Thursday, November 30, 2006

USA Today Discusses Performance Bonuses, Cornrich Comments

Ka-ching! Coaches rack up rewards this week

November 29, 2006
By Michael McCarthy and Jodi Upton, USA TODAY

College football coaches will be playing a game within their final regular-season games this weekend: the pursuit of millions of dollars of performance bonuses built into their employment contracts.

Nearly every coach receives an array of incentives for leading his team to a bowl game, winning a conference championship or landing a berth in one of the five big-money Bowl Championship Series games in January, according to USA TODAY's analysis of their deals.

Agent Neil Cornrich of NC Sports says: "Head coaches are the CEOs of their companies. Bonuses allow coaches to share in the added value they create with superior performance."

Coaches coach to win games, says Boise State's Chris Petersen, whose team has completed a 12-0 regular season and almost surely will be included in the BCS when its matchups are announced Sunday. Bonuses, he adds, are gravy. "It's not like you're going to coach any harder," he says. "I guess it's just the American way."

Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich — whose coach, Bobby Petrino, has the Big East Conference title, a BCS bid and about $400,000 at stake — says he proposed the various bonuses to Petrino.

That's a lot of money riding on one game, Jurich says, "but if everything falls right on Saturday, we stand to make a lot more than that. (Petrino) should share in the rewards."

If all falls right for Ohio State and Jim Tressel, already in the national title game, the school is to begin renegotiating his contract, now worth a little more than $2 million annually.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Neil Cornrich Cited as No.1 Rep

November 26, 2006

Football agent Neil Cornrich, who runs NC Sports in Beachwood, should be smiling broadly these days: A recent, exhaustive study by on coaching salaries in college football revealed that Cornrich is the No. 1 rep in getting top dollars for head coaches. Two Cornrich clients, Bob Stoops of Oklahoma and Kirk Ferentz of Iowa, rank first and second, respectively, in total salary among head coaches. And several of Cornrich's college coaches have extremely lucrative bonus packages.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Reviled or loved, agents get results

November 17, 2006

By Michael McCarthy and Steve Wieberg, USA TODAY

Knowledge is power in any negotiation. Just ask sports agents Jimmy Sexton and Neil Cornrich.

Separately, they represent many of the best-known and best-paid coaches in college football — and a fair number of NFL coaches and players as well.

Taken together, they represent at least a dozen of the 42 coaches earning more than $1 million this year in USA TODAY's study of Division I-A football coaches' compensation. They could represent more since Cornrich declines to release his full client list.

Their knowledge of who's making how much from what university, or NFL team, has helped drive up coaching salaries over the last decade, according to athletics directors and Sexton himself.

Cornrich's Cleveland-based NC Sports represents an array of coaches, including Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Minnesota's Glen Mason, Kansas' Mark Mangino, Virginia's Al Groh, Boston College's Tom O'Brien, Arizona's Mike Stoops, South Florida's Jim Leavitt and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema.

Sexton's Athletic Resource Management in Memphis represents four top coaches in the Southeastern Conference — Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer and Arkansas' Houston Nutt — as well as Larry Coker of Miami (Fla.), Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech, Nick Saban of the Miami Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys' Bill Parcells.

The agents' NFL connections are important. Pro salaries help set the bar for coaching salaries. Many coaches shuttle back and forth in search of the best deal.

Relations between agents and athletics directors are so poisonous, some ADs refuse to negotiate with them, says Dutch Baughman, executive director of the Division I-A Athletic Directors' Association.

"Some of them say they won't negotiate with terrorists," he says. "What happens in many cases is ... if I'm an agent and I'm talking to you, the AD, I'll tell you the compensation levels of my other clients in an effort to drive up the compensation for the coach you and I are talking about.

"The problem is the numbers they cite for the other coaches are grossly inflated."

Among the athletics directors telling USA TODAY they refuse to deal directly with agents are Arkansas' Frank Broyles, defending national champion Texas' DeLoss Dodds and Texas A&M's Bill Byrne.

"I don't want to deal with people in that profession," says Broyles, Arkansas's football coach from 1958-1976.

"If everything were equal, I'd certainly not go with the coach with an agent," Dodds says.

Sexton takes the terrorist remark as a compliment: "We are responsible for driving up prices. What else are we supposed to do? Drive them down?" Cornrich, an attorney, gives a more lawyerly answer: "Clearly, knowing the market leads to a fair result for both sides."

Sexton and Cornrich say the tough talk from athletics directors is more posturing, or wishful thinking, than reality.

Yes, there's some old-school ADs who won't talk to agents, Sexton says. What they're not saying is they pass off what they see as distasteful work to their assistants, university general counsels or even high-powered alumni on the board of trustees.

"I've never had a case where someone at the school didn't deal with me," Sexton says.

As for agents allegedly inflating salaries, they can't do it, Sexton says. "With all the open-records laws out there, these guys have access to the information. If I say a coach is making $2 million, they can go check it out themselves."

If people want to judge him, Sexton says they should look at his results. When longtime Virginia Tech coach Beamer hired Sexton in 2005, the agent immediately decided his new client was "underpaid." The result? With Sexton's help, Beamer negotiated a new seven-year contract in October that boosted his pay 42.9% from $1.4 million to $2 million a year. The deal runs through the 2012 season, with an option for three more years.

Beamer's contract also includes, according to the announcement by Virginia Tech, pay raises for his assistant coaches, an annual performance-based raise program and an improved bonus structure for postseason appearances.

"When we walked into the school, they knew we had the credibility to talk about what other coaches made," Sexton says. Beamer could not be reached for comment.

Agents take a 3%-5% cut from their clients, according to Sexton. Still, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville says he doesn't know "very many" peers who fly solo. When the showdown comes at contract time, and the showdown always comes, the coach can play good cop to the agent's bad cop.

"You need somebody between you if you're going to do any negotiating or ask for anything else," Tuberville says. "If you go in and start dealing with numbers and all those things, you might create friction. So I just stay out of it."

Iowa's Ferentz, a Cornrich client, is in the midst of 13-month period in which he will earn at least $4.6 million through contract amendments made in May. Ferentz notes his fellow coaches are more familiar with X's and O's on the chalkboard than contracts, performance incentives and buyout clauses.

"I think Abraham Lincoln said something to the effect of 'Anybody who represents himself in a legal issue has a fool for a client,' " Ferentz says. "All I know is football. I know coaching a little bit. But I have zero knowledge when it comes to the business aspect of things."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Stoops, Ferentz Top Two Highest Paid Coaches

Posted 11/16/2006 1:01 AM ET
By Jodi Upton and Steve Wieberg, USA TODAY

Iowa's Kirk Ferentz will pocket a guaranteed $4.6 million in an atypical 13-month period ending next June, including $1.8 million in one-time payments. With the incentive bonuses he still can earn, he could push his take to more than $4.7 million. That's the most among the 107 coaches for whom USA TODAY could obtain a contract or other official document showing compensation.

Oklahoma's Bob Stoops is the only coach in that group who has cleared the $3 million-a-year bar in guaranteed pay, although Ferentz likely will join him in 2007.

Aaron Kampman: All-Pro Dad

Huddle up, All Pro Dads

November 16, 2006

They don't always give awards to All-Pro fathers, which shouldn't diminish the role they play in a child's life — something Green Bay Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman and defensive coordinator Bob Sanders can attest to.

Both plan to share their family experiences and beliefs at the second annual Packers' All Pro Father & Kids Experience Dec. 16. The event runs from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at Lambeau Field and the Don Hutson Center.

Registration begins Wednesday and is $10 per father, which includes admission for dad and up to four kids.

The gathering includes a presentation by Kampman, Sanders and All Pro Dad president Mark Merrill on the importance of setting a good example for children. Kids can play supervised interactive games in the Don Hutson Center while fathers discuss "10 Ways to be an All Pro Dad."

All Pro Dad is a fatherhood program of Family First, a national nonprofit organization based in Tampa, Fla.

Donte Whitner Validates Marv Levy's Pick

Posted Nov 16th 2006 7:14AM
By Michael David Smith

With half of their first pro season under their belts, we'll examine the best and the worst players at each position in the NFL's 2006 rookie class.

First pick: Michael Huff, Raiders (Texas) -- Oakland chose Huff with the seventh overall pick, and he's played quite well, starting every game on a Raiders defense that is fairly good but gets no attention because the offense is so horrible. On the one hand, you've got to think a lot of Raiders fans wish they had taken Matt Leinart instead. On the other hand, do you really want to put Leinart behind that atrocious offensive line?

Best pick: Donte Whitner, Bills (Ohio State) -- Yes, this is the pick everyone ridiculed when Marv Levy made it in April. You can still make the case that Levy could have traded down a few spots from the No. 9 selection and still taken Whitner, but it's hard to argue with the results, and Whitner is a front-runner for the defensive rookie of the year award.

Worst pick: Jason Allen, Dolphins (Tennessee) -- The 16th overall pick, Allen seems fully recovered from the injury that cut short his senior season at Tennessee, but he can't crack the starting lineup on a disappointing Miami defense.

Best sleeper: Danieal Manning, Bears (Abiline Christian) -- Going from Shotwell Stadium to Soldier Field would seem to be a big adjustment, but Manning, a second-round pick, has made it seamlessly, making a big impact on the best defense in the league.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Zastudil Outstanding

November 14, 2006

Punter Dave Zastudil has been a bright spot for the Browns all season and was uncommonly good against the Falcons. He had a career-high 10 punts for 462 yards, with punts of 50, 52, 52, and 53 yards. In the first quarter, he punted one 52 yards and it took a sharp right turn out of bounds at the Atlanta 5.

"With Dave, consistency is a good word you can use to describe what he has added to this team," Crennel said. "He's done a good job in the plus-50 punting area and giving us good field position. He has a strong leg and can hang the ball and punt with distance."

Monday, November 13, 2006

PFW: Kampman Team MVP

2006 Midseason Team Reports

November 13, 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Packers' Kampman gives quarterbacks a hands-on experience

The Vikings hit the jackpot by signing former Packers Darren Sharper and Ryan Longwell, but the one they couldn't reel in is now the NFL's sack leader.

November 8, 2006
By Mark Craig

GREEN BAY, WIS. - Life isn't getting any easier for Vikings right tackle Marcus Johnson.

After struggling against some of the NFL's elite left defensive ends during the first half of the season, Johnson opens the second half Sunday at the Metrodome against Green Bay's Aaron Kampman, the league's sack leader (9.5) and possibly its hottest defensive player now that San Diego's Shawne Merriman is serving his drug suspension.

"We won't do the whole game plan around that matchup, but it is key because of the impact that Aaron has made this season," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "His sacks have been huge for us."

Kampman has had at least a half-sack in each of the past five games, two short of Tony Bennett's team record set in 1992, and the longest by a Packer since 2000.

"Marcus will have his hands full," Vikings coach Brad Childress said, "but a lot of people have their hands full with that guy."

Just ask New Orleans, which gave up three sacks to Kampman in Week 2. It was his second three-sack effort in nine games, matching his career high set against the Vikings at Lambeau Field last Nov. 21.

"I think they were all pretty much outside rushes, one-on-one," said Kampman, referring to that Vikings game. "They started [Mike] Rosenthal and I think I had two. Then they brought in Johnson and I had one."

Johnson has started every game at right tackle this season. While Kampman was sacking Saints quarterback Drew Brees three times back in Week 2, Johnson was being beaten for three sacks by Carolina's Julius Peppers.

"We'll see what happens," Kampman said of the matchup. "Marcus is a guy who has some talent and ability but, yeah, at times this year, like anyone, he has had his problems."

A fifth-round pick of the Packers in 2002, Kampman was a nondescript player for the most part when the Vikings signed him to a restricted free agent offer sheet following the 2004 season. He was coming off a 4½-sack season, and teams weren't exactly bullrushing him with pens and offer sheets.

"I put my signature on the offer sheet, so, yeah, I thought there was a chance I'd end up as a Minnesota Viking," Kampman said. "I also thought the Packers would match, but you never know. I'm glad I'm still here."

The Packers aren't shy about letting star players flee to Minnesota (see: Darren Sharper and Ryan Longwell). But they refused to lose a budding young defensive linemen.

Kampman came back in 2005 with a then-career-high 6 ½ sacks, prompting the Packers to sign him before he even had a chance to test unrestricted free agency this past offseason. So now he's the Vikings' problem twice a year through 2009.

"Kampman has always been an Energizer bunny-type of guy," Childress said. "He's constant motion. High, high motor. Just [when] you think you've got him where you want him, he's going somewhere else."

A Packer never has led the league in sacks for a full season since they became an official statistic in 1982. Even the late Hall of Famer Reggie White's best total as a Packer (16 in 1998) wasn't quite enough.

Eight seasons later, at the same left end spot that White played so brilliantly, another Packer is making life miserable for quarterbacks and right tackles who try to defend them.

"You want to see all of your guys do well, but Aaron really deserves this," McCarthy said. "He works his butt off. Studies film. He's a wonderful human being. A great family man. And he's a heck of a player."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sleeper All-Pro: Aaron Kampman

Dr. Z's Sleeper All-Pros

November 7, 2006

Aaron Kampman | DE, Packers

Sleeper All-Pro: Donte Whitner

Dr. Z's Sleeper All-Pros

November 7, 2006

Donte Whitner | S, Bills

Sanders Inspires Defense

Safety's return from knee injury makes big impact

November 7, 2006
By Phil Richards and Mike Chappell

Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders had two full practices in six weeks to get ready for his return to the Indianapolis Colts lineup Sunday night in Foxborough, Mass. One wonders what he might do when he's fully prepared.

Sanders contributed a team-high 11 tackles, intercepted a Tom Brady pass at the Indianapolis 3-yard line and energized the much-criticized defense as the Colts beat the New England Patriots 27-20.

"We know what we can do," said Sanders, who had missed the previous five games while recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. "It's just when we get opportunities, we have to make them. We got a lot of opportunities and we made them."

The Colts had a season-high five takeaways, four of them interceptions.

Sanders' impact was most evident during a head-on third-quarter collision with Patriots running back Laurence Maroney. It was the biggest hit of the game.

Maroney is 5-11, 220 pounds, and as he pounded toward right guard, Sanders streaked in from the Colts' right side and launched. Maroney dropped like a rock for a 2-yard loss.

Colts coach Tony Dungy was dubious when he sent Sanders out to test the knee during pre-game work with assistant coaches Alan Williams and Leslie Frazier and director of rehabilitation Aaron Barill.

Sanders had practiced only once all week, and at 6:48 p.m., Dungy still had no word. The coach had to turn in his list of eight inactive players at 6:50 and he expected Sanders to be on it, but Sanders wanted to play, insisted he could play. The decision was made. Sanders played the entire game.

As Sanders headed for the locker room after the game, team president Bill Polian sought him out, put his arm around him and gave him a big hug. The Colts were glad to have their difference-making safety back.

"The defense is really designed with him in mind," Dungy said. "We have a lot of defenses where he's the free hitter and that free hitter has to make the tackles, and when he's making them, they're 3- and 4-yard gains instead of 6- and 7-yard gains. That changes the whole complexion of the defense, but more than anything, I think, is the energy he brings us and the confidence.

"He lifts everybody's play."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kampman hitting his stride

November 2, 2006


With 8 1/2 sacks through seven games -- tied for the NFL lead with suspended San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman -- Aaron Kampman goes into the Green Bay Packers' final nine games with a target number in mind for his season-ending total.

But as the Packers' defensive end stood at his locker Wednesday afternoon, he wasn't sharing that statistical goal with anyone. There's only one person he's shared that number with.

"My wife," he said.

But while Linde Kampman keeps that number a secret, the secret's out about her husband, who could wind up in his first Pro Bowl if he keeps up his pace. He enters Sunday's game at Buffalo on track for 19 1/2 sacks on the year, which would tie Tim Harris' official team record set in 1989. Ezra Johnson had 20 1/2 sacks in 1978, four years before the NFL officially began recognizing the sack stat.

"I think he's an outstanding player," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "He's clearly talented. I don't know what kind of a practice player he is, but my guess is he is a very hard practicer, a guy who prepares extremely well because he plays so hard on Sundays. And, he has a lot of energy. Coupled with the skills that he has, it makes for a great football player."

Kampman should have a chance to increase his numbers on Sunday against the Bills, who rejiggered their offensive line during the bye week. By moving Jason Peters from right to left tackle and Mike Gandy from left tackle to left guard, they'll start rookie seventh-round pick Terrance Pennington at right tackle, opposite Kampman.

It's the second straight week the Packers have faced a revamped offensive line. Kampman earned NFC defensive player of the week honors by posting two sacks, eight tackles and three quarterback pressures in last Sunday's 31-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field.

Asked if he'll have to give Pennington plenty of help in his first NFL start, Jauron said he will.

"Terrence is getting his baptism in this game as a starter in the National Football League," Jauron said. "We'll leave him alone at times, but we'd like to give him as much help as we possibly can."

He'll need it. Kampman has elevated his game since signing a four-year, $21million deal in March that included an astonishing $12million in guaranteed bonus money.

"He has a big heart, plays with a lot of energy," said coach Mike McCarthy, who said he and his coaches have talked about moving Kampman around on the line but thus far haven't done so. "It's great to see guys like Aaron Kampman have success."

And why is he having that success? In part, it's because he hasn't changed his approach. Even with Pennington's inexperience, Kampman won't take anything for granted. On Wednesday, he was searching for film of Pennington to watch to prepare for him.

"I think you always respect your opponent but you never fear him," Kampman said. "He hasn't played yet, so I don't know what to expect. I'm actually going to try to find some film from the preseason. I know his height and his weight -- and that's about it."

Speaking of weight, that could be the other part of Kampman's success. Listed at 278 pounds by the team, Kampman admitted that he played in the "low 270s" last year and is in the "260s" this year. With the weight loss, Kampman has remained stout against the run (a defensive-line best 38 tackles) but has shown better quickness getting to the quarterback.

"It's a planned thing," Kampman said of playing at a lighter weight. "The way we play our defense and the way we go about stuff, it's a good thing."

Still, while his name appears atop the sack listings, there seems to be little attention being paid to Kampman. But that could change, especially if he hits his and Linde's secret sack number.

"I've always kind of flown under the radar," Kampman said, referring to his fifth-round draft status and that he wasn't invited to the NFL scouting combine coming out of Iowa in 2002. "But we're only halfway through, and it'd be really great if that can continue all the way through (the season). Right now, it's kind of like a racehorse -- you keep the blinders on a little bit, keep your eyes focused on what's ahead of you and not let the other stuff distract you."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Browns haven't punted on one local signing

November 1, 2006
By: Jeff Schudel

The homecoming party that was anticipated when the Browns signed LeCharles Bentley, Bob Hallen and Joe Jurevicius in free agency hasn't really been the blast it should have been.

Bentley is out for the year with a torn patellar tendon, Hallen unexpectedly retired and Jurevicius has become an afterthought in the offense with 10 receptions after catching 55 passes and 10 touchdowns with Seattle last year.

But there was one other hometown connection made in free agency last winter, and that one could not be working better.

Dave Zastudil, quarterback, kicker and punter at Bay Village High School a decade ago, is booming the ball as the Browns punter.
He punted five times Sunday against the Jets and averaged nearly 50 yards - 48.4 to be exact - a punt.

"He's been pretty consistent and has a level of confidence," Coach Romeo Crennel said. "He gives us a chance when he kicks the ball 50 yards or more to make some plays. We don't always make the plays there, but he gives us an opportunity."

"Consistency" is the key word in Crennel's appraisal. That consistency landed Zastudil at Ohio University, where he led the Mid-American Conference in punting for four straight years.

The Baltimore Ravens thought enough of Zastudil to draft him in the fourth round in 2002. Zastudil's best season in Baltimore was 2005 when he averaged 43.5 yards a punt. That is slightly less than the 44.8 he is averaging with the Browns.

Just as with Bentley, Hallen and Jurevicius, the fact Zastudil grew up so close to Cleveland was more a bonus than a reason to sign him. If he did not punt as well as he did, the Browns would not have given him a $10 million deal for four years.

Zastudil is thrilled to be punting for his hometown team. But the truth of the matter is that once the game begins, his job here is the same as it was in Baltimore.

"It's great, but once you get into the season, you have a job to do," he said. "You make friends on the team and start respecting your teammates. You want to win for those guys, too. You want that team to come together and win.

"But it is pretty cool kicking for your hometown team. The fans are behind us and that's great. I just go into the game with the same mentality that I do in any high school, college or NFL game. It doesn't matter where I'm playing, but the fact I can do that and help Cleveland have a winning team is pretty cool."

Late in the game against the Jets Sunday, the Browns were backed up on their own 12, which meant Zastudil had to punt from around the 4. He boomed a 52-yarder that Tim Dwight returned 17 yards. The Jets were still 47 yards from the goal line and did not score.

"We know Dave is one of the best punters in the league," quarterback Charlie Frye said. "He can change the field position with one kick."

And here's the best part. Zastudil, without being boastful, said he can be better. He is currently ranked 10th in punting average and, more importantly, sixth in net average at 39.3.

"I feel like I'm hitting the ball solidly," he said. "There were a couple punts I wish I had hit differently. I feel like I'm doing OK, but I'm never satisfied. I still think I can get better. I'm working on a couple things in practice."

Zastudil is also the holder for Phil Dawson on field goals and extra points. That makes him the answer to a trivia question. In Baltimore he held for Matt Stover, the Browns' place kicker from 1991 until the team was moved to Baltimore in 1996.

Kampman wins NFC award

November 1, 2006


Playing in front of the home fans at Lambeau Field, Kampman posted eight tackles, two sacks and three quarterback pressures in the Packers' 31-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals. The former Iowa standout, who recorded the third multiple-sack game of his career, was part of a defensive unit that allowed a season-low 218 total net yards and just 3.4 yards per play. The Packers allowed only 86 total rushing yards and 132 net yards passing. Kampman, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2002 NFL Draft (No. 156 overall), sacked Arizona rookie quarterback Matt Leinart twice for a loss of 11 yards and his total of three quarterback pressures was the most by a Packer on the day. Kampman's eight tackles tied rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk for the team lead. This season, Kampman has a career-best 8½ sacks, which leads the NFC and ties for the most in the NFL.

In his fifth year from Iowa, this is Kampman's first career Player of the Week Award.

Buffalo's Best: Donte Whitner
all football… all year

Buffalo's best and worst at the halfway point

By Connor J. Byrne on November 1, 2006


MOP - Donte Whitner:

On a defense that's been among the worst in the NFL this season, Whitner, a rookie, has been the greatest bright spot. The strong safety, who was Buffalo's first-round pick last April, looks like he can legitimately be an All-Pro-caliber player for a long time in the pros.

On the surface, Whitner's statistics aren't overly impressive (45 tackles, one interception, two passes defensed), but the 21-year-old has proven to already be one of the biggest leaders on the defense, and he's terrific in both tackling and coverage. If the Bills' defense ever rebounds into an elite unit, expect the former Ohio State Buckeye to be its centerpiece.

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