Friday night I made an appearance on Bob Valvano’s “The V Show” on ESPN radio to discuss the controversies surrounding sports agents who - as Alabama coach Nick Saban put it - ‘pimp’ their athlete clients. You can check out the conversation between Bob and I via the YouTube clip or transcript below.
Oh, and by the way... I LOVE how Mr. Valvano was itching to make me seem like a crooked agent at the beginning of his show, yet couldn’t because he soon realized how I, just like himself, don’t care for the shady practices that are becoming all too common in my industry. Anyway, on with the convo...
For those who missed Saban's comments, here they are...
Bob Valvano: Our next guest has a history with Mr. Saban - of course who's now at Alabama. Our next guest is going to talk a little bit on that topic [Saban's comments] as we roll on here on the The V Show. Bob Valvano with you.
Albert Elias is the head of the Elias Sports Management Group, and they are a very successful sports management organization that handles upwards of 20 NFL players, along with some head and assistant coaches at the college level. He joins us now via the Subway Fresh Take Hotline.
I'll let you get into the LSU history, Albert, but I gotta tell you -- I gotta be up front -- I'm not gonna be a guy who's singing the praises of agents. I coached in college long enough to know that the problem comes now 9 times out of 10 in institutions not with, necessarily, the direct relationship of players and coaches, but the ancillary people. They're not always people that truly have the best interest of the program or the kid at heart. That's not to imply [this about you or all agents], but there's a lot of moving parts and it's not easy to manage all of them. Let's get your reply to what Nick said ["I don’t think it’s anything but greed that is creating it right now on behalf of the agents- and I hate to say this, but how are they any better than a pimp?..."] and then put it in a broader context of what really is the problem on college campuses. What do you think?
Albert Elias: First of all, anytime you have that amount of money around, it's gonna draw all walks of people no matter what industry it is. In this case, you got kids making that kind of money, you're gonna draw some good agents and some bad agents.
You know, Coach Saban, he's adamant about it, obviously lost what, I think that player was gonna be a top 10 projected pick. You're gonna be upset about that. I don't do it. I know a lot of good agents that don't do it -- But that kind of stuff does go on. But when Coach [Saban] was at LSU - when I got my start about 10 years ago - something like that went on: a junior player ended up losing his eligibility. He ended up getting a law passed in the state legislature of LA that said if an agent was caught or a recruiter or runner of an agent was caught doing that in the future, they could actually go to jail. So that's got some teeth to it. And I can just tell you, I represent a lot of guys out of LSU, that doesn't happen anymore.
You know, what happened there is a bad situation. And it happened last year with the kid [Dez Bryant, 2010 first round pick of the Dallas Cowboys] from OK State. I have nothing but bad feelings towards agents that do that, and my feelings go out to the players, because they really don't understand what's going on with that. But you know, that's the business I'm in, and as long as you do it the right way [you won’t have to worry about these types of situations].
I've always felt that if you start paying players or doing something, what's gonna happen when that kid becomes a Pro Bowler? He's going to expect something else - he loses respect for the agent. It's not something I get involved in, but, you know, I'm glad to see more colleges at least being aware of it and making the public aware of it. That's a great thing, I think.
Bob Valvano: Albert Elias is the President of Elias Sports Management, Dallas-based sports group. He's got over 20 NFL players, joining us here on The V Show. Bob Valvano with you. Lemme ask you -- What steps can be taken (to combat this problem), because that doesn't help anybody. There's nobody that comes out of this a winner. So I can't imagine an agent saying, 'Please don't reform it.' If you're trying to do a respectable job as you talk about, you'd want a reform that has some meaning. So what kind of things can be done?
Albert Elias: What's happening now, you're starting to see more colleges, major colleges, have legislature passed through the Attorney General. You have to be licensed with the Attorney General. I can promise you this: I've seen more of it this year than ever before. Now people are starting to get caught. And once they get caught and once those agents lose their license or go to jail, it's not the agents giving the kid the money. I guarantee that it's a loosely tied associate of the agent that's paying the money through the agent. Once the agent gets caught, once they put the agent in jail or the agent loses his license for a year or two, you're not gonna see any of that going on, because it's not worth it.
A lot of times you may go after a player that doesn't (get paid) - I can't tell you how many times players got paid that didn't end up getting drafted. Then what have you got? You’ve got agents giving money away for nothing. It's a bad situation. It's bad for the kid, it's bad for the university. It puts a bad light on us. The fact that we're having this conversation about it is something I'm adamant about. And you gotta have like we have in Louisiana: you gotta have some laws that are passed that have some teeth in it and put some agents in jail, terminate their license -- those kind of things. One or two of those, you won't see it anymore.
Bob Valvano: Talking to Albert Elias, Elias Sports Management, LLC, in the Dallas area. He's an agent for NFL players, along with head and assistant coaches at the college level. Let me ask you, as an ex-college coach, I think I can approach it this way. I mean, Pete Carroll, I've never met him and he seems like a wonderful guy, but the fact of the matter is that he left a program now in Southern California in complete shambles. He's a multi-zillionaire, and he's marched on unaffected by what transpired there. How much of the coach accountability should there be? Or how much of this goes on with the, if not active involvement of the head coach, the willing ignoring of it? And how much of it is the coach, who's really powerless to prevent this? Where do you weigh in on that?
Albert Elias: I'm pretty strong on that point. I'm pro-coach. I believe that coaches like Coach Carroll, Coach Saban -- I can tell you enough, it happened at Alabama with Coach Saban - he does not like agents. He has a good agent in the league that represents him and he doesn't let him on campus. He doesn't like agents. So I can promise you that I don't believe Coach Carroll knew about that, to that extent.
Now you can say, "How do you not know cars are being given to athletes?" Sometimes people will do that for free just to get in with Reggie Bush. It doesn't necessarily have to come from an agent. As a coach are you going to worry about where a kid gets a car from if it's just a souped up old car? Or are you more worried about winning games? I think if Coach Carroll had known about that, he would have put a stop to that, because they've got so many talented players at USC. Granted he was a great player, but that one player is not gonna make a national championship, and he's not gonna ruin a program.
Coach Carroll didn't know he was gonna be at the Seahawks two years later when they got caught. That's the point when that happened and when he was getting paid. At that point Carroll didn't know he was going to be in Seattle. He didn't plan for it and intentionally say, 'Well, he's taking money and in two years we're gonna get two years probation. I'm gonna get out then.' He didn’t have some plan for that, so I believe that he knew nothing of it.
And it [regulation of agent association with college athletes] doesn't really need to come from the players, it needs to come from compliance. There's a whole office in each NCAA school that has, like he [Saban] said, they've got seven people now [in Alabama’s compliance office]. Major colleges -- they have compliance departments. I think you're gonna finally start seeing it cleaned up. The reason being that we're talking about it today. When was the last time we talked about something like this?
Bob Valvano: I was gonna ask you, Albert -- That's a great point, because I was gonna ask you: is it just worse (now)? Has it [agent involvement with college players] really gotten worse or is it just the same and we're finally talking about it? It's just one of those things that we give a wink and a nod to that nobody ever really took it head on. Is it a new era out there? As an agent out there, you know that. Do they look like they're taking this thing on more more directly now?
Albert Elias: This has been going on since I entered the business. I've lost top 5 picks to this kind of situation every year, but no one ever brought any light to it. The fact that you're bringing light to it; that we're having this conversation; Coach Saban saying what he did; what has happened with Reggie Bush -- The schools are finally penalizing themselves and taking achievements away from themselves -- This will not continue to go on.
You've got DeMaurice Smith [executive director of National Football League’s Players’ Association] coming out now against agents. You're gonna start seeing whoever this was in these situations, they won't be in the industry anymore. The guy [Llyod Lake] from USC was in jail! I mean, what do you expect an ex-con to do for a player!? That's what they do -- They cheat. You're not gonna see the good agents doing this. There's not enough money to be giving player some. You've got ten agents giving a player money -- they're only gonna pick one -- and they'll always have their hands out. You lose respect from the player. It's the fly by night agents that are getting into the business, and that's the minute that you have an example. And that's just from my situation. The fact that we don't do it - we never have and we never will - is really going to help me. It's going to get rid of the riff-raff and finally bring some light on it.
Bob Valvano: Well, I was going to say 'Joining us now is pimp Albert Elias,' but I guess I can't say that now, Albert. [Laughter]
Albert Elias: No, you can't. You can't call me a pimp -- Not in this area, anyway. [Laughter]
Bob Valvano: I knew we couldn't do that. I appreciate you shedding some light on this for us, and hopefully we'll get a chance to talk again. Continued success with your agency, the Elias Sports Management Group down in Dallas.
Albert Elias: Thanks, Bob. Thanks for the time and have a good night.
For the audio of our interview, check out the following YouTube video...