Monday, May 5, 2003

Now you too can be a sports agent

Just take a course online

The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press

Tired of that dead end job? Looking for a thrilling new career? Ready to mix and mingle in the exciting world of professional athletics?

Well step right up, friends! You too can be a sports agent, joining the likes of Drew Rosenhaus, Scott Boras and Jerry Maguire!

And best of all, you don't need a law degree or anything as troublesome as that! You can be negotiating contracts and cutting deals in eight short weeks, after completing our online course!

I couldn't believe my ears recently when I heard that radio ad, voiced by NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. Kevin Jursinski couldn't believe it, either.

"To have someone say you too can be at the same level in eight weeks as someone who has a law degree and does it for a living, it rubs you the wrong way," said Jursinski, a Fort Myers, Fla., agent whose latest NFL client is Florida running back Earnest Graham. "I thought it was kind of demeaning to say that anyone can be an agent."

But, apparently, anyone CAN be an agent, judging by the estimated 1,600 men and women certified by the NFL Players Association (with 300 more applying for credentials this year). Mind you that only 262 potential clients entered the league via last weekend's draft, with perhaps another 200 or so hoping to catch on like Graham, as undrafted free agents.

"The vast majority of certified agents - about 60-70 percent - have no players and have never done an NFL contract," Jursinski said. "That makes it harder to sign clients, because agents who don't have players offer all kinds of inducements to represent them. I practice law for profit. If I have to pay people to represent them, that wouldn't be something I want to pursue."

There's definitely a certain appeal to being an agent, especially if you're fortunate enough to represent a high-profile star (and receive a percentage of his fat contract). If you can't play the game, somehow being part of it is the next best thing.

Some wannabes imagine themselves as the HBO character, Arliss, or the fictitious Jerry Maguire, portrayed in the movie of the same name by Tom Cruise. Or how about real-life agent Rosenhaus, who became a national story for his self-proclaimed role in making Willis McGahee a first-round draft pick.

Hearing Rosenhaus brag about duping the media and NFL teams on McGahee's "miraculous" recovery from knee surgery, reminded us why agents have such slimy, sleazy reputations. You have to question Rosenhaus' intelligence, if not his ethics. The silly boasting reduces his future credibility, and his colleagues' as well.

"That doesn't help the cause," Jursinski said.

Neither will a wave of freshly minted agents, waving their eight-week, online diplomas. It's already hard enough for young athletes on the brink of pro careers, wading through shark-infested parties and hotel lobbies, in search of quality representation. They don't need a bunch of no-nothings making the process murkier.

"I suspect (students) will get basic info on how to look at contracts, evaluate players and gain contacts," Jursinski said. "But a lot of that stuff is already accessible."

Don't tell that to the losers who'd take agent courses on the Internet. Although they're so gullible, it probably wouldn't matter.

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