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So far, we’ve discussed the costs of registering with the NFLPA and the costs associated with recruiting. Today, let’s talk about training fees.

I always say that the business of football representation turns over about every 3-4 years. If there’s been one major change in the last half-decade, it’s combine prep. The specialized training that football prospects receive has gone from something that nobody did (15 years ago) to something that the biggest firms offered to players rated as certified first-rounders (10 years ago) to something that most draftable players got (five years ago) to something that every player that aspires to be drafted expects from his agent.

How much does training cost? For the truly established programs that have been training first-rounders for years and have proven track records, you’re looking at a total training cost that approaches $25,000-$30,000. That cost usually includes 6-8 weeks of training plus lodging, supplements and food designed to enhance muscle-building and take weight off (or put it on). Some facilities also offer options. For example, most top prospects will expect a car, so facilities might roll this into the price. Some prospects will want individual rooms rather than roommates. There are also out-of-pocket expenses like deep tissue massage or interview prep; some trainers roll this into the total price, and some make them options. The problem is, when one athlete sees his training brethren getting these perks, it’s hard for an agent to tell him he’s not inclined to pay for such add-ons. Of course, this doesn’t address the cost of flying the prospect home to see his girlfriend, or celebrate a parent’s birthday weekend, or any other special request an elite client might have.

As one might expect, this has had a major impact on the people seeking to represent young athletes. The cost of training has truly separated the men from the boys when it comes to agencies, with some flatly refusing to pay exorbitant training fees and some seeing them as the cost of doing business. It’s a major risk that comes with no guarantees. Probably every other year I get a new agent who subscribes who spent more than $20,000 on combine prep for a player who’s not on an NFL roster the week after the draft.

Often, an agent comes to the business completely oblivious about training fees and what they represent in the recruiting process. I guess the upside is that contract advisors with unlimited resources can often land late-round prospects with tip-top training offers. Of course, the odds of late-round draftees making it to a second contract are not good, so chances of recovering by assessing an annual three percent on the player’s contract are remote. Ineffective play, injuries, or abundance at a position might conspire to keep a player off a team’s roster, and unless he makes the active 53, he owes his agent nothing.

We’ll talk about how agents deal with exorbitant training fees in Monday’s edition.

In today’s newsletter, we’ve got a sample question for the NFLPA exam. Here’s the answer: (C) $885,000.00.

The explanation: First you must determine signing bonus proration, in this case $800K/4 years = $200K/yr. Then add that number to the first year paragraph 5 salary. $420K + $200K = $620K. Then apply the 25% Rule – multiply the $620K by 0.25 (25%) = $155K. That is the max yearly increase. Then just add the numbers for each year:

Year 1 – $420K
Year 2 – $420K + $155K = $575K
Year 3 – $575K + $155K = $730K
Year 4 – $730K + $155K = $885K