Dear future NFL athlete:
My company, Synrgy Sports Consulting, exists to fight for you. You don’t know me or my colleague, JD Nelson, so you may not pay attention to what I’m saying here, but if you care about your future, you’d be wise to read this article.
Got your attention? Good.
Over the past year, we’ve been asking your universities the questions you should be asking, talking to the people you should be talking to, and researching the issues you’re going to face to make sure you don’t fall victim to any of them.
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We know you probably don’t realize it yet, but the world you’ll be facing once your college days are over is going to be crazy and complicated. As you transition from college to the pros, the stakes are higher than ever, and despite the rapidly evolving complexities of that process, most of you still aren’t being provided with the tools, resources or guidance necessary to make that transition successfully.
Need proof? Well, 78% of NFL athletes are financially distressed or bankrupt within 2 years of leaving the league. With the average career lasting 3 1/2 years, most of these players go from rags to riches and back again before they turn 30, and that, is a tragedy.
We’ve got good news for you though. In order to get the tools you need to succeed in choosing an awesome team of professionals who will represent your business interests wisely, all you have to do is ask your university for them. Yep, your university.
Why them? Well, NCAA bylaw 12.3.4 states that companies like ours can’t work for you unless you pay for our services on your own, but you have to pay fair market value and all payments must be made on a real-time basis. So, unless each of you pays thousands of dollars for our services yourself, your university is the only entity capable of providing you with them without jeopardizing your eligibility. Obviously, the vast majority of players can’t afford to pay fair market value for a team like ours to lead them through this process, so they end up using their family and friends to make their business decisions.
But Magic Johnson, who is reportedly worth $800 million and knows a little bit about big business said it best, “players lean on family and friends, not because of expertise but because they’re family and friends, and when they make business decisions like that, they’ll fail.”
The simple fact is, while family members often care as much as anybody ever could about your success, most of them don’t have the experience or knowledge to handle the high-stakes business side of the NFL.
What are universities doing for their young men right now?
I’m going to let you in on a secret: a few universities are relatively proactive when it comes to helping their kids through this daunting process, including, Oregon, Alabama, Northwestern, Georgia, USC, and Florida, but most of the others express little or no interest in helping their young men successfully make the transition.
The truth is, they don’t think they’ll profit off of services aimed at helping their young men succeed in the business of professional athletics, so, despite the steady stream of stories about athletes being taken advantage of and having their dreams crushed, they refuse to pay for them.
Don’t take my word for it though. Ask your coaches and administrators if they provide career specific transition services for their NFL-bound student-athletes. Ah, and make sure you ask what they consist of, too. If they tell you they have someone come in and talk to you once or twice a year, tactfully call them out. You don’t learn how to read complex defenses in an hour and you won’t learn how to choose your professional representation in an hour either. In the vast majority of cases, though, you’re going to get a lot of silence and a blank stare.
Some coaches may tell you that you don’t need to worry about agents, attorneys, accountants or marketing representatives until your eligibility is exhausted. Wait a minute – can you imagine your coach telling his stars to wait until the week before the bowl game to start studying the playbook? He would never say that to you when his job and life is on the line. Point blank, if they tell you to ignore your future until the final hour, they are giving you terrible business advice and you are doing yourself a disservice by taking it.
The truth of the matter is, hyper-successful businessmen don’t make multi-million dollar business decisions without the benefit of competent professional counsel, research and preparation. You shouldn’t either. Choosing an agent involves a complex process and it’s an incredibly important decision; Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
Is it really that complex and do we really need that much help?
There’s an abundance of anecdotal evidence that players often make poor decisions when choosing their professional representation, but let us share some statistics with you to illustrate just how flawed those decisions have been. In the past 4 years alone:
- 18 players from a major ACC football program fired their agent
- 14 players from an SEC powerhouse fired their agent
- 14 players from another major ACC program fired their agent
Here’s the kicker: Despite the fact that those three schools are aware of their players’ struggles, none of them have taken legitimate steps to fix the problem. As a student-athlete, why would you attend a university like that when you could attend a university that has comprehensive services in place to support their student-athletes to the fullest?
You’re right. You wouldn’t.
What would you need to make this transition successfully? Well, for starters, you would need a competent team to conduct contract analysis on prospective agents, research agent firings and the reasons behind them from both the agent’s and the player’s perspective, and you’d want to thoroughly research agent disciplinary history. We have a comprehensive service that goes much further, but these are the bare essentials.
Ready to do that all yourself for the 20-40 agents who will be blowing up your phone, writing you constantly on Facebook, and showing up at your classes and apartment? Oh yeah, I’m sure you have plenty of time between treatment, practices, study hall, classes, and trying to graduate. And we haven’t even mentioned your personal life. If you care about your bread and engage in this process the right way, you better get used to your girl complaining (a lot more) that you don’t spend enough quality time with her.
Excessive agent firings may not mean much to an outsider, but you will understand this: When someone holds you and your family’s future in their hands – handling your finances, business dealings and brand – would you want to be so upset with the level of service they provide you that you had to fire them? No? Me neither.
Honestly, it’s alarming that so many of the players you depend on for information on agents are firing theirs in such a short time frame. It indicates that they aren’t choosing suitable representation the first time around, aka, they didn’t know what they were doing.
How dangerous is making the wrong decision? Ask Fred Taylor. He’ll tell you that choosing the wrong agent can lose you millions of dollars. For Fred, it was $3.6 million and much, much more.
Most of these poor decisions are due to a lack of education, preparation, research, and resources, but most importantly, they’re due to the lack of impartial and competent counsel. But if your university provides you with professionals who stand in your corner during the selection process, you’re a lot less likely to fall victim to the same pitfalls so many before you have fallen victim to. With as much money as they make off of your efforts while you’re on their team, it only seems fair that they fully support you when you finally get a chance to make some of your own.
Alright, to make it clear that we are more interested in your success than in being the ones to work for you, let me share this with you: There are a few other services out there who do similar work to the work that we do and they can be helpful to you. But be careful, not all of these guys have your best interests at heart. For instance, if they offer to work for you for free, they don’t really care that much about you because they’re jeopardizing your eligibility. No one’s going to suffer from that if the NCAA catches wind of it except you and your squad.
Until we meet, I wish you the best and hope that this article gave you some helpful information. In the mean time, always remember:
“In anything you do, quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise decision among many alternatives.”
Make sure you do what needs to be done to make wise decisions.
[[This article originally appeared on The Sports Agent Blog]]