Football Recruiting and the reality of bagmen

Submitted by StephenRKass on November 29th, 2018 at 1:19 PM

Last week, I had an interesting conversation with a registered NFL agent. This particular agent formally represents several Michigan grads currently in the league, as well as guys currently on the team. He thinks well of many guys at Michigan, even though he is an OSU grad. Our discussion took place prior to the debacle, when I still had naive hope in a Michigan win. Sigh.

In our discussion, he shared that a huge number of highly rated players, including several prominent guys currently on Michigan's team, receive compensation. From his perspective, basically every kid who is from a low income family and is ranked more or less in the top 100 prospects, probably in the top 200 or 300 prospects, is currently receiving compensation. He also believes that given the ridiculous amounts of money involved, this makes sense. Why should rich white guys in the NCAA and coaches and institutions get more and more, when kids in challenging circumstances basically get nothing. (Well, they get free room and board and tuition, but that's basically in exchange for working full time as a football player on a Division I team.)

 As regards OSU, this matter of compensation has given them a huge leg up on Michigan. One of the real reasons Zach Smith continued so long as WR coach was his ability to leverage compensation for recruits going to the Buckeyes. The reality is that if the same thing doesn't happen at Michigan, we are never going to catch up to Alabama and Clemson, let alone OSU.

I don't know quite what to make of it all, but I am sure this is the reality. My guess is that Brian is all too aware of the reality, and this is part of the reason he supports compensating players openly. I'm sure there are boundaries out there and lines you can't cross. That's part of the reason Ole Miss got in trouble:  they either paid players too openly, or crossed the wrong powerful people.

Regardless, here are my major takeaways. First, the schools at the top shield the coaches with plausible deniability, but these same coaches almost have to be aware that this is going on. If bagmen or boosters or agents are compensating family members, they do it in a way that no one on the coaching staff has their hands on it or direct knowledge of it. Second, if my agent contact is correct, several top players at Michigan are part of the same practice. Which means that I don't know how accurate it is to be throwing stones at other schools and their coaches. For good or for bad, this is the current reality. Given the current economic status of many the families involved, and the obscene amounts of money to be made, it is fairly inevitable that this would be the reality.


Avon Barksdale

November 29th, 2018 at 1:22 PM ^

There is little doubt that a lot of guys get paid.  Our own AD even *indirectly* called out Clemson for trying to pay Rashan Gary on signing day.  Everyone knows it is happening.  Discovering it and enforcing the letter of the law; OR changing the letter of the law, is the hard part.


November 29th, 2018 at 1:31 PM ^

I think the letter of the law needs to be changed. Maybe I was just taken aback as it was explained to me how far it extends. Tuition is regularly paid for top kids to attend private high schools. The cost of unofficial trips is subsidized. Fixers regularly contact agents, supposedly on behalf of players who are family friends. A handful of agencies represent the vast majority of blue chip kids, and indirect compensation is a huge part of the deal. He explained to me how some of the bigger agencies with deep pockets will gamble on future prospects, fronting out hundreds of thousands of dollars, in the hope that they make it a couple years in the league and sign a second contract. That's where the agents really cash in. The whole enterprise is somehow depressing.


November 29th, 2018 at 4:38 PM ^

My buddy is in the process of getting into the sports agent arena.  He told me the other day that high school kids ranked in the top 100 are free to talk to agents.  They can't sign with them, but they can talk.

This was a surprise to me.  If the agents are already allowed to be thisclose to the kids, it goes to show how easy money can flow.


November 29th, 2018 at 6:52 PM ^

Yeah, and people are still pissed at Webber...  the dude took a loan right before getting a big contract, from a loan shark no less, not even affiliated with Michigan....easy to see the temptation... and yes, he lied about it to the Grand Jury, trying to cover an error...  so be it...



November 29th, 2018 at 2:19 PM ^

I'm for paying players, but paying them or letting them make money off of endorsements won't change the current under-the-table payment of players. 

That system would still exist as additional compensation. I'm not sure it's possible to remove that aspect of college sports (short of making every graduating HS player a free agent for the highest bidder).  



November 30th, 2018 at 2:06 PM ^

No, because there's no equal if one school wants to pay more. Just make it above the table. If Alabama wants to pay a million dollars, who cares. They're going to get all the top players anyway, so nothing would change. If anything, it'd give more parity because players would see what other top players are getting and how much of a priority they are to specific schools.

Mr Miggle

November 29th, 2018 at 2:53 PM ^

I agree about the fairness of allowing athletes to earn endorsement money.

I don't have any confidence that it would all work itself out and end well though.  It's really hard to know how it would work out. There are a lot of scenarios I can see that most of us wouldn't like. 

Pro players get paid endorsement money because the companies paying them think they will recoup the money they're paid. College players get paid to attend the booster's favorite school. Their payments will just move from under the table to out in the open and most players value will be highest while still in high school.

I think we'll see some change along these lines before long, but the NCAA will want to keep some control. Maybe allow some sharing of school's shoe money. Maybe allow upperclassmen to make more deals. I don't think they want to see open bidding wars for recruits and they definitely don't want to see players getting paid to transfer. 

We're never going to have parity in college sports, nor should that ever be a goal. But moving further away from the level of parity we have now isn't something I find appealing either. Is that what we'd be looking at with open pay and no salary cap? It might be.

The other issue for NCAA schools is that money that boosters contribute may go directly to recruits instead. That's why I have a feeling they're going to allow recruits to sign early with shoe companies or registered agents. Things that don't take too much money out of their own pockets and which won't lead to bidding wars between boosters of rival schools.




November 29th, 2018 at 3:11 PM ^

ya'll are damn fools if you think opening up payment to players even as endorsement deals is going to help Michigan...and that's the stem of this stupidity. It won't solve shit. With open endorsement it would help Michigan kids...but not Michigan in the sense, Clemson, Bama, and OSU could continue piling on more than we would and could be more open about it. Too many of you think this somehow levels the field for UM...yeah, no chance. It would open the gap further and you couldn't reign it back in. not to mention, the elite 20 or so teams could set a bar smaller programs could never afford. And don't you think for ONE SECOND you have a right to pay football players and not female athletes and non-revenue sports...fat chance.  The simplicity and stupidity in this tired conversation is unreal.


November 29th, 2018 at 3:15 PM ^

I get the sense from your comment that all of this talk is way over your head. Mostly because of your last point regarding Title IX (do you even know what that is?). The whole point is that paying players outright becomes problematic due to Title IX regulations, not to mention smaller schools not being able to afford paying anyone. What endorsements does is it opens it up to the free market and then circumvents (I'll wait while you go grab a dictionary to find out what circumvent means)


The whole Title IX problem.


November 30th, 2018 at 10:30 AM ^ it finds a way around, thanks skippy...thankfully I got dat one durrr.... so...tell me what company, private enterprise is willing to fork over cash for women's sports to stay on an equal field with men's sports and endorsements? I know in some bubble this seems easy. Yep, maybe at Michigan, maybe at OSU...but what about Toledo, Eastern (who by the way is already cutting sports because they can't afford them...) when I was a student athlete, the NCAA enforced a letterhead control...because schools like UM could afford multicolor letterhead with maize AND blue...they had what was perceived a recruiting advantage. So UM complied, and used monochrome (one color, possibly even in different tones/shades) and probably spent more on that monochrome letterhead than the original M with maize and yeah...I fully understand it, I lived it, don't flatter your smug arrogant ass...


November 29th, 2018 at 3:36 PM ^

fools?  stupidity?  Maybe you need to lighten up, Francis.

I never said it would level the field for Michigan.  I was speaking about the problem and possible solutions in more general terms.  In fact, I essentially agreed with you.  I said that the under-the-table payments would still exist (still giving an advantage to those teams who are more inclined to break the rules).

Do better.


November 29th, 2018 at 4:11 PM ^

I don't know the answers. There are several things I want to see happen. One is that I want to see Michigan win. Ideally, I would like to see this happen in a "fair" way. Brian et al have commented about the crazy amounts of money out there. That money is going to largely to institutions . . . to the NCAA and to member schools. It also goes to TV networks . . . to FOX, and ABC, and CBS, and ESPN. It goes to makers of apparel. It goes to tons of support industries. It seems to me that the bulk of this revenue is on the backs of so-called "student athletes." Even though they receive tuition, room, board, shoes, a stipend, and other ancillary benefits, it seems to me that they are the real workers upon which the economic engine thrives. As such, I would like to see some kind of compensation structure that rewards this. Again, I don't know the answers, but that's what I want.

Yinka Double Dare

November 29th, 2018 at 6:59 PM ^

The great part about just allowing the players to get endorsement money/make outside money is that it DOESN'T implicate Title IX. The school wouldn't be paying them. 

And if you don't think the Michigan Money Cannon wouldn't be directed at sending money the players' way, well, I don't know what to tell you. Part of the reason you don't see Michigan's boosters be as flagrant as some of the others these days is because the Ed Martin thing is on everyone's minds. And that isn't going to change. But if they could throw money their way with it being okay under the rules?


November 29th, 2018 at 5:26 PM ^

There's a rub there against the claim in the OP: if UM was doing these things just like everyone else, why would the AD call out another school for attempting it on some of we recruited?  It would just invite further attention to investigate UM's practices to see if they were doing the same.  If the program/boosters were dirty, they would not want to attract the attention.


November 29th, 2018 at 11:41 PM ^

Not to mention why are so many of them driving around on Vespas and not a 50k+ cars, like you see at most of the schools that are known to have big time booster programs? 

The players lifestyles just don't equate to being paid excessive amounts of money ey by boosters. 


November 29th, 2018 at 1:38 PM ^

When you really think about it, what is "immoral" about paying someone to work, very hard.  What we all don't like is that it may be unfair to our school that other teams are using the system better than our team is to get good players.   I really don't know that immoral is a good term.  Unfair to fans, yep, but we keep buying tickets either way.


November 29th, 2018 at 2:04 PM ^

They don’t need to be paid. They are compensated just fine for playing football. People who think they are only given an education and a room are way off base as they get much more then that for playing a college sport.  If you want to pay them then set up a separate minor league for football and keep college athletics for amueter players and people who love playing the game. If it hurts the level of play so be it. There are plenty of kids who want a free education because they can’t pay for it but their athletic ability gives them that option. So few kids make it to the league as it is they should actually focus on getting an education 


November 29th, 2018 at 2:09 PM ^

Did you not read the post?  They are already getting paid under the table.  Get your head out of the sand.  There is no "student athelete" system.  There hasn't been for almost 50 years now.  At least if payments were above board it would even out some of the rampant cheating and hidden advantages.


November 30th, 2018 at 1:56 PM ^

20 hours of work per for:

Tuition, Room and Board, stipend, training table, access to tutors, access to weight staff and workout facilities, etc., etc.

Tuition and Room and Board, by itself, is ~$32,000 - $45,000 per year.

~35 weeks * 20 hours...

$45.71 - $64.29 per hour.

A $90K-$130K a year job at that rate if worked full time - and we're ignoring everything other than tuition and room/board.



I worked 18 hours a week when I was at Michigan. I made $8/hour. That is about $12.25 adjusted for inflation.



Indy Pete - Go Blue

November 29th, 2018 at 1:26 PM ^

 This is a revealing and challenging revelation. Thank you for sharing. I hope it’s not true regarding Michigan, but hope may not be able to supersede reasoning here.  Certainly the star players bring in a massive amount of revenue to the university. 

Durham Blue

November 29th, 2018 at 3:09 PM ^

Sounds like there may be differences in the amount(s) Michigan guys are paid vs. $EC, OSU or any other big name program that recruits really well?  Getting paid less still doesn't make it right per the current rules.  Yeah, we need new rules to allow athletes to make money.  And enforce the crap out of under the table bullshit.


November 29th, 2018 at 4:16 PM ^

Of course Michigan players are getting paid. You think Michigan is able to recruit at a top 10 level while every school around them cheats because kids are impressed we won a lot of games in the early 1900s?

Going to blow your mind here but the kids in athletics at Michigan also share a list of "easy" classes were the professors or TA's know and let the athletes get away with cheating too.


November 29th, 2018 at 5:04 PM ^

When my wife was a TA at Michigan in the mid-90's the professor told her to change grades for a starting basketball player in her section. She refused and the prof did it anyway. I don't see how it would be any different for football players then or now. 


November 29th, 2018 at 1:36 PM ^

It's almost always someone who has no official connection to the university paying someone in the kid's family outside of his immediate family. 

Directors of Football Operations don't buy cars for the kids' moms. A wealthy alum that goes to booster dinners but is not employed by the school in any way leases a car and puts it in the name of the kid's uncle. Stuff like that that would force outsiders to make some uncomfortable insinuations in order to accuse the school of impropriety.

The schools that are more blunt than that are the schools that get caught.


November 29th, 2018 at 1:53 PM ^

People who have the money to spare and the incentive to spend it. Sometimes wealthy alums who want to see their team do well, get more talent, sometimes professionals (like agents) who want to have a paying relationship with the kid when he leaves school. 

There are obvious ways for the school to sweeten the pot for the bagman too. You get this 5* RB's uncle a car to let the kid use, and Kirby Smart (or whoever) will make sure you get a sideline pass this week, or you get the Dean of the Law School's box, or we will make sure that the players are give your business card when they decide to go pro...stuff like that.