How's an NFL agent to spend his time while the NFL remains locked out and engaged in a bitter court battle? One such agent will be spending his free time as a high school football coach.
Joe Linta, who represents Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (along with three dozen other NFL players), was hired as head coach last week for Hamden Hall, a private high school in Connecticut. Linta isn't leaving his roster of clients, however. He'll be working part time as NFL agent, part time as high school football coach. He'll also have the chance to coach his sons, Nick, a wide receiver on the team, and T.J., a quarterback.
"As a family, this will be a lot of fun, and the slowest time of the year in representation business is August through October," Linta told the Associated Press. "A lot of agents like to play golf. This is what I like to do, sort of like a hobby. I'll probably spend the same number of hours a week doing this as they do playing golf."
Linta says that his first commitment will still be to his NFL players, and to the college players he signs once their eligibility is up, but work for the two jobs shouldn't overlap much.
That said ... the first thing that came to my mind after hearing about this story was, "How the heck is that allowed? Conflict of interest, much?"
Bob Izzo, headmaster for Hamden High, said, "He doesn't represent high school or college kids so no, we don't think there is any conflict. We're sure there's not any," according to the Connecticut-based Post-Chronicle.
What Izzo said is technically true, although, it reeks of politician speak. Of course Linta doesn't represent any high school or college players; if he did, they'd be jeopardizing their NCAA eligibility by being represented by an agent. Besides, NFL agents aren't allowed to represent a player until after his true junior or redshirt sophomore season in college.
The potential problem arises if and when one of Izzo's high school players ends up being talented enough to make it to the NFL. Will those student-athletes feel some sense of loyalty to Linta because he was their high school coach? Quite possibly. Whether it leads to those players signing with Linta or not, the fact is, this arrangement opens a small pipeline of players for Linta, which other NFL agents won't have access to.
To be clear: This isn't at all to insinuate that Linta comes into the coaching job with ill intentions. There's no question he has plenty of coaching experience on his resume—he served as assistant coach of the University of New Haven football team from 1983-84, and an assistant coach for Yale's football team from 1985-91. (Not to mention, he played four years of defensive tackle for Yale while in college.) It's not like Hamden High plucked an NFL agent with no football experience off the street. In fact, one of Linta's clients, New England Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, told the AP that Linta has more in-depth knowledge of football (due to his years of playing and coaching) than most agents.
But Linta's unique position as part-agent, part-coach could open a Pandora's box of complications if this sort of arrangement starts popping up in other high schools. For one, agents aren't allowed to communicate "either directly or indirectly" with football players who aren't eligible for the NFL draft, according to the NFLPA regulations governing agents. (The NFLPA rulebook also prohibits agents from "engaging in any other activity that creates an actual or potential conﬂict of interest with the effective representation of NFL players," for what it's worth.)
The NFLPA suspended two agents this past December: one for communicating with players before they were eligible for the NFL draft, the other for giving a college football player a ride in a golf cart. If neither of those activities is permissable under the NFLPA's regulations for agents, it's hard to fathom how Linta's arrangement would be. What happens if/when he tries to follow up with former players during their college years?
Given the NFLPA's strict rules governing player-agent relationships, and the ongoing problems with questionable agent practices, high schools might be more likely to avoid potential conflicts by keeping agents and coaches separate.