Magazine article Insight on the News

The Lurid Lure of Money

Magazine article Insight on the News

The Lurid Lure of Money

Article excerpt

At colleges with big-time sports programs, financial advisers are taking an increasing interest in players with pro potential ad recruiting them earlier and far more aggressively.

Terence Morris and Juan Dixon, University of Maryland basketball stars and likely future National Basketball Association (NBA) players, got a taste of what it's like to be highly touted amateur athletes from the moment they stepped on campus. Both were approached immediately by financial advisers, stockbrokers, annuity and insurance salesmen and myriad other pitchmen seeking to handle and invest their fortunes once they turn pro.

"Every player I've had good enough to go pro had his phone ringing off the hook from these guys," says Maryland coach Gary Williams. "It's not too surprising, unfortunately. Anytime a player has the potential to make a lot of money, those people will be around."

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) doesn't oversee financial-services representatives, unlike its strict and Byzantine guidelines governing agents. The NCAA's only restriction: financial sales pitches can be no different than those to any other prospective client. That mile-wide loophole, say college-athletics officials, is being exploited and causing plenty of internal hand-wringing.

"There is concern about the intrusiveness and frequency of these pitches," admits NCAA spokesman Wally Renfro. "It's just one more set of people who are trying to attach themselves to elite athletes."

Renfro acknowledges his organization can do little about it. "Players can purchase the services of a financial planner or any other professional on their own accord," he says. "We can't stop that. Our rules come into play when student-athletes receive an extra benefit because of their status. If a player receives a dinner from a financial planner and we can find that planner takes every single other prospective client to dinner, there's nothing wrong there. But there's nobody out there giving cars or advancing money to every single prospective client and, obviously, things like that are major red flags."

A grass-roots effort to hold financial-services companies to a tougher standard has sprung up in 28 states, including North Carolina, which already requires agents to register with the secretary of state and notify athletic directors before contacting players. "Those guys [financial-services advisers] can go in as soon as they want and wine and dine as much as they want," complains William "Woody" Webb Jr. …

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