The dark side of football

The penalties that the NCAA recently imposed on the USC Trojans for the Reggie Bush infractions are harsh and hurtful. This move proved the sad fact that one individual can wipe away the success and hard work of an entire program. It’s a stark reminder that there are still plenty of dark dealings and issues at work in the shadows of the game we love so much.

I don’t care to pass judgment on Reggie Bush. His teammates, coaches and USC fans will handle that task. However, I am going to take this opportunity to discuss the fact that there is still a poisonous undercurrent flowing through the football industry.

From my view point, here are some of the problems that have yet to be washed away:

On the payroll

College players are still being paid by agents, marketing reps, financial consultants and a few miscellaneous so-called professionals trying to make their way into the sports business. I know things are not as bad as they were in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but it’s still going on today. As long as players have their hands out, there will be someone to put the cash into them. It’s a sleazy practice by the service providers and an even more selfish move by the players, who are willing to jeopardize their teammates', coaches' and program’s efforts for his own short-term gain.

The coach-agent conflict

There has been a trend in the last 10 years by NFL player agents to also represent college coaches. In most cases, there is nothing wrong with this practice and true professionals work around any conflicts of interest. However, it’s now commonplace to have arrangements where head coaches, as well as assistants, will steer their players to their agents in lieu of a fee. In some cases, hard cash will be exchanged for a referral. Actually, one storied program with a pristine reputation has recently warned their assistants against this practice because allegations are mounting against one particular coach. The coach, however, has not been punished because there is no tangible proof of these dealings.


College and pro players are using it. The sad part is that some strength coaches, family members, girlfriends, wives, and agents are turning their heads the other way because everybody wants to keep the money train rolling. Like steroid use in the ‘80s, we won’t know the real effect on the players’ bodies for years to come.


Regardless of the all the talk we are hearing lately from all sides, we are far away from protecting players from serious head trauma. Young players are still being taught to deliver reckless helmet blows, players are still being pressured to get back on the field before they are fully recovered and helmet technology is progressing too slowly.

NFL players are still making bad financial decisions

I have written many times that I am a believer that 75% of all NFL players are illiquid within 3 to 5 years after they retire. Illiquidity is usually followed by bankruptcy, divorces and a fire sale of any hard assets. The players are their own worst enemy but they are surrounded by enablers from their own circle of trust, including family members and even the financial advisor and agent who won’t stand up to them in fear of losing them.

A battered body

NFL players make a lot of money because they sacrifice their talented bodies. The wear and tear is guaranteed to show up later for NFL players and even college players who didn’t make it to the next level. There is a price to pay for playing football at a high level, and the consequences can lead to alcoholism and pain pill addiction, which are common for many retired players.

Players as targets

NFL players are still targets for scams, unscrupulous pitchmen and women looking for a golden ticket. Even with herculean efforts made by agents, financial consultants, the NFLPA and family members to protect them, players are still taken advantage of for the simple fact they are young, rich and still uneducated in the ways of the world.

Being induced, mislead and eventually forgotten

The majority of NFL players need a strong figure in their corner who has the courage and integrity to guide and protect them. However, what some of the biggest agents/agencies are best at is inducing a player to sign with them by promising success by association with their current clients and quick access to money before they are drafted. In reality, when a player is hurt, cut and no longer can produce an income, they are quickly forgotten about by the people they hired to help them through thick and thin. Players need their agents and confidants working even harder for them when the exit light goes on. However, the player is usually left to dangle in the wind as he attempts to figure out his rights under workman’s compensation and/or the CBA.

Although there are many dark sides of the game we love, there are also many well-informed young men doing all the right the things, more so now than ever before. However, there is still much to sort out, and it starts and stops with the choices players make from college to the NFL.

I would love to hear the thoughts our readers and other industry professionals have on how we can clean up these messy issues. In my next post I will give you my ideas on some ways it can be done.

Follow me on Twitter: @jackbechta

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