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    Wolfpack Student-Athletes Gain an Edge in Transition to Pro Sports

    July 30, 2013

    One of the most important parts of being successful in college athletics is having a game plan.  A group at NC State is making sure that when Wolfpack student-athletes’ collegiate playing days are over, they still have a plan to help them at the next level.  NC State's Pro Sports Counseling Panel provides student-athletes with a clear understanding of the transition between collegiate sports and the professional ranks. 

    Mike Poterala, an expert in sports and entertainment law and NC State's deputy general counsel, heads up the panel, which aims to help NC State student-athletes navigate that step, allowing them to identify and develop relationships with reputable financial advisors, agents, and attorneys. 

    "We put on programs last year involving everything from managing finances as a new college graduate, to what to expect when meeting with potential agents," said Poterala. "One of our goals is helping them understand the role of the players' unions and how the agents are delegated authority by the unions."

    The Pro Sports Counseling Panel offers guidance to student-athletes through the difficult and often-intimidating process of evaluating potential agents and advisors. Rather than attempt to navigate this process with little or no experience, they are encouraged to contact the panel, which can help them and their families obtain relevant information, conduct interviews of potential agents, and effectively take charge of the agent selection process. 

    "Interacting with potential agents and advisors carries risks for student-athletes, who can lose their eligibility if they enter into an agreement or accept any benefits," said Poterala. "But we always offer to be a part of those meetings and interactions to help insure they are appropriate and do not put the student-athletes’ eligibility at risk."

    Poterala is joined on the panel by two former pro athletes: former NFL and NC State cornerback Dewayne Washington, and Sherard Clinkscales, a former MLB scout and first-round draft pick who is currently the Senior Associate AD for Sports Administration and Student Services for the Pack. Dr. Monica Leach, one of NC State's top faculty members in terms of mentoring student-athletes, and personal finance expert Bill Sloan, an alumni distinguished undergraduate professor in the Poole College of Management, also lend their services to the panel. 

    "We've got experienced professionals acting as a consulting group, so it's the whole package," said Poterala. "We can help guide students and families through critical business and legal issues that they often aren't prepared to handle. We've brought all of that relevant experience together from people in the Wolfpack family, who are willing to give their time to benefit our student-athletes.  All of our services are provided at no charge."

    While respect for the privacy of its clients prevents the panel from divulging the names of athletes who utilize its services, Clinkscales did relay a story that shows the practical advantage of having the panel at NC State.


    We've had a student who wanted to talk about opportunities to play professionally overseas, comparing those options with entering the work force straight out of college," said Clinkscales. "She wanted to know whether it would be better to play immediately after college, or start her career. 


    Mike and I met with her and her coach to discuss those things. We provided her with information about the salaries in her sport, the benefits of that experience, and really helped her to form a decision. She was so concerned about what to do post-college, but by meeting with us, we were able to provide her with the information she needed to gain some peace of mind. We want her to be able to focus on her classes and having a good season this year, and I think our meeting helped to get her in a comfortable place."

    Diametrically opposed to that success story, Poterala underlined how difficult the move to professional athletics can be for student-athletes in today's climate, illustrating the dire need for NC State's Pro Sports Counseling Panel and similar programs around the nation.


    The environment that student-athletes have to operate in is so dangerous with agents and runners, and other attempts to get their attention," said Poterala. "Those attempts should be met with caution. Legitimate agents and attorneys don't use those kinds of techniques. Often, if you respond to someone showing up in your dorm room or out in the parking lot after a game, things eventually go badly. There are plenty of reputable agents and advisors with good track records, and we can help student-athletes identify them. So many athletes have lost millions of dollars because they've had financial or legal problems, and a lot of that comes down to having the right guidance and representation. We want to be that first step that allows them to identify and develop relationships with reputable agents and advisors."

    To help student-athletes identify those reputable advisors, the panel calls the unions that certify agents to find out who they've represented, whether they've been disciplined, and how they've handled clients in the past. 

    "We're a growing program, and working hard to do things the right way," said Poterala. "NC State will be here for our student-athletes now, and for the rest of their lives. It's not just when their playing days end.  NC State has a big stake in their success. We want them to become the ‘CEO’ of their own business affairs, and are helping them to become educated consumers of professional services as they make these major career decisions. 

    “We work closely with Carrie Doyle and the compliance office so that these matters are handled appropriately and consistent with all applicable rules. Our underlying mission is to make sure our student athletes are properly represented and advised."

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