Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bryce Brown has a handler

If you follow recruiting closely (or much at all), you're probably somewhat familiar with Bryce Brown. He's a running back out of Wichita, Kan., who happens to be the top-rated player in the country, according to Rivals.

Brown has had kind of a wacky recruitment -- after committing to Miami last year, he apparently reconsidered and chose to delay his decision beyond Signing Day. He is now scheduled to make an official announcement on March 22, and at least one more official visit (to Tennessee) is on his itinerary between now and then.

Brown's older brother, Arthur, was a five-star linebacker last year who ended up at Miami. During his commitment, a guy named Brian Butler appeared on the scene as the brothers' "manager."

Butler has since become prominent in the Midwest as an organizer of high school camps, spokesman for various recruits and a personal trainer (although at 5-foot-8, 350 pounds, Butler may not be the best guy to go to for health advice).

The New York Times recently did a little research on Butler and uncovered some interesting tidbits:
In his representation of about 30 players from around Kansas, Butler has upset many local high school coaches. They say he persuades players to skip school-organized summer workouts in favor of his own — an assertion Butler denies. Coach Brian Byers of Wichita East High School said he suspected Butler of telling the Brown brothers to “shut it down” in games once they piled up big statistics.
Additionally, Butler has been selling website subscriptions for information on Brown's recruitment. It probably goes without saying, but this is bad.
“We’ve got to the point where a handler or a street agent starts a Web site to charge money for an update,” said Tom Luginbill, the national recruiting director for ESPN and Scouts Inc. “I’m not in line with that. I think that is a precedent that could become very scary and very ugly.”

Bryce Brown, who graduated from Wichita East a semester early, said he did not mind that Butler was trying to profit from their relationship.

“If there’s anybody that needs to be making money off of me, it needs to be the person that’s put the time in,” he said.
I think the worst part is that Brown realizes he's being exploited, and he doesn't even care becuase of his twisted understanding of loyalty.

Butler's version of the story, of course, is that he's just trying to help these kids out. But we all know what's really going on -- the coaches certainly know:
Many coaches in the city of Wichita have discouraged or prohibited Butler from training their players, and Butler acknowledges that most of his business comes from the suburbs.
If Butler was truly making these players better through training while helping them land scholarships -- which would also help promote the high school -- don't you think the coaches would be a little more cooperative?

The reasoning for this "discouragement" quickly becomes even more obvious a little further into the article in regard to the recruitment of a running back named Huldon Tharp.

Tharp's coach, Dave Fennewald, was attempting to help him land a scholarship by sending out tapes, calling college coaches, etc. But when Butler told him that Tharp had been offered a scholarship by Miami, he was "very surprised."
Tharp said he never knew Miami was recruiting him as a fullback. Late Tuesday night, Tharp said that he never received a written scholarship offer from Miami. He said he “was just talking to them.”

Asked if Butler told him that he was going to tell people that he had a Miami scholarship offer that did not technically exist, Tharp said, “Yeah.”

Late Tuesday night, Butler said he spoke to a Miami assistant, who told him that he had verbally offered a scholarship to Tharp. “There’s not a problem,” Butler said, adding, “It’s a 100 percent fact that he was verbally offered.”

Miami officials confirmed twice late Tuesday that they did not offer Tharp a scholarship.
It's one thing to push and prod a little to help a guy find a place on a D-I roster, but it's quite another to flat-out lie in an attempt to gain publicity. Butler has also had the requisite "unsuccessful business ventures," including a failed career as a rapper, a forgery conviction in 1997 and a warrant for unpaid state taxes this year.

This has been a problem for years in college basketball -- players have "handlers" or "mentors" who leach onto them at the first sign of success and exploit them to land jobs with colleges or camps, where they can hook up with even more talent in an effort to ride someone's coattails to fame and riches.

College football has been remarkably free of these guys, but unfortunately, it appears that those days are coming to an end.

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