Fixing the dark issues of football

If you have yet to read my post from last week, I talk about the dark dealing and issues that, from my perspective, tarnish and undermine the game we all love so much.

Big business, lots of money, youth, ego, inexperience, parasitic forces, power, entertainment and tradition are all woven in throughout the pro and college football landscape. Unfortunately, there are many unsavory and dangerous components at work in the shadows of both the NFL and NCAA.

So what can we do to eliminate those forces? Our readers, who, by the way, I have found to be the brightest fans online, came up with some great ideas and cold hard truths. I would invite you to read their comments before proceeding.

As an active agent, I have a front row seat to observe the problems that undermine the game and those who play it. I, like many agents and other integral professionals in the industry, know who the culprits are. However, the only ones who can bring them down are the players and individuals who benefit from their dealings and, by doing so, incriminate themselves.

Here are some of my ideas on how the issues can be fixed or, at minimum, improved.

College players on the payrolls of agents, financial consultants and marketers

Like the drug problems in the U.S., the question of who to go after is asked repeatedly. Do we punish the suppliers or the users? In football, we go after both. States like Alabama and Texas have stringent laws in place to regulate agents. However, the problem lies in the lack of an enforcing body. I once got fined by the state of Texas, which requires that agents submit copies of our contracts, for $2,500 ($10,000 before being reduced) because there was a line in my personal services contract that had font that was one size too small. This is the way Texas enforces its agent regulations. Meanwhile, guys were being paid left and right and there was nobody to investigate or police the real issues.

I would recommend that states and maybe the federal government establish stricter fines for both players and those who pay them. The NCAA should invest into a proactive enforcing body that puts boots on the ground and eyes on college campuses. When a junior star college player pulls up to practice in a new Cadillac Escalade, they might want to look into how he acquired it. Furthermore, I think the NCAA should compensate the players who provide its income, setting aside a trust for players who produce jersey sales and giving them a piece of the action. Also, pay them all a few hundred bucks per month. The money is certainly there. I believe the NCAA is building a new $60 million office building with proceeds from football and basketball.

The NFLPA already asks agents to disclose any relationships they have with college and NFL coaches. However, many agents and coaches work on a very informal bases, without contracts. I would put the responsibility on the college coaches to disclose their relationships with agents and risk forfeiting their retirements if caught taking benefits from agents for referrals.

HGH

I don’t believe blood testing will ever be an option. It’s all about education. Start educating young players in high school and college on the risk of HGH and other steroid related substances.

Concussions

When I played football from Pop Warner to college, terms like “bell ringer”, “ear hole shots”, and “kill shot” were good things. As we’ve learned more about the long-term effects of concussions, we’ve begun to realize that banging helmets is not an acceptable tactic. However, many of the coaches who are currently teaching players how to block and tackle were taught the wrong way, the dangerous way – to lead on blocks and tackles with your helmet. There has to be an educational and certification process for all coaches at all levels to teach the proper techniques so the chain can be broken.

NFL players making bad financial decisions

It’s simple! More and more education needs to come from everybody: agents, the financial community, the NFL, NFLPA, and individual teams. The fact is that we have to stop a player from being his own worst enemies. For me, it’s a constant conversation with all my clients that lasts throughout their careers and beyond. The education process should never end. I also encourage older retired players to keep preaching to the younger ones about their own mistakes.

A battered body

There should be fewer full contact practices in both college and pro football. Bill Walsh and the 49ers proved that practices focused on execution, not contact, can lead to winning games. The number of contactpractices needs to be limited for all, putting everyone on an even playing field.

Players as targets

There is no fix for this issue, but players simply have to be educated on identifying scams and unscrupulous individuals looking to take advantage of them.

Players being induced, misled, and forgotten

I can’t say I have much sympathy for those who let their egos make their decisions. Players are too easily lured in by marketing advances, loans and other grand promises. For example, last July, I called a father of a Big Ten player who told me his son wanted to go with Agency X. I asked what the attraction was to the agency and how he could commit so soon without talking to others. He replied that their “package was worth $200,000”, that they are going to take him to the Super Bowl, and that they have more big name clients than me and other agents that had called. This player was eventually drafted in the 4th round – not the first round, as his father had been led to believe. He will be way down the priority list, behind the firm’s other star clients. The firm in question obviously offered up a marketing advance, a high profile training facility and a lot of promises. These tactics don’t make for sincere service, and they certainly don’t guarantee results.

Agents should have to disclose to the NFLPA all loans and promises they make to college players. Most of the promises made are simply incentives to sign and add no value to the preparation or representation process. Any agents who don’t disclose all loans and promises should be decertified for life.

Like many of the comments left in my previous post, I agree that a lot of these issues are a reflection of society. Furthermore, young and wealthy pro athletes are not going to garner any sympathy from hard working fans. My goal in writing about the dark issues affecting our game is to call attention to them by bringing them out of the shadows and into the public and industry eye for discussion.

As always, I welcome and appreciate your comments.

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