By Andrew Jensen The Morning News/Razorback Central
Date: Jun 15, 2005
FAYETTEVILLE – Wallace Spearmon Jr. and Tyson Gay have gone from the first collegiate teammates to run the 200 meters in less than 20 seconds to millionaire training partners.
Gay, a former junior college transfer whose eligibility is up after two years, two NCAA titles and three school records, signed with agent Mark Wetmore and plans to ink a six-year contract with Adidas next week at the U.S. Track and Field Championships.
Nike won a bidding war against Adidas and Reebok for Spearmon’s services with a five-year contract.
On Tuesday, Arkansas coach John McDonnell said both contracts will be worth at least $3 million each.
“Just like any sport, the more money you can make, the better off you are,” said Arkansas sprints coach Lance Brauman. "They were fortunate to both get really good deals and they’ll be some of the highest paid guys in the sport of track and field.
“You can’t beat that.”
Gay and Spearmon did nothing but raise their stock last week at the 2005 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships as they took turns trading the world lead in the 200.
Spearmon, a Fayetteville native and the son of former Arkansas All-American sprinter Wallace Spearmon Sr., came into the meet as the defending outdoor champion, the NCAA indoor champion, American indoor record-holder and the world-leader with his season-opening time of 19.97 seconds.
In the semifinals on Thursday, Gay, 22, took the school record and world lead back with a time of 19.93.
Saturday, Spearmon successfully defended his title with the another world best in 19.91 despite battling a sore right knee for the final month of the outdoor season. Gay was third, Omar Brown was eighth and the 17 points propelled Arkansas to its 41st NCAA title under McDonnell.
Spearmon, 20, turned pro after his sophomore year at Arkansas with the blessing of Brauman and McDonnell, who turned some heads at the NCAA meet by saying he encouraged Spearmon to leave early.
“And I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to tell a kid to turn down $3 million when he could get hurt next week or next year,’” McDonnell said. "It would be selfish on my part to do that, especially what he’s done, what both of them have done for us.
“They’ve been super team people and done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
Up next for the pair are the U.S. Championships next weekend in Carson, Calif., to select the team for the 2005 World Championships this August in Helsinki, Finland.
After the USAs, they will consider which European meets they will run over the summer.
Gay said he’ll definitely compete overseas this summer, but Spearmon said his recent knee soreness may sideline him if he doesn’t make the American team.
“Coach Brauman will tell me if I’m ready,” Spearmon said. “If not, then I’ll be done for the year. I’m kind of banged up still.”
Spearmon, who signed with agent Ray Flynn, said Nike “stepped up” to earn his services but he wasn’t allowed to talk about the specifics of his financial package.
“It makes you grow up a lot faster,” he said of the money. "I have to figure out how to invest it, taxes, and things like that. My mother’s checking out some stuff. They’re going to make sure I’m taken care of.
“It’s kind of stressful.”
McDonnell talked Gay into returning last year after he won the NCAA 100 meters title and reset the school records in the indoor 60, indoor 200, outdoor 100 and outdoor 200.
Gay won the Southeastern Conference and Mideast Regional titles in the 100 and 200 and was the only collegian to make the semifinals of both events at the U.S. Olympic Trials last July.
Gay said Tuesday he was glad he followed McDonnell’s advice.
“Coach Mac, he’s been around the game so long, he told me to be patient,” Gay said. "People heard more about Wallace going pro than me going pro. I sat back and was quiet and let everything come into place.
“Obviously shoe companies think a lot more of me than a few other runners. I got a great deal. Staying in school was the right thing and it took me a long way.”
Gay hooked up with Wetmore on the advice of fellow former Razorback and seven-time NCAA champion Alistair Cragg, also a client of the Boston-based agent.
“(Wetmore) told me I’m the best athlete coming out this year even though I haven’t won a final this year,” Gay said. "He said I have credibility and a lot of the shoe companies were interested in me because I can run the 100 and the 200. I’m versatile.
"He was confident I’d get a great deal."McDonnell put a few conditions on Spearmon’s early entry to the pro ranks, namely that he stay in school if he wants to keep training for Brauman.
Spearmon, who is majoring in kinesiology and wants to be a coach someday, has no problem with that.
“You got to graduate,” Spearmon said. “You got to go to school. That’s what got me here. (The contract) doesn’t change anything.”