The NCAA Strikes Again…
Last week the NCAA announced a new rule for agents seeking to represent athletes interested in turning pro before they graduate. The trending hashtag for this on social media is #TheRichPaulRule.
Despite the popular belief that the NCAA created this rule specifically to block players from signing with LeBron James’ agent, Rich Paul; the truth is much, much more sinister and far reaching than that.
The act of putting their own certification process in place in itself is the problem.
It’s simply another blatant example of the NCAA tightening its grip as the un-checked authority over the players they purport to protect and serve.
For starters, here is a summary of the new rules, courtesy of CBS College Basketball Insider, Jon Rothstein:
There are a few main topics of discussions that I’d like to expand on, so I’ll break them down one at a time.
#1) The degree criteria is not rational in any sense of the word.
** disclaimer **
(Since completion of the article, the NCAA has announced that it will rescind a portion of its originally published criteria placing restrictions on agents and their association with athletes as underclassmen. The governing body of college athletics will no longer require a bachelor’s degree. Which is a huge fix. But I did not omit this from the rant because I want to reiterate how ABSURD it was to have that in there from the beginning! How did it even get past NCAA legal department?)
The requirement that all candidates must have a bachelor’s degree is completely irrational. We are living in the 21st century. The value of a college degree is not the same as it has been in the past. And more importantly, a college degree does not mean you automatically have the skill set required to perform your job in the business world.
Personally, I was a student-athlete on the basketball team at Quinnipiac University and I earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics. It is something that I’m very proud of. I also went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Sports Management and Marketing from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy.
Although this may add a few lines to my resume, I’ll be the first to tell you that what I do on a daily basis certainly does not require either of those degrees! The skills that I learned in school pale in comparison to the skills that I have learned in real life, with real people all over the world as a business owner and entrepreneur. This point is specifically emphasized in a relationship-based industry such as sports representation and management. An industry where communication skills, the ability to connect with young adults on a personal level and the genuine intention to earn the trust of others by staying true to your word, are FAR more important than the ability to recite my knowledge of how to calculate the intrinsic value a stock or the ability to define ‘opportunity cost’.
Having a college degree does not by any means indicate you are an ethical person or that you have the best interests of your clients in mind.
We are not talking about graduating from med school and passing your boards in order to perform brain surgery. We are not talking about passing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) practical test and completing 1,500 flight hours in order to get your commercial pilot license. Sure you need to know how the market works and if you want to be successful you need to understand the Collective Bargaining Agreement. But this is not a technical or trade skill.
We are talking about educating, supporting, and navigating a young adult in the process of becoming a professional basketball player on and off the court.
Now I would be truly out of character if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that having a degree could add value to your overall profile. It quite possibly may even make you a more qualified candidate for certain jobs!
Academic qualifications can and should still play a role when assessing candidates. In the same way as when players are choosing their agents, they can and should take it into consideration as they evaluate. But… simply not having a degree should under no circumstances disqualify any candidates from giving it a shot.
** update **
So touche, NCAA. I will give you credit for this quick fix. Just a little bit.
Because you have a long history of being a notoriously slow moving, money wasting bureaucracy who usually spends millions of dollars on investigations that produce no tangible results. Maybe in the future if you screw something up it will only take a few days to fix. The bar is now set.
#2) There is already someone looking out for the players best interests.
Should there be an outside party looking after the best interests of players? Absolutely. Does that powerful organization with a four letter acronym already exist? Absolutely.
Is it the NCAA? Not a chance!
It is the NBPA. Which stands for the National Basketball Players Association. It is the union that was created to protect and represent professional basketball players. They already have a process in place for anyone hoping to become a certified agent. This process includes but is not limited to a background check, an annual fee and an exam testing the knowledge and understanding of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
So in summary, the NCAA was insinuating the NBPA was not up to their competency standard?
Gotcha… Well… this is what my response to that is.
#3) Back to how ridiculous the bachelor’s degree criteria was:
Sorry, I can’t help myself. I didn’t even get to the best parts. Now that we are talking about degrees again… maybe the NCAA was originally suggesting that we should search for all people without college degrees and consider them not competent enough to do whatever it is they are involved with?
If you are reading this and you don’t have a college degree, how fired up are you? I know I would be.
Let’s just go along with that for a second. Why don’t we start with a few companies that you might have heard of. Microsoft. Apple. Facebook. Respectively founded by Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.
So Mark Emmert, please tell me. Should we consider these three individuals competent?
Maybe we should just ban all NCAA athletes, teams and universities from using Windows, having iphones and communicating on Instagram. The founders of those companies do not have their college degrees. Why should we expose the athletes to the products and services they created?
Come on people. Common sense here. Of course we want our leaders, employees, colleagues and in this case our agents to be competent in what they are doing! But remember, some of the smartest people in the world, including the best leaders, do not have their degrees.
Here are a few more notable and successful leaders who did not obtain their college degree: Richard Branson (CEO of Virgin Group), Dawn Steel (First woman to run a major Hollywood film studio), Tony Robbins (World renowned self-empowerment guru, motivational speaker and best-selling author), Ellen DeGeneres (World renowned comedian, actress, television show host).
I think the point was made. Ok I’m done with the degree rant.
They corrected the mistake they made today so we’ll let it be.
#4) The NCAA is arguably violating Federal Anti-trust Laws
This new rule is simply another attempt for the NCAA to control the process. To maintain exclusive control of their “assets.” To eliminate competition in what should be a free market.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “wait a minute, that is starting to sound a bit too close to something called a monopoly.” Well, take a look at a few definitions and decide for yourself.
(1) A market structure characterized by a single seller, selling a unique product in the market. In a monopoly market, the seller faces no competition, as he is the sole seller of goods with no close substitute. He enjoys the power of setting the price for his goods.
(2) the exclusive possession or control of the supply of or trade in a commodity or service.
The NCAA has always treated student athletes as “commodities.” They generate revenue. They increase marketability. They produce an exciting product. And if you’re a kid growing up in this country and you want to play professional basketball, you have to work for them (unless you have some extended family involved in the game overseas and a fantastic agent).
But let’s be real, student athletes are certainly not treated like employees (or people for that matter). Employees should be entitled to honest compensation for hard work. And when the employing organization achieves financial success, the employees should be part of the recipients of it. A success that the organization could never achieve without the blood, sweat and hard work of student athletes all over this country! The NCAA is the unchecked governing body of sports in America and an IRS designated non-profit organization that does more to restrict student-athletes than empower them.
The NCAA should not be able to benefit financially from a rule that THEY made, when THEY control the entire “commodity” market! Sounds like exclusive possession to me.
In addition, the NCAA is ultimately limiting the number of agents available to players simply by implementing a mandatory certification process (which includes an in person exam, background check and a fee). Especially when that same process is already taken care of by a more effective organization, the NBPA.
By limiting the number of agents available to players it could mean some players would be unable to hire an agent. Which means a small number of agents would need to provide a large amount of support. The byproduct becomes a negative effect on the quality of advisement available for college players.
I don’t know what the basketball landscape will look like next year, five years from now or in two decades. But if the NCAA is still around I can confidently say that it will look and operate very very differently than it does today.
I was interviewed for an article about two years ago in response to the FBI’s investigation into the NCAA-governed world of college basketball and the violations committed by notable figures and coaches in the industry. It clearly brought attention to how big this business really is.
I mentioned a few things that I hoped would lead basketball players down a brighter path and open some additional opportunities for them. Two of my recommendations involved kids simply staying away from the NCAA, which I’ll admit is pretty sad to have to resort to.
Although there are many success stories the past several years, it is sad to see how many players this collegiate system actually hurts. From aspiring pros all the way down to the middle school level. The way it is currently set up is almost too big to fail.
I have been lucky enough to spend several years immersed in the culture of basketball and life in 30+ countries overseas, and I’ll be the first one to tell you that it is not for everyone. But I certainly do hope that we will see more young athletes taking the opportunity for development overseas. Like we saw Brian Bowen do last year (Sydney Kings) and we are seeing RJ Hampton (New Zealand Breakers) and Phil Wheeler (Stella Azzurra) taking advantage of this year.
The NCAA does what it can to rule out its competition. Today’s competition is the industry’s hard working agents who are good for the game of basketball because they are good at what they do, academic achievements aside.
And at the end of the day, the NCAA’s actions continue to hurt the ATHLETE.
Or am I still supposed to say, “student-athlete?”
Figure it out, NCAA.