Pro football clubs apparently are learning to live with player agents, but they don't hesitate to say that the newcomers are hardly welcome in the family. The personnel director of the New Orleans Saints, Vic Schwenk, says, "These agents teach boys to lie. One of the questions we ask a prospect before the draft is whether he is being represented by an agent. Four players we drafted, including our No. 1 choice, Kevin Hardy, said they were not, but they were."
Every player the Buffalo Bills picked in the draft has an agent, and the club has even been approached by agents representing players who were not drafted. Fifteen of the 16 players picked by Detroit are represented by agents, attorneys or advisors. Attorneys and advisors, incidentally, are far more acceptable to front offices than agents.
"We tell a player that he is still likely to get the same amount of money whether he uses an agent or not," says Hank Stram of Kansas City. "We remind him that if he does use an agent he will have to pay that agent a commission. A player's agent doesn't perform the same function as, say, an actor's agent, who finds jobs for his client. The player already has a job. He has only one place to go unless he goes to the Canadian league, and who wants to play there?"
Al Ward of the Cowboys put it another way: "We would rather deal with the boy personally, because the agent—at least, the ones we know—doesn't have the real interest of the football player at heart. He is doing it for money."
There are now three big operations in the player-agent field—Celebrities Investment Management Company of Washington, D.C., Pro Sports Inc. of New York (it has a public-relations agency promoting it) and a company headed by Jim Morse, a Muskegon, Mich. trucking executive who played for Notre Dame. Morse is negotiating for 32 players, including five in the first round of the draft. The usual agent's fee is from 10 to 25%, and some pro football people are saying that Morse must net close to $200,000 a year.
Veteran players believe it is good for a rookie to have an advisor or agent, because, as one of them puts it, "The more he can get on that first contract, the more he will get the rest of his pro career. But I think what I'd do is get a contract offer on my own first and then tell an agent I'd pay him 10% of anything he gets me over that."
Now there's a player smart enough to be an agent.