Doyle Pryor put it in context.
Speaking on a panel on player-agent discipline, the assistant general counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association, told the attendees of the Sports Lawyers Association’s annual conference that there are too many agents chasing too few potential clients.
“There are about 400 players in Major League Baseball that earn a salary of $1 million or more a year, and about the same number of agents certified by the union,” said Pryor. “To make a living, an agent needs at least one of these clients. The problem is that there is typically a high concentration of these players with a handful of agents.”
This results, according to some members of the panel, in agents bending the rules to get these players or reaching further and further into the college and even high school ranks to secure them.
Not surprisingly, the leagues are setting up programs, such as the NFL’s Pipeline to the Pros, and the NBA’s Rookie Development program. But even that may not be enough, according to Gary Hall, general counsel of the National Basketball Players Association.
“We’re seeing high school players driving around Hummers,” said Hall, noting the concern that agents or friends of the family, who are would-be agents, are funding such purchases.
“What we are increasingly hearing from these high school students is that: ‘My family now looks at me differently. Because I now have money, they look at me as the father, the mother or the uncle now’,” said Hall.
The NCAA, for its part, says it is trying to educate high school student athletes about maintaining their eligibility, especially in light of the fact that such players cannot enter the NBA directly out of high school. It also has adopted “flexible” rules that allow student-athletes to have “advisors.”
Specifically, it outlined three rules that attempt to recognize what it is like to be a highly acclaimed student athlete in the 21st Century, while seeking to protect the aura of amateurism around college athletics.
“Student-athletes are not permitted to have a written or oral agreement with an agent, or anyone who is employed by a sports agency.
“Student-athletes are permitted to have an advisor provided the advisor does not market you to any professional team. (e.g. MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, NFL, WNBA, Etc.)
“However, an advisor will be considered an agent if they contact teams on your behalf to arrange private workouts or tryouts.”
But while, the association is going to great lengths to warn student athletes, there are concerns that agents and would-be agents will ignore those warnings.
For example, Brian Burke, the general manager for the National Hockey League’s Mighty Ducks and himself a former agent, suggested during the panel session that the latter group is ignoring NCAA rules on agents “with virtual impunity.”