This will be the 23rd career draft for sports agent Pat Dye Jr., but this one will be as big as any he's had when it comes to the University of Alabama. Led by McClain and including guard Mike Johnson and tight end Colin Peek, former Tide players comprise a key portion of the new client roster for Dye and his Atlanta-based company, ProFiles Sports Inc.
“At the end of the day, the only color you're really thinking about is green,” Peek said of Dye's Auburn ties. “He understands the business well. He has a clean track record with the people that he chooses. ... It was a very simple decision once I met Pat.”
It wasn't necessarily by Dye's design that the Crimson Tide turned this year for him. The university, in a sense, reached out to him as part of a renewed commitment by Alabama coach Nick Saban to get a handle on agent activity in his program.
“Without it being said,” Johnson said, “there was a little problem with agents in the past, and he felt like it was something he needed to get a better handle on.”
Saban's primary answer to the Andre Smith suspension at the 2009 Sugar Bowl was to hire Cornerstone Sports Consulting. The Leesburg, Va., group is headed by Joe Mendes, a long-time NFL executive and former vice president of football operations for the Washington Redskins, who assists players in the process of joining the NFL, particularly the selection of an agent.
For agents, the annual recruitment of top college talents is a highly competitive, often cutthroat practice. NCAA guidelines state that an agent can make unlimited contact with a college player so long as the agent isn't buying anything for that player and there is no firm commitment made to sign. But with potentially millions of dollars at stake, some agents take the any-means-necessary approach in pursuit of a touted player.
“What we're not going to do, candidly, some of what our competition is going to do to curry favor with these players,” Dye said. “Despite the increased regulation and scrutiny from the (NFL) Players' Association and the various state regulations and the universities, it just doesn't seem to have had a lot of impact on some of the illicit activities going on in our business.”
Alabama's new approach was to invite agents in, but do so on its own terms. With Mendes now facilitating the discussions, selected agents were invited onto campus to interview rising seniors.
“You don't have to go to a restaurant with these guys or worry about being seen with agents or it looking bad or people wondering what you're doing,” Johnson said. “This guy, he can set up the meetings. He can mediate the meetings.
“He can sit in there and make sure the right questions are being asked and tell you what you need to look for.”
Dye was one of the agents asked onto campus in July and again for second interviews in December with rising seniors. He also met with Saban.
“Some of the activity that's gone on there with agents in the past, we really wanted to try to address that,” Dye said. “Not that coach Saban was making the decision for these guys, but typically, when we get in a forum like that, where they're on campus and in the coaches' offices and football offices and they're listening and listening for the right things, we typically do pretty well in that environment.”
Johnson said Alabama's implied seal of approval “made all the difference in the world,” in his decision to hire Dye.
“I met with five agents total, and without naming any of them, it's like a lot of them had track records of kind of questionable things or something had gone on in their careers,” Johnson said. “You kind of look at some of their clients and say, ‘Well, what happened with this guy?' Pat wasn't like that.”
“The integrity that teams see in him is the biggest thing,” Peek said. “I think a lot of kids get caught up in the hype of the draft and the whole progress. They see guys and he shows flashy things to them or offers them the world.”
Dye isn't immune to the perception that exists about his industry. There was, for instance, his father's response in 1987, when Dye Jr. decided to take a Samford University law degree and pursue a field in sports.
“When I first approached him about it, he said, ‘You're out of your mind,”' Dye Jr. said. “‘I don't want you doing that. It's got a horrible reputation.' ... I think he knew a lot better than I did what I was getting into and how difficult it was going to be.”
More than two decades later, Dye Jr. has parlayed his contacts in the sport into what he estimates is more than $2 billion in deals he has negotiated in the NFL. Experience and stability are big selling points.
Of the four Alabama players Dye targeted this year, he signed three. Javier Arenas, who signed with Lamont C. Smith, was the exception.
Dye said his first interview with McClain wasn't until after the Crimson Tide returned from winning the national championship.
“I made very strong mention of my ties to the university and ties to the state of Alabama, my accountability and, frankly, my last name in that state,” Dye said. “I'm going to be under a microscope anything I do for him or any other Alabama player or Auburn player, just because of my family's presence in the state.”
“I see a lot of guys, they get money thrown in their face or cars or their agents want to do this and that for them,” Johnson said. “But when the draft's all over and the bright lights are off of you, who's going to do the best contract and be your best agent for the next three or four years until your next contact is up? Pat was that guy for me.”