Dick Harmon: Agents may not always be looking out for their clients

Published: Friday, May 6 2011 8:00 p.m. MDT

University of Utah football team captains Sealver Siliga, Matt Asiata, Zane Taylor, and Christian Cox pose after practice in Salt Lake City, Utah, Friday, Aug. 27, 2010.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Sealver Siliga should be preparing for his senior year at the University of Utah.

Instead, he is an undrafted free agent in a year when there is the threat of an NFL lockout by team owners.

He deserved more.

I blame the agent who somehow convinced Siliga, the former Copper Hills star, that his very best move was to turn pro after last year's Las Vegas Bowl.

Siliga made a decision to forgo his senior year at Utah and put his name in for the NFL draft back in January. It was his decision. He signed with an agent.

Of course, this is an exercise in hindsight on my part, but it was a mistake. It opens the door to examine the issue of underclassmen and agents.

I'm not alone in this second-guessing. Members of Utah's coaching staff, some members of the media and many folks in the community who care deeply for him also believe it was premature for Siliga to come out early.

Siliga wasn't rated especially high, and this lockout issue made it very risky.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham tip-toed around the issue of Siliga's early departure from his squad when it was announced. Reporters pressed the coach for comment during winter and spring. Whittingham didn't criticize the move, and that was noble for the head coach. Every coach wants his players to get a crack at the next level of play.

That doesn't mean it didn't fit right with Whittingham or coordinator Kalani Sitake that a young player left before his incubation was finished.

In the coaching profession, you take on the roles of counselor, father, coach, confidant and adviser. But players still make their own choices.

Agents, however, may not always have the best interests of players in mind. Their deal is first and foremost a business acquisition. College coaches can be accused of the same, but in this case, I agree with Utah's policy. The coaching staff does not like agents around their players and even banned all agents during pro day this spring.

They want a strong message sent to underclassmen: Stay away from agents.

Utah is following the lead of other major universities in distancing their athletes from agents.

In this case, Siliga would have greatly benefited from playing experience in the Pac-12 this fall. He'd have served as a team captain and enhanced his skills. The new Pac-12 TV deal would've delivered him great exposure that would have padded his impressive resume. He could have continued to lead a loaded Ute front defensive line while possibly garnering all-conference honors.

And, in my opinion, actually be drafted in 2012.

Siliga had to balance this and the ideal of getting closer to earning a degree with the real risk of serious injury during his senior year at Utah, which could possibly jeopardize his ability to earn money as a pro.

I don't dismiss that conflict as simple.

BYU's John Walsh made that same decision back in 1992, and when the Bengals drafted him in the seventh round instead of the first round, as projected by ESPN's top analyst, he landed hard. And out of the league.

Walsh turned out to be overrated.

There were 254 college players taken in last week's NFL draft.

I think Siliga is better than some of them. But this wasn't the year. With a lockout possibility looming, it became a bigger risk. His Utah eligibility was worth more than that chance and gamble.

He went undrafted.

The ACC's defensive player of the year, linebacker Mark Herzlich, didn't get drafted.

It wasn't to be in 2011.

His agent didn't sell it.

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