Over the past three decades, the salaries of football coaches have increased exponentially. As a benchmark, the highest paid coach in the NFL in 1990 made about $1.5 million annually (Bill Walsh – San Francisco 49ers) — as compared to the $12 million that Bill Belichick earns each year as head coach of the New England Patriots. The trend is not just specific to professional football; collegiately, in many states, the highest public paid employee in the state is now the head coach of that state’s largest public university or college.
As the salaries of coaches have grown, so too has the necessity of agents. The representation of football coaches, which was once a niche role, has become an industry onto itself.
Goal Line Football, founded by Brian Levy in 1990, has become a powerhouse within the industry.
Initially, Goal Line only represented NFL players. However, Levy’s practice of representing coaches grew organically from a roster of Goal Line’s former NFL player clients who had a desire to get involved in the coaching aspect of football. Goal Line’s former player clients developed such a close relationship with Levy that they felt he would be a good person to manage their negotiations with teams as coaches– nearly all of Goal Line’s clients were referred by word-of-mouth.
When Levy entered the practice of representing coaches, the industry was different.
“Coaches were severely underpaid for years. The influence of agents on the negotiation process and promotional process, [have] helped to increase the salaries three-fold over the past six to eight years,” said Levy. “Coaches weren’t given the opportunity to negotiate their salaries. [They depended on] gratuitous raises… and now, [with the entrance of agents into the market], they have an outlet to be able to negotiate.”
The Miami-based sports agency represents over 125 professional and collegiate football coaches including household names such as Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers HC), Steve Wilks (Arizona Cardinals HC), Vance Joseph (Denver Broncos HC), and Derek Mason (Vanderbilt HC), as well as up-and-coming coaches like Raheem Morris (former Tampa Bay Buccaneers HC and current Atlanta Falcons assistant), Marquand Manuel (Falcons DC), Todd Wash (Jacksonville Jaguars DC), Lance Anderson (Stanford DC) as well as many other highly qualified coaches.
So, how did Levy grow Goal Line into a powerhouse?
One huge component was based off of Goal Line’s creative networking strategy. Once Levy began representing a few coaches, he started holding networking events for his coach clients so that they could create their own powerful network of fellow coaches. Levy believes “these networking events helped to develop [Goal Line’s] brand.”
These events, which were unique from what other agencies were doing, were strategically held at the National Football League’s annual Scouting Combine, “started with 10 or 11 [coaches] and grew to about 200 guests consisting of coaches, NFL executives and industry people.” As Levy helped his client’s coaching networks grow, his own client roster of coaches did as well.
Goal Line’s success is also due to Levy’s philosophy when it comes to helping his coaches develop.
“Coaches,” Levy says, are “the face of the team.”
As such, Goal Line works to develop CEO-like executive skills in his coaching clients.
“We try to provide them with the content necessary to give them the mindset to be focused on the future and the goals that they need to set and the process that needed,” noted Levy.
One way that Goal Line delivers this content to their clients is through events like this past weekend’s Coach Leadership Conference.
Hosted by Levy in Miami, the conference “helps younger coaches learn the process by speaking to older coaches and getting their guidance” and gives coaches the chance to speak with former NFL GM’s (such as former Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo, as well as current Goal Line Vice President Cedric Saunders– former Detroit Lions Sr. VP of Football Operations) about what they look for when they are in the business of hiring coaches. Additionally, the conference exposes coaches to the other, non-football related aspects of the career– including advice on how search firms operate, legal considerations, financial planning, public relations training, media training, social media training, and press conference/interview practice.
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This year’s conference, which was attended by a large number of collegiate and professional coaches, is widely endorsed by Goal Line’s clients.
“Goal Line, [by organizing this conference], speaks to the heart of what is needed in [the coaching industry]: its about coaches having relationships with [an agency like Goal Line which] understands their career,” according to Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason. “This weekend was about the opportunity to advance ourselves, and to put ourselves in position to be coordinators and be head coaches.”
Miami Dolphins offensive assistant head coach Shawn Jefferson stressed the importance of the guidance of older coaches saying, “As a young coach… when you hear Derek Mason, Vance Joseph talk about what it takes to be a head coach… I just won’t be the same coach when I step into the building tomorrow for work. I will change narratives. I will start to build my brand– this was a great event to come from because knowledge is power.”
At the end of the day, Levy stresses that the only reason he started representing coaches (and players) is because he genuinely loves doing it.
“I adore this. I did this because it is a great opportunity to have long-term relationships with people. It is a blessing to be working with these talented individuals.”