paying them or fronting them money. Or with athletes leaving college early for the pros. College sports is a business, like it or not.
    ————————————————–
    but in the end they all get paid, so are they really exploiting them?
    in a perfect world these guys play a sport, and in return receive a piece of paper saying they are half way intelligent from said colleges
    that piece of paper (in a perfect world) is priceless, opening doors to a vast aray of oppurtunities, one oppurtunity being a NFL contract for MILLIONS
    there are many 17yr olds out there that would do so much to have that piece of paper for free because they can’t afford to go to Ann Arbor or Miami, or Mobile, etc tec
    And there are many who are now in so much debt borrowing money to try and get that piece of paper
    i see your point, but its not like the guys arent getting paid after school

  15. dlmcc0909 says: Oct 12, 2010 4:31 PM

    I thought at this point it would be common knowledge that athletes are taking money from agents. I cant say I blame them. what do you want them to do for spending money while in college? Get a job waiting tables on top of all the practices and attending class? Its not realistic. If someone is going to try to curry favor by offering them cash, its not illegal.
    Universities make a ton of money because of these athletes. The fact that they get no share of that is unfair.

  16. Brazy says: Oct 12, 2010 4:36 PM

    i just read this and it’s good stuff.
    The NCKKK is wack and maybe the UFL can offer these kids a chance to play for money for 3 years, being taught by NFL coaches before they enter the draft, instead of the NCKKK giving whitey millions while they get Physical Education degrees .

  17. jfdane says: Oct 12, 2010 4:40 PM

    Great article, great read.
    I don’t think it tells us anything we didn’t already assume, but it does confirm some things.
    Thanks for pointing out the article.
    I am of the belief that just as the NFL players get a percentage of the revenue from each team, the NCAA players should get a percentage as well. I’m not saying 59%( I think NFL players get too much of the pie) but probably closer to 20% CASH, plus their education, vehicle and room and board and provide a job if the player actually wants to work. And thats just the football players.
    I think the other NCAA athletes should get their cut too, even if their sport does not actually generate revenue for their university.

  18. Stunningcombo says: Oct 12, 2010 4:49 PM

    If players in revenue generating NCAA sports were compensated by the NCAA above the table then the likelihood of the players being exposed to less than savory under the table world of sports would lessen to a great degree.
    What is telling is how little the players asked for, the NCAA could definitely afford $1000-2000 a month for scholarship athletes in Revenue Generating sports, if thats all they players are asking for from these slimy agents, why not give it to them above the table?
    Revenue generating NCAA sports are about as armatures the Olympics.

  19. bblogger says: Oct 12, 2010 4:49 PM

    Anyone expecting a kid with a six grade reading level to get a college degree in 4 years didn’t learn much in college. College basketball and football is a business. Who ok’d his acceptance into the school in the first place? Those kids should get as much money and gifts as they can before they have to go out into the real world and find out their only qualified for a job that in most cases only requires a high school diploma.

  20. HomoforRomo says: Oct 12, 2010 4:59 PM

    It’s funny to me how the NCAA only springs into action when the find out about an athlete with an expensive car or house, and they totally overlook the thousands of dollars in tattoo work, jewelry, throwback jerseys, etc. many athletes from impoverished backgrounds have.

  21. twinkletoes says: Oct 12, 2010 5:02 PM

    Just finished reading this article. It’s very compelling stuff. You just don’t read unfiltered content like this often.
    If the NFLPA, NCAA and big time college programs had their way, nearly all of this article would be redacted.
    Have a read before someone’s lawyer pressures SI into pulling this article down.

  22. brasho says: Oct 12, 2010 5:10 PM

    I often write PFT posts as an excuse to push all our great readers to a column or article written by someone with a lot more talent than myself.++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    This doesn’t narrow down the possibilities, does it?

  23. wvugrad00 says: Oct 12, 2010 5:15 PM

    Very good article, and I am thrilled that some one finally came forward to write an article about this. What is the NCAA going to do now, take away all those victories from the referenced schools?

  24. Cornerdenizen says: Oct 12, 2010 5:15 PM

    bblogger:
    So what youre saying is that football players and basketball players have a monopoly on stupidity?
    And that everyone else in the workplace has participated in the mensa program?
    That all your co workers are gifted, brilliant professional gems who at one time sat atop the Dean’s lists from their respective schools?
    Dial it back, dude. Most people–even those who never had athletic ability– are operating at a sixth grade level.

  25. ti6er says: Oct 12, 2010 5:36 PM

    We all know this is going on. Come on, it doesn’t take a genius to figure this our and if you think it seldom occurs, you’re more ignorant that you care to admit. Example, Lebron James, him and his mother is on welfare while he was in high school and he was wearing jewelry and sporting a $55k hummer all from his mother monthly income from the welfare. I’m sure the monthly payment of that vehicle is probably more than their rent.
    Most athlete comes from impoverished families and if they’re very good which most of them are, agent will do anything to sign them. 3% of $60 million is a lot of money most of us will never see in our lifetime. I mean hell if I was at least 6 foot tall, I would’ve been a great athlete, I was given god given talent, but my size prevented me from taking advantage from my skills. I know I would be asking for money and special favor with the intent of signing with an agent.

  26. edswood says: Oct 12, 2010 5:44 PM

    In other news, a bear shi* in the woods today. Stunned, seriously Rosenthal? Are you twelve and still believing in Santa Claus? Next we will find out that football players are all on HGH and steroids that are untested for. Seriously, sometimes I am stunned by how naive grown adults can be. The world is a corrupt place, and those that shill loudest against corruption are usually the most corrupt.
    Nothing in this article was shocking, and I honestly think the author left out alot of sordid details. Some will fall from this (looking at you Mel Kiper), outrage will be expressed, and once it has blown over new players will move in, and business will continue the way it always has. Yes this is real life, the end.

  27. Scrodge2010 says: Oct 12, 2010 5:51 PM

    GREAT Article. Thanks for the link Florio.

  28. JimmyY says: Oct 12, 2010 6:31 PM

    Good read but what I could not stop thinking was that these kids knew all along its a game and, if they were on the smarts, would string out one agent vs. another vs. another so that they’d be getting $1,000’s a month all from differenet prospective agents. Smart! That and that Ryan Leaf was good enough to give him 10 grand back, that’s pretty good.

  29. dakotah says: Oct 12, 2010 6:54 PM

    Professional sports, and I’m including college here, is a dirty business. Did anyone with a clue not know this already?

  30. Belichick for President says: Oct 12, 2010 7:11 PM

    It was interesting, but not incredibly shocking. And honestly, good for the agents paying those kids. The NCAA doesn’t give them crap for 4 years, while they rake in billions.

  31. edgy1957 says: Oct 12, 2010 7:27 PM

    One thing that some of you guys need to take into account is that the NCAA only employs 23 — yeah, that’s right – 23 investigators so it’s not like they’re able to go to campus to campus and look for this stuff. They end up getting lucky more often than good and it often takes a tip from someone who has direct knowledge of an incident before they go looking for evidence. If you wonder why these things play out at a glacial pace, knowing how FEW investigators that they have should give you an idea why.

  32. grandavenue says: Oct 12, 2010 7:45 PM

    Wow. Read the whole article people. Very interesting.

  33. mikeyclaw says: Oct 12, 2010 7:51 PM

    Great article!
    The troubling aspects of this tale is how agent Gary Wicher can pimp Mel Kiper. I will never view Kiper’s work again without a jaundiced eye. The indirect influence upon the draft by Wicher, et al is alarming.
    The other thing is the North Carolina assistant coach who steered clients to Wicher. Like players getting paid by agents, I am certain that this a common practice, that will be stomped on by the NCAA Nazis.
    Poor NCAA, don’t you know that the dam burst long ago? You have the naivete of FEMA during a gulf coast hurricane.

  34. Goetta-Head says: Oct 12, 2010 7:54 PM

    Thanks Flo

  35. 24Seven says: Oct 12, 2010 8:47 PM

    So, I wonder, are all the colleges to which these players attended going to get hit with a two year bowl ban, a reduction of 30 scholarships over three years and all their games forfeited like USC? After all, they cheated right?

  36. BlackMagic says: Oct 12, 2010 10:21 PM

    # Brazy says: October 12, 2010 4:36 PM
    i just read this and it’s good stuff.
    The NCKKK is wack and maybe the UFL can offer these kids a chance to play for money for 3 years, being taught by NFL coaches before they enter the draft, instead of the NCKKK giving whitey millions while they get Physical Education degrees .
    ———————————
    Giving whitey huh Brazy? Isn’t it more than slightly ironic that any post/comment that would dare use “blackie” the way “whitey” is used here & the author would be a “hater” & a “racist”. Are you a “hater & a “racist” Brazy? Wait a second, how silly of course you’re not, blackie cannot possibly be a racist.
    Lest we all forget minorities are never racists, they are just providing a much needed public service pointing out injustice & prejudice by whitey.

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