An NFL agent who has represented at least 12 players – including four former Big Ten players – has been working as a game analyst for the Big Ten Network, Yahoo! Sports has learned.
Chris Martin, who played cornerback for Northwestern University from 1992-95 is now listed as the President of OTG Sports Management, based in Evanston, Ill. Martin was also certified as an agent by the NFL Players Association in 2006 and later hired by the Big Ten Network to serve in an on-air capacity in 2007. In addition to his role as a game analyst, Martin also appears on BTN’s “Football and Beyond” and “Big Ten Football Report.”
The dual positions of agent and BTN analyst has rubbed some agents the wrong way, and led to complaints that Martin is unfairly positioned to sign clients through his TV role. When contacted by Yahoo! Sports, a BTN spokesperson said the network was unaware that Martin was also an agent, and said it would take action to resolve what it viewed as a conflict of interest.
“BTN talent should not be in the business of representing Big Ten student athletes,” network spokesperson Elizabeth Conlisk said in a statement. “We are handling the matter internally."
The Big Ten Network did not say what that internal action would be.
The NCAA has no legislation barring networks from hiring agents to work as analysts for college sports.
Among the Big Ten players Martin has represented as professionals according to the OTG website are Iowa’s Jordan Bernstine, Illinois’ Jarred Fayson and Jason Ford, and Indiana’s Will Patterson.
When contacted by Yahoo! Sports, Martin declined to expand on the issue.
“I’m more of an investor or financial backer on the agent side, so I probably don’t even want to comment,” Martin said.
But the NFLPA website suggests Martin is more than an investor in the agency, listing him as the only registered contract adviser for OTG. According to the NFLPA, Martin has negotiated 12 active contracts. Additionally, a number of published articles quote Martin in his capacity as an agent.
“[My] goal is for our agency to … become the face of the Sports Management world,” Martin told the Florida Sentinel Bulletin in June 2011.
ESPN, which is a major college football rights holder and employs dozens of sideline analysts for games, said it does not allow agents to serve as on-air talent.
“[Drew] Rosenhaus has been on a number of times to speak about a specific topic or one of his clients, but not as an ESPN analyst by any means,” ESPN spokesman Bill Hofheimer said. “That is not something ESPN would allow due to the conflict of interest issues."
In at least one instance – when Arkansas State and Illinois met on Sept. 3, 2011 – Martin served as a color analyst in a game featuring two players he would go on to sign as clients. Those players were Illinois’ Ford, a senior running back and Doak Walker Award candidate, and Arkansas State defensive end Brandon Joiner.