“Managers” for High School Football Players?
We all know that there are some key “players” in the basketball recruiting world. Many people question the ethics around relationships that develop between these young players and those that “help” them get recruited.
It seems that in at least in Kansas, football might be headed down that same path. In a New York Times Article from Feb 3rd, Brian Butler identified himself as the trainer and manager of top high school football recruit Bryce Brown. In fact, the article stated that, “To get to Bryce Brown, coaches must go through Butler. He handles Brown’s workouts, recruiting and news media requests.” WHAT? This is a high school player, right? Not someone gearing up for the NFL Draft. Oh, and Butler also sells information on Brown and other players over the internet for $9.99/month or $59/year if you are interested.
For those not aware, Bryce Brown did not sign on national signing day and has yet to sign an NLI. The scholarship and NLI papers issued by Miami (where he verbally committed in Feb 2008) on Feb 4th for signing day expired on Feb 18th and an anonymous representative from Miami was quoted as saying they would not issue new papers. Amazingly, Butler was unaware scholarship papers expired at all and that Brown would sign on March 16th. Between his verbal commitment and his brother playing at Miami there was significant speculation he would end up there. However, Brian Butler also has indicated that Brown could skip college and enter the CFL for “$5 million a year for 3 years”. One problem with that math is that the CFL salary cap is $4.2 million and the highest paid player is making $500,000 in the league right now with the league minimum about $40,000.
Regardless of what the final decision is from Bryce Brown, this is a scary new territory to be in. Many for-profit summer football camps and training centers have cropped up on the last 10 years with promises of special access to coaches and the best training. In those scenarios at least it is clear that the financial gain for the organizers is a result of tuition charged for training. But, having a “manager” really pushes the line. Even on the Potential Players website (Mr. Butler’s nonprofit) there is a by line from a press release that states, ” By Pastor Wade Moore(Christian Faith Centre) and Brian Butler (Bryce Brown’s Mentor/Trainer not Street Agent/Handler)” Why would Mr. Butler feel the need to write that he is not Bryce Brown’s street agent/handler?
Butler claims that “he has never asked a coach or a university for money, but he also said he did not vet every donor to his nonprofit organization.” Why would people even donate to this program? One supporter mentioned in the NY Times article it was because he was trying to “help as many young people as he can”. At what personal gain is Butler doing this? Yes, he charges players for workouts and training, but there are 22 players on the list on the Potential Players website (4 of which are committed or signed with universities). There are a few more high school seniors without colleges indicated on their profiles and the rest are currently juniors. The cost structure was stated in the NY Times article as, “Butler left his $65,000-a-year job as the manager of a cellphone call center to work with high school players full time in January 2008. He charges from $70 to $200 a month for training sessions and $450 a player for recruiting consulting services. Butler said he has made less than $200 selling the online recruiting subscriptions.”
Let’s estimate high and take the 22 players on the website times $450 for recruiting consultation totaling $9,900. Then, we’ll still aim high with 22 players at $150/month times 12 months for $39,600. We also have to assume there is some cost to training facilities & equipment, travel to promote his players, advertising, keeping up the website etc..
So, the income might be $49,500 pre-tax and then expenses must be deducted. Who knows what Mr. Butler is making, but given these numbers and the fact that he left a $65,000/year job to do this, it would seem to outsiders that other money must be coming in.
I don’t know if there have been any NCAA violations so far, but this structure is a set-up for potential violations (i.e. boosters supporting the program in exchange for certain players being steered to one institution over another or donations magically filtering down to the players themselves). I hope that Mr. Butler has the best interest of his players in mind, but the general feeling is that the program is more about him than the athletes (according to the NY Times article).
Finally, do college coaches really need these intermeidaries to help find talent? Most college football staff’s have recruiting down to a science and thus, some of the onus is on them to not support these types of programs so that they do not encourage the type of system that might soon require them to have relationships with “managers” to ensure access to players and their information.
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