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Team Stephens scores big: Kevin Scanlon quarterbacks management of million-dollar professional sports contracts.

KEVIN SCANLON hung up his football helmet for good in 1980 but he didn't retire his competitive nature.

He's carried it into a business that may require more nifty moves and agility than he ever needed as a University of Arkansas quarterback.

For six years, Scanlon has been in the sports agent business. With all the images the word "sports agent" may conjure, the politically correct term among professional leagues now is "contract adviser."

But Scanlon doesn't mind "agent," and he's become a good one, negotiating several million dollar deals in the past year for another lucrative arm of the Little Rock investment-banking firm Stephens Inc.

Scanlon is chief operating officer of Stephens Sports Management Inc., which handles contracts and/or investments and financial planning for 25 sports figures including Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson, Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz and a number of National Football League and National Basketball Association players.

New Arkansas football coach Danny Ford recently turned over negotiations of his television show and some other investments to Stephens, Scanlon says.

An agent's role, Scanlon says, is "negotiating time, money and investments. It takes communicative skills and financial knowledge."

Communication correlates into some serious persuasive skills, and the outgoing Scanlon long since has shown that ability.

"If it's fourth-and-two and you've covered 98 yards," he says, "it takes some serious persuasion with those guys in the huddle to go those last two yards."

Fourteen years ago, those persuasive skills were helping lead Arkansas to a 10-1 regular-season record and a shot against Paul W. "Bear" Bryant's last great, unbeaten Alabama team, which eventually handed the Hogs a 24-9 loss in the Sugar Bowl.

Today, Scanlon's communicative talents are landing those million-dollar deals for Stephens.

His battles are no longer with towering defensive tackles, but with well-seasoned professional general managers like Bobby Beathard, Charley Casserly or Jim Finks.

The scoreboard now shows dollar signs, and clients of Scanlon and Stephens Sports Management are winning big.

Most recently, Scanlon negotiated a deal for former Razorback defensive lineman Wayne Martin that netted the Cherry Valley native the largest one-year pay increase in the history of the NFL.

Martin, a first-round draft choice in 1989, was making $350,000 in the last year of a four-year contract originally negotiated by SSM. A new collective-bargaining agreement between players and owners went into effect Feb. 26, allowing Martin to shop his services after completing a stellar season with the New Orleans Saints.

The Washington Redskins, in need of a big-play lineman, offered Martin a four-year deal worth $10.1 million. To keep him, New Orleans had to match the offer, making him the second-highest paid defensive player in the game next to Green Bay's Reggie White, who reaped a free-agency bonanza of $17 million over four years.

Martin's 1993 season will be worth $3.5 million, which is a 1,000 percent pay raise from 1992.

Last year, Scanlon and SSM handled the contracts for former Razorback basketball stars Todd Day and Lee Mayberry. Day, a first-round lottery choice in 1992, signed a reported five-year, $11 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. Mayberry, also drafted by the Bucks later in the same round, signed for $3 million over four years.

With all its other services for the athletes offered in house, Stephens is finding the sports market lucrative. But the contract signing fees alone are nothing to squawk at.

The NBA requires a maximum 4 percent of the contract be paid to the agent. The NFL and major league baseball require a maximum 5 percent. Scanlon says the figure is negotiated with the player, and agents derive about 2-4 percent for NBA signings and 3-5 percent from football and baseball. Figuring the minimum on Martin, Day and Mayberry, Stephens grossed at least $583,000 on signing fees alone for the length of those contracts.

And the best of 1993 may be yet to come.

Stan Humphries, quarterback of the NFL's San Diego Chargers, is renegotiating his contract through Scanlon and hopes to have one signed by the end of this week that will take him from perhaps the lowest paid NFL quarterback to one of the highest.

Humphries, an NFL rags-to-riches story in terms of performance last season, figures to capitalize on a year in which he guided the once-hapless Chargers to the American Football Conference playoffs. Humphries was not a regular NFL starter until last year, his first with San Diego after four seasons as a Redskins backup.

Scanlon won't reveal the numbers; but, based on the reported average pay of the top 15 NFL quarterbacks, Humphries is probably eyeing the $3 million-a-year range. San Francisco's Steve Young and Denver's John Elway are the top paid quarterbacks at $5 million a year.

"The past year has been very exciting for us, doing the contracts the size of Todd's, Lee's and Wayne's," Scanlon says. "Stan's is going to be the biggest of all, the largest I've done. And with the work we've done for Nolan and Coach Holtz and now with Danny Ford, it's been a very exciting year. But we're not satisfied. We want to continue to grow the company."

Stephens' Vision

Warren Stephens, president and chief executive officer of Stephens Inc., envisioned making sports management a part of the company in the mid-1980s.

"You see a lot of stories about a lot of athletes making all this money, and they retire and don't have any money left," Stephens says. "One aspect of our business that we have been good at is handling investments for people, helping them be secure, have their investments earn money for them. It was not a new business for us, per se, but a new target."

In 1987, Warren Stephens entered into a partnership with agent Tom Selakovich, who represented about 40 athletes including baseball star Kevin McReynolds and basketball great Alvin Robertson -- both of whom are former Razorbacks.

That partnership dissolved the next year, and Selakovich took his players with him. But Stephens Inc. continued its sports management arm with Scanlon, who had handled Stephens' interest in the partnership since '87.

"We went out and recruited Kevin specifically for that job," Stephens says. "He has the proper mentality and attitude. And, a lot of people down-play it, but I think having an athletic background makes it easier."

Scanlon didn't waste anytime attracting a couple of big names.

"Having Sidney Moncrief and Lou Holtz as your first clients certainly doesn't hurt," he says.

Holtz had been Scanlon's coach at Arkansas in 1978-79. Scanlon sought out his mentor, who was now at Notre Dame, for advice on a career move from the Little Rock office of Merrill Lynch, where he was senior financial consultant, to Stephens.

"I told him this," Holtz says. "He was with a good company, but if he had a chance to work for a company run by Jack and Witt Stephens, don't walk over there, run over there.

"If you associate yourself with good people, it's a positive for you. It has worked well for him. He's a talented person."

Holtz, who says he has "always been a great fan of Jack Stephens," also decided to set up an account at Stephens at that time.

"I was one of Kevin's first clients, but certainly not the largest client," says Holtz, always armed with a quip. "The amount of money I have is not a lot."

Holtz says that in the same tone he uses when he claims perennial national championship contender Notre Dame won't be good this year. The listener knows better.

Moncrief, at the peak of his NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks, soon followed. So did another former Razorback basketball star, Darrell Walker. The lineup gradually continued to grow.

Building Team Stephens

Landing the high-profile players has been a team effort, Scanlon says.

The company has moved into baseball management, lining up a group of players -- not from Arkansas, but Scanlon can't name them -- for what he calls a "unique" relationship handling their investments. This is overseen by Warren Simpson, investment manager and a member of the sports management team.

Along with Simpson, SSM has former Razorback basketball player U.S. Reed coordinating the recruiting of prospects. Kim Hand is the administrative assistant.

Ken Shemin of Little Rock's Rose Law Firm is a close friend of Scanlon's and provides legal help to Stephens Sports. Shemin has a 14 percent interest in SSM, and Stephens Inc. controls the remaining 86 percent.

The group, and Stephens Insurance Services Inc. that Scanlon also serves as chief operating officer, is ultimately under Greg Feltus, senior vice president.

Stephens' range of services at one location is what won over Todd Day and his family when they chose a sports management group.

"For a lot of them, the agent might be in New York and his tax man in Chicago and insurance man in Baltimore," says Ted Anderson, Day's stepfather. "When you talk with them, they are all in there. But later they have to put you with the ancillary people so you can have the complete package. Stephens had the complete package there."

Day, Arkansas' all-time leading scorer, was a cinch early NBA draft choice, and about 25 agents contacted the family. These included the renowned International Management Group Inc., ProServe and Bob Woolf, as well as fly-by-night operators wanting to use Day as a springboard into the business.

Ted and Nicolet Anderson told them not to contact their son during the year, and they had the group narrowed to seven by the time Arkansas' season ended. After four visits, Day and his family had seen enough, and Stephens was the winner.

"It went beyond just meeting someone for a couple of days over dinner and visiting a base of operations and getting a feel for the person," Ted Anderson says, adding that Reed as the front man with the initial contact, Scanlon, Simpson and Warren Stephens all gave them a good feel. The family already knew Stephens Inc.'s strong investment reputation.

A Natural

Scanlon seems like a natural for the sports agent business. As a player, Holtz says, Scanlon "had a unique ability to move the football team." He always has displayed an ample measure of confidence and coolness.

For instance, as a player in 1979 he had enough nerve in the final seconds of Arkansas' remarkable 29-20 comeback win over Baylor to sing "Turn Out the Lights, the Party's Over" to the Bears' defensive unit.

And what has become legend at Pine Bluff Country Club is Scanlon, having had a miserable day hitting the golf ball, claiming he could throw a ball from more than 100 yards to within a couple of feet of the cup on the last hole -- and pulling it off. He'll admit there was some money on the line, too.

Scanlon is developing a reputation as an excellent, well-respected negotiator among professional GMs. Such descriptions are foreign for many agents.

San Diego's Beathard says contract negotiations are "probably the one part of my job I don't really enjoy." He says contract talks become a distraction for too many players, and talk in the game is usually more about money, making the job of putting a team together difficult.

Often, the agents are turning the player on the team, he says. Not so with Scanlon.

"I look forward to talking with Kevin," he says. "He's a terrific guy. He's realistic. The contract negotiations with Stan |Humphries~ and Kevin are what you would hope contract negotiations would always be. There is give and take on both sides, but always dialogue, not a situation where the athlete is being turned against the organization."

Scanlon, Beathard says, seems secure and doesn't promise his players something that can't be fulfilled.

"I have never had the sense that Kevin had anything but the player's interest at heart. He's not interested in making a name for himself."

Scanlon, who had an NFL preseason stint with the Los Angeles Rams in 1980, cold-called Northeast Louisiana University star Humphries in 1988, and "quarterback-to-quarterback" they hit it off. Humphries visited Little Rock, saw the company and was sold.

Scanlon says he and Humphries have maintained a close friendship along with the business partnership.

"He'll call me on Mondays or Sunday night to talk about the game, about coverages and defensive backs and misreading a guy," Scanlon says.

After a spotty backup career at Washington, Humphries' good fortune was to have Scanlon ask the Redskins to trade him last year. Beathard, formerly with the Redskins, knew Humphries and had been interested in a deal. When the Chargers' starting quarterback went down, Humphries moved in.

The rest isn't quite history, but this story is one that looks sure to get rosier and make Stephens Sports Management even richer.

The Stephens Lineup

Stephens Sports Management Inc. represents 25 people in football, basketball and baseball. Here is a look at some of the top names among this group and some of their recent success through the work of SSM:

Wayne Martin: The NFL's New Orleans Saints gave the largest one-year pay raise of any player in NFL history when they signed Martin to a four-year, $10.1 million contract. Martin was a first-round draft choice in 1989 out of Arkansas. Rather than lose Martin, a restricted free agent in the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement, the Saints matched Washington's contract offer. Martin, who made $350,000 last year, will make $3.5 million this season.

Stan Humphries: Humphries figures to make a similar jump in salary as Martin did. The former star at Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe joined the Chargers last year after four years as a Washington reserve, became the starter, guided them to an 11-5 record and the playoffs, and was a Pro Bowl alternate. Humphries, in renegotiations, is expected to jump from the lowest-paid starting quarterback to among the top 10, possibly putting him in a salary range of $3 million a year.

Todd Day: A lottery pick in the 1992 NBA draft out of the UA, Day signed a five-year, $11 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. He is the Razorbacks' all-time leading scorer.

Lee Mayberry: The Razorbacks' all-time assist leader in basketball signed a four-year, $3 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks last year. Mayberry was a first-round draft choice.

Robert "Pig" Goff: On the recommendation of Martin, Goff, a former Auburn University player, turned over his contract negotiations to SSM, which brought him a three-year, $2.4 million deal in the off-season. Like Martin, the Saints' reserve defensive end/nose tackle realized a huge increase after making $300,000 last year.

Darrell Walker: With his career apparently at an end after nine-plus seasons, the former Arkansas basketball star was signed in midseason by the two-time defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls as a replacement for the injured John Paxson. When Paxson returned, Walker was retained as a defensive specialist. He earned his first NBA championship ring in June as the Bulls won their third straight title.

Lou Holtz: When Kevin Scanlon joined Stephens Inc. to represent its interests in the burgeoning sports management company, the Notre Dame head football coach and Scanlon's coach at Arkansas was among the first to come aboard.

Nolan Richardson: The Razorback basketball coach has retained SSM since 1987. Among other areas, SSM negotiates Richardson's television contract, his deferred package with the Razorback Foundation and is working on a new shoe contract.

Danny Ford: The first-year Razorback head football coach recently turned to SSM to set up his television package for the coming football season, as well as other investments.

Among the other Stephens Sports names are football players Freddie Childress (Cleveland Browns, where he started at times last year; SSN negotiated a signing bonus for Childress a year ago) and James Rouse (Atlanta Falcons), and basketball player Robert Shepherd (recently signed as a free agent by Milwaukee). All are out of the UA.

A Tough Business

Those seven- and eight-figure sports salaries are starting to look awfully appetizing. You're fantasizing about the life of a sports agent and wondering, "Can I be one?"

Yes, at least in title. Being a successful agent is another matter.

No law degree is needed. No MBA. No college diploma, for that matter.

But if you plan to negotiate among the National Football League and National Basketball Association, you will have to register with their players' associations.

And, if you plan to represent pro football players in the coming years, you might need some rudimentary mathematical skills.

Here are some figures to keep in mind: $30 million and 53 players.

As of Feb. 26, when the NFL owners and the players signed a collective bargaining agreement, those numbers became something every agent, and team owner or general manager, must deal with starting next year.

"The numbers are going to become a problem for teams," says Kevin Scanlon, chief operating officer of Stephens Sports Management Inc.

The $30 million is a salary cap and is estimated at this time, but it's considered the rule of thumb. Divide the 53 players (47 roster players and six practice players) into $30 million. That means each player would average about $566,000.

"For every player that you go over $566,000 and for every dollar over the average per player, you're taking from someone else," Scanlon says.

So, for every player who may want $4 million a year, that's about eight teammates who will get the NFL minimum of $150,000. Teams will only be able to pay five to eight players the huge bucks.

To prepare for the cap, Scanlon says, agents this year have taken a different approach to payments, putting most of the money on the early years.

One more thing: If you want to avoid running afoul of Arkansas law, agents need to register with the secretary of state's office and pony up a $100,000 bond. The state Legislature made that the rule in 1989 with Act 544. So far, Stephens Sports Management is the only agent registered, although other players from in-state have other agents.
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Title Annotation:includes related articles; chief operating officer of Stephens Sports Management Inc.
Author:Harris, Jim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Aug 2, 1993
Previous Article:Headhunting at hospitals: Arkansas facilities find recruiting battle for health care personnel can be cutthroat.
Next Article:That's the ticket: marketing Razorback and Indian football huddles with the entertainment business.

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