'Jerry Maguire' sports agent Leigh Steinberg talks new book, NCAA compliance in visit to ASU

Renowned sports agent Leigh Steinberg visited ASU on Monday as part of a promotional tour he’s doing for his autobiography, “The Agent.” Steinberg gave a lecture to students of the Sports and Entertainment Law Students Association at the Sandra Day O’Connor Law School.

“The book sort of traces my life,” Steinberg said. ”It talks about the inception of sports law, because there wasn’t any when I got started.”

A University of California graduate who later passed the California State Bar exam, Steinberg met Cal quarterback Steve Bartkowski while working as a dorm adviser and was asked to represent him. Bartkowski later became the No. 1 pick in the 1975 NFL Draft, the first of eight No. 1 NFL draft picks Steinberg would represent.

Known for his emphasis on philanthropy from his represented athletes, Steinberg was also profiled by director Cameron Crowe as the basis of the character Jerry Maguire in the movie of the same name.

Steinberg offered his thoughts on the state of current collegiate athletics in comparison to where it was when he first broke into the business.

Steinberg said the state of Arizona has a list of rules monitoring the outreach of sports agents, and ASU and other universities have their own rules regarding student-athlete and agent interaction. At the professional level, the players are unionized.

“There’s a whole system of regulation that didn’t exist before,” Steinberg said. "So to represent an NFL athlete, you need an undergrad degree, a grad degree, to go through a whole background set of tests and to follow rules, so you have much more regulation.

“The second thing is the systems have changed. Until 2011, there was great freedom to negotiate working contracts, even the salary cap they had ... in football,” Steinberg said. “Creativity could get around it, so bonuses were still high. Now they’ve passed a hard cap, which means that they shifted money away from rookies to veteran salaries and benefits. So for the first four years of a player’s career, there’s not a tremendous amount an agent can do with that contract."

Steinberg also commented on the changing landscape of concussion protocol in football, as he’s done work with various companies and research labs to help improve the protection that players get, as well as better support for former players currently experiencing the after-effects of concussions.

“When an offensive lineman hits a defensive lineman at the inception of every play, it produces a low level subconcussive event,” Steinberg said. “So you can have a lineman leaving football with 10,000 subconsussive hits, none of which have been diagnosed, and none of which he’s aware of. But the aggregate of that is worse than getting knocked out three times."

Reach the reporter stheodor@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @shane_writes

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