By Pete Thamel
Louisville enters the 2013 season as a potential top-five team, and understandably so: It boasts a favorable schedule, 17 returning starters and, perhaps most significantly, Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater.
However, its glut of talent has brought a new problem for head coach Charlie Strong -- keeping agents away from his players. The Louisville athletic department sent a letter to agents last week asking that they abstain from contacting players and their families until after the 2013 season. Strong said that he won’t allow the agents who ignore this request to be involved in the process to represent Cardinals’ players after those players leave the program.
“I will cut [the agents] off if they continue to contact them,” Strong said. “At the end of season, I will make sure you have no chance to represent our players. Not that I’m being arrogant, but I want to put a statement out there: You continue to mess with our players, this is what we’re going to do.”
The level of agent interest is new territory for Strong at Louisville, as the Cardinals didn’t have a single player drafted in this April’s NFL draft. (In Strong’s first two seasons, no Cardinal was drafted higher than the third round.) But both Bridgewater and receiver DeVante Parker, Louisville’s junior stars, are already projected as early 2014 picks. That high-end talent, along with a slew of other promising young players, has brought a more intense agent focus. Strong said he began to notice a change after Louisville soundly beat Florida in last season’s Sugar Bowl to finish the year 11-2. In fact, Strong had a representative from the NFL Players Association address his team and their parents in March prior to spring practice.
“What I have to battle, not only the expectations, but now everyone is trying to get into your program,” Strong said. “That wasn’t happening before.”
Strong has instructed his players to turn the numbers of any agents in to him or his director of football operations, Cliff Snow.
“I don’t want any contact until the end of the season,” Strong said. “We’re just trying to do it right. I don’t want [players] to feel like I’m keeping them from talking to an agent. But I don’t know why now, there’s nothing an agent can do for them now.”
Strong said he’s frustrated with agents who are attempting to go through the players and their families and not through the Louisville program. He plans to hold a panel for his players to meet potential agents at the end of the season. “My whole deal in dealing with it is how they’re contacting the kids, instead of coming through the program,” Strong said. “They’re contacting a kid’s parents in Florida or Georgia instead of us.”