The FBI’s investigation into fraud, improper benefits and various other pay for recruit schemes rocked college basketball. It exposed a shady underground that the public largely didn’t know existed, but that some insiders had known was there all along. In response, the NCAA formed the Rice Commission in order to, “gather information and expert opinions for making transformative recommendations to the DI Board of Directors and NCAA Board of Governors on the needed legislation, policies, actions and structure(s) to protect the integrity of college sports, with a focus on Division I men’s basketball.” The commission issued its report in April 2018. The report proposed ways to reduce the amount of one and done players and insisted on banning cheating coaches for life. The commission also stressed that the NCAA create a program for certifying agents in an effort to better monitor their activities and the players they may be in contact with. The NCAA is concerned with player well-being and protecting their college eligibility.
Rich Paul Rules
In an effort to enact some of the reforms suggested by the Rice Commission, the NCAA published new guidelines and introduced a certification process for NBA agents who want to represent college basketball players testing the NBA draft waters. These rules were dubbed the “Rich Paul Rules” because one of the rules was that the agent must have a 4-year bachelor’s degree, which Rich Paul does not have. However, that has not stopped him from becoming one of the most powerful and well-known agents in NBA history. With clients like Lebron James and Anthony Davis, who needs a college degree?
The NCAA also mandated that agents have “NBPA certification for at least three consecutive years, professional liability insurance and completion of an in-person exam taken in early November at the NCAA office in Indianapolis.” The NCAA received significant push-back from NBA players, members of the media and Rich Paul himself. The backlash centered on the college degree mandate. It took only a week for the NCAA to walk back its condemned proposal. NBA agents will no longer need a college degree; instead, they will just need to be in good standing with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). However, the NCAA remained steadfast on its other demands for NBA agents.
NBA Agents Respond
Last Saturday, September 14th, the NBPA, on behalf of its certified agents, issued a sharp rebuke to the NCAA regarding its new agent certification system and rules. The agents objected in part to the NCAA’s attempt to “garner access to personal and private information of certified agents in what amounts to subpoena power to embark on investigations that are wholly unrelated to protecting the interests of men’s basketball student-athletes in deciding whether to remain in school or to enter the NBA Draft.” The agents view the NCAA’s new system as an invasion of their privacy, one they are not willing to give in to. The NBA agents also stressed that the players are the biggest losers here because they miss out on “competent representation” which is very important for kids and young men who are faced with the life-changing decision of whether or not to leave college and turn professional. The NCAA allows college basketball players to “test the NBA draft waters” “by attending the NBA combine and private team workouts between when the early-entry list is released in late April and 10 days after the conclusion of the combine in late May.” Essentially, the college player can enter the draft and go to the combine where he will participate and receive feedback from NBA teams. He can then use this feedback to decide whether or not to return to school. Lastly, the one thing the agents agreed to was to participate in an online biannual seminar that will focus on preserving amateur eligibility.
So What Does It Take To Become An NBA Agent?
The NBPA and its certified agents have argued that their standards and certification process should be good enough to satisfy the NCAA and that an additional certification system is unnecessary and misguided. So what are those standards, and how does one become NBPA certified? In addition to paying the required fees and filling out numerous forms, prospective agents must pass a written examination that is only offered once a year. Applicants are given three hours to complete the exam, which covers the 2017 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. In addition to passing the exam, applicants are also required execute one player contract within five years to maintain their status. Agents are also required to attend an NBPA Agent Seminar for the first three years after certification. The NBPA takes seriously the certification of agents because the well-being of the player is at stake and poor representation looks bad for the union.
The NCAA Misses The Mark
Most NBA agents posses invaluable knowledge gained from years of experience representing NBA players. They understand what it takes to make it in the NBA and have a great understanding of the league. College athletes would certainly benefit from their representation, as opposed to someone who doesn’t have first hand experience. The NCAA will do a great disservice to the athletes they purport to care about if they foreclose access to these agents by threatening their eligibility. The NBPA standards are solid and should satisfy the NCAA. Furthermore, the certified agents agreed to attend a seminar dealing with eligibility compliance. If the NCAA does care about the best interests of college basketball players testing the NBA draft waters, then they shouldn’t block them from receiving competent advice. The whole idea behind allowing a player to return to school is so that he can improve his game in order to play in the NBA. That is why having an agent with NBA experience is so important. They understand what it takes to play in the NBA. By promulgating these new standards, the NCAA is actually preventing the student-athletes from receiving good representation and advice.
I am a 3L at The University at Buffalo School of Law. I will graduate this spring with a concentration in Sports Law. Sports Law is of special interest to me because sports touch many different areas of the law. The topics that I specialize in include criminal law and collective bargaining issues. I also cover the forum's sportsbetting content and hope to provide more in the future. The forum is great way to stay apprised of issues in the Sports Law field. I hope everyone enjoys our articles.