August is well known for its extremely slow sports news cycle. Turn on SportsCenter and it’s a continuous loop of the same ten diving catches from the MLB’s previous games. So, when the NCAA drops in a new rule for sports agents the media explodes in a frenzy. Consider this the match in the tinder box. Twitter, the mainstream media, and fans are hungry for some good outrage and this new rule provided it. Yet, even as the media goes off about the NBA implications, I think this new development will affect players from mid-majors the most! The players coming from the A10, who we all root for to make it to the NBA, are affected by the newly dubbed “Rich Paul Rule” more than Rich Paul himself.
The NCAA’s new parameters are as followed: NBPA certification for 3 years, Bachelor’s Degree, liability insurance and an in-person examination with the NCAA. The NCAA didn’t release the memo with every detail, but they were able to release a tweet with an empty explanation. The original release read:
“Although some can and have been successful without a college degree, as a higher education organization the NCAA values a college education and continues to emphasize the importance of earning a degree. We were guided by recommendations from the commission on College Basketball – which spoke with the agent and advisor community – that the NCAA certification process should be stringent than current processes. With this in mind, we benchmarked our new rules against requirements for other organizations that certify agents, like the NBPA which also requires agents to have a bachelor’s degree. While different and distinct, our rules taken together, which is the manner they were meant to be examined, provide a clear opportunity for our student-athletes to receive excellent advice from knowledgeable professionals on either the college or professional path they choose”-@InsidetheNCAA
This long winded and round about statement sounds as if a lawyer and a politician got together with the objective of confusing all of us. Honestly, even as an accountant who reads jargon like this on a daily basis, I found myself struggling to see the point they were making. The NCAA did update their statement on August 8th, but all it said was ” We recognize they (NBPA) and others provide discretionary waivers for the bachelors degree”. This updated statement made no major changes to the criteria originally put forth earlier this week.
In short, this rule will only affect athletes who test the NBA draft while maintaining NCAA eligibility. The rule change restricts the agents athletes can consult from during the draft process. Last summer there was a warm reception to the rule allowing players to test the NBA draft while retaining NCAA eligibility. But, the NCAA found a way to ruin a rule everyone liked by throwing this gem into the mix. Why lie and say you “care” about your athlete’s well-being? The only good justification that I think they should use is “they own the league, and they can do what they want”. Saying we are doing this because we can is a much better explanation than the charade of “care”, “love”, and “education promotion” for athletes. If the organization cut through the crap and got to the point, the reaction towards the NCAA would be diminished.
Regardless of how much outrage is posted by fans and the media, I find it hard to believe that the NCAA will back down from their stance. This was clearly a power grab for control and leverage as the middleman between AAU and the NBA. This is a maneuver that directly affects players coming from our beloved A10 conference. While the conference has had players go early enough in the draft that coming back was never a thought; majority of our potential NBA talent might need two years of NBA combine experience to stake their position in the draft.
For an example, look no further than Charlie Brown Jr. A player who was predicted to go beginning of the second round and ended up going un-drafted. While Brown did sign an agent and was not going to return to the NCAA regardless of his draft situation; if he did want to return this new rule would now affect him. This rule directly impacts players who are on the fringe of the draft. Players who probably need a greater amount of advice compared to the higher draft picks. Zion Williamson does not require the same help in his decision compared to a player whose potential career in the NBA is more in question.
The NCAA is restricting players receiving advice from people who aren’t credentialed but have the industry knowledge. Licensing and credentials are a barrier to entry that prevent knowledgeable basketball insiders from helping out players who need the most advice. Personally, I am not in favor that Lebron jumped in and named it the ‘Rich Paul” rule. Yes, Rich Paul is one of the few prominent agents who does not have a bachelor’s degree. But, Rich Paul primarily represents players who are selected in the lottery. He is not the agent representing players who are testing the waters of NBA free agency. Paul represents those who are the number one overall pick.
This rule impacts the player who wants their family member or friend to represent them. Someone who has a trusted AAU coach, who played NBA basketball, who could help them navigate the professional scene. This rule doesn’t impact the top agents or draft picks who can grab the media’s attention. This rule directly affects our favorite mid major players from conferences such as A-10, AAC and MAC. Student Athletes who have a shooters chance of making their professional dreams come true. If anyone has a justification in their anger about the NCAA’s rationale for their rules; it’s the mid major athletes who are directly impacted and the fans who are crazy enough to read about those athletes on a college basketball blog in August.
UPDATE (08/12/2019): As per NCAA release, the NCAA has amended their criteria and will no longer require agents to have a Bachelor’s degree in order to represent athletes who test the NBA draft.