Agent Josh Luchs Comes Clean About Two Decades Inside the Dirtiest Business in Sports Confesses to Pulitzer Prize Winner and Senior Writer George Dohrmann to Paying Thousands of Dollars and Providing Other Gifts to Dozens of College Football Players
NEW YORK, Oct. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- In the explosive cover story of this week's October 18, 2010, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, on newsstands tomorrow, Josh Luchs confesses to providing college football players with thousands of dollars, concert tickets, free trips and meals during his 20 years as a certified NFL agent. Many of Luchs's accounts were confirmed by photographs, money-order receipts, loan agreements or outright confirmations obtained by Pulitzer Prize winner and senior writer George Dohrmann (@georgedohrmann) and renowned investigative journalist/staff writer David Epstein (@SIDavidEpstein). This story includes the names of 30 former players who are alleged to have taken money or gifts from Luchs; eight confirmed these claims to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Several of them attributed the payments to a lack of money for food and rent provided by their scholarships. One of them, former USC wide receiver R. Jay Soward, said, "I would do it again. I have four sons, and if somebody offered my son money in college and it meant he didn't have to be hungry, I would tell him to take it."
During his steady climb in the industry, Luchs gained a reputation as a dogged recruiter en route to representing or helping recruit more than 60 players. Dohrmann met Luchs [pronounced LUX] in July while working on a story about the agent business. When he learned that Luchs was leaving the profession, Dohrmann proposed a first-person account of life as an agent.
STARTING OUT – "PAY TO PLAY"
All it took for Luchs to officially become an agent was $300 and his signature on a few NFLPA-mandated forms. He did this in 1988, at age 19, despite suffering from dyslexia and lacking a college degree. He learned the ropes from the streetwise Harold (Doc) Daniels, who was one of the first prominent black NFL agents and had a reputation for paying and giving gifts to college kids. Daniels taught Luchs how to pay them as well as the importance of focusing on local prospects. Once Luchs signed UCLA wideout Sean LaChapelle—who he did not pay—he had an in to the Bruins program. It was then that he started throwing his influence (and money) around. As he told Dohrmann: "If you were a good player at UCLA, I made a run at you. I tried to get can't-miss NFL left tackle prospect Jonathan Ogden as a client, but he wouldn't take my money. He did, however, go with me to a Janet Jackson concert. My girlfriend got two tickets, and I told her, 'Sorry, I need those tickets for J.O. He's a big Janet Jackson fan.' Instead of going to the concert with my girlfriend, I went with a 6' 9" guy who weighed more than 300 pounds and who screamed 'Janet!' the whole night like a teenage girl. The lunches, the money each month, the bail, the concert tickets, those were all NCAA violations, of course, but in my mind I wasn't doing anything wrong. Doc would say to me, 'We ain't members of the NCAA. We didn't agree to follow these rules.' "
Luchs continued to utilize his L.A. connections to develop ins with programs on the West Coast. Some players took his money and signed while others went elsewhere, using "I gotta do what is best for me and my family" as a frequent excuse. After paying and losing out on Ryan Leaf—who declined to comment of specific allegations from Luchs—and an ugly incident following monthly payments of $1,500 made to Soward, Luchs realized a change was needed: "In 1999 the NFLPA had changed a rule to say that players who were found to have taken money from agents while in college would not have to pay the money back. Before, agents had the threat of litigation, so it was often easier for a player to just let the paying agent do his rookie deal. However, the floodgates opened after the NFLPA changed that rule. Players, their parents, everyone put their hands out because there were no ramifications. R. Jay's dad knew about the rule change, and he told Doc, 'We don't have to repay you s---.' That was the last straw. You would think I would have left the business altogether, but I still loved being an agent and being around the sport and players. However, I knew that to keep going I needed to become a different kind of agent, and to do that I needed a new partner."
MOVING UP – "RAISING THE STAKES" (LEGITIMATELY)
By signing on in 2000 with Pro Tect Management's Gary Wichard—whose client list included Brian Bosworth, Keith Brooking and Jason Taylor—Luchs was expecting a business that was more legitimate and less like the Wild West ways of Doc Daniels. Indeed, Wichard reined Luchs in after his early years of paying and partying with players. Yet recent headlines tying Wichard to former North Carolina assistant John Blake—who may have received money from Wichard for steering players to him—suggest that the industry might be just as dirty at the top as it is at the bottom: "It's no secret in the agent business that some college coaches steer players to certain agents. I laughed when I heard Gary deny in the media that John ever worked with Pro Tect. When I was with Gary, John worked hand in hand with us, and Gary called him his 'partner.' John was the defensive line coach of the Dallas Cowboys when they won Super Bowls XXVIII and XXX, and the head coach at Oklahoma from '96 through '98. He was one of the best recruiters I'd ever seen. He was just electric, and I leveraged him to get clients whenever I could. In '02 two of the biggest clients we got were due, in large part, to John. He went with Gary and me to meet with Fresno State defensive lineman Alan Harper, and Gary and I had John work out defensive end Kenyon Coleman from UCLA before his senior year. That was an NCAA violation, but it wasn't like paying a kid. It was helping Kenyon become a better player."
LEAVING THE BUSINESS – "COMING CLEAN"
Luchs had a falling out with Wichard in August 2004, after which he had a brief two-year run at The Gersh Agency before being forced from the industry following a one-year suspension handed down by the NFLPA. He chose to come clean to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED so that people would know how the agent business really works and how powerless the NFLPA is when it comes to monitoring agent activity: "One of the misconceptions about the agent business is that the kids are victims, preyed on by people like me. When Alabama coach Nick Saban and others rail against the agent business, they don't mention that most of the time the player or someone from his family approaches us. Guys see that one of their teammates has some cash, ask him about it, and suddenly my phone rings. It was rare to find a player who wouldn't take the money. I put $10,000 cash in front of Kansas's Dana Stubblefield, and he wouldn't take it. I tried to pay UCLA's J.J. Stokes and USC's Keyshawn Johnson, and they said, 'No.' But for every kid who didn't take the money, there were dozens who called me and asked to get paid."
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SOURCE Sports Illustrated