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Steinberg: How to be a great sports agent

December 12, 2013

Signing season for college football players who are eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft has begun. Players at colleges whose teams have finished their season and are not in a bowl game are free to sign with agents now.

Those players whose teams are participating in the endless array of postseason bowl games must wait until that final game has been played. The bowl games start on Dec. 21 and end with the BCS Championship game Jan. 6.

Players who graduated from high school over three years ago by next June (juniors or redshirt sophomores) have until mid-January to renounce their collegiate eligibility and enter the 2014 Draft. Once they declare, they too can sign with agents.

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The signing process is hyper-competitive. The perceived glamour of the profession has spurred hundreds of agents, many more than the available draftable players, to attempt to contact players or their parents. Universities like Stanford and UCLA have responded by banning agent-player contact during the season. They conduct "agent days" on campus with players choosing who they would like to meet with.

Agents prepare written material to impress players and parents.

These decks have biographical information on the agents and other personnel. They describe the services that the agency provides. They outline the approach to scouting and the draft and contract negotiations that the agent is offering.

Veteran agents emphasize their previous contracts and clients. The 2011 NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement narrows the negotiability of rookie contracts. In 1993 I locked our attorneys in the office and did not feed them until they found ways to get around the cap. We had Drew Bledsoe who was the first player selected. We used voidable years, void buy-back, second-year options, not likely to be earned incentives and escalator clauses to insure players were handsomely paid. These techniques are now barred. Or as a NFLPA official told me this summer — "This is the anti-Steinberg clause."

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