The ‘Rich Paul’ rules: NCAA’s criteria for agents of NBA draft hopefuls is poorly thought out

The NCAA sent a memo to agents on Monday that detailed a new certification process and a series of requirements that will be necessary in order to represent players as they test the NBA draft waters.

The memo, which was obtained by NBC Sports, states that the NCAA will require applicants to have “a bachelor’s degree, be in good standing with the NBPA, have been NBPA certified for a minimum of three consecutive years and maintain professional liability insurance.” The agents will also be required to submit to a background check, pay a non-refundable $250 fee and complete an in-person exam on Wednesday, November 6th, at the NCAA’s offices in Indianapolis.

Within the application itself, sources told NBC Sports, is language stating that applicants will not be certified unless they agree to cooperate will all NCAA investigations regardless of whether or not they involve that specific agent’s certification.

The NCAA opted to allow players testing the waters to have access to representation as part of the changes that were enacted by Condoleeza Rice’s Commission on College Basketball. The players that test the waters are only allowed to return to school with eligibility intact if they accept “permissible agent services from NCAA certified agents with a signed agent agreement.”

It’s worth noting here that one of the most powerful agents in basketball, Rich Paul, does not have a bachelor’s degree. Paul represented Darius Bazley, who initially committed to Syracuse before withdrawing and, after flirting with playing a year in the G League, decided to sit out this past season. He was paid $1 million for an internship with New Balance before getting selected with the 23rd pick in the 2019 draft. There are ways to get around the bachelor degree loophole – like, for instance, hiring an agent with a degree to get a player under that agency’s umbrella – but the NCAA isn’t targeting Paul of Klutch Sports with this rule. They’re targeting the next Rich Paul.

College players that are making the decision of what they want to do with their future need to advice and representation of people that are qualified. That’s obvious. But it is worth noting that the ability to obtain a degree in this day and age has much to do with privilege, economic status and the family you were born into as it does your ability to think critically, understand the NBA’s CBA or be able to negotiate a contract. If anything, Rich Paul proved that.

Hell, the NBPA doesn’t even require a bachelor’s degree for certification. They have minimum degree requirements, but they also have a work-around in their rules if an applicant can prove that they have enough work and real life experience to justify certification. There is even an FAQ on the NBPA’s site about this very subject.

And the truth is that the NCAA shouldn’t have requirements that are more strict than the NBA’s. Hell, the NCAA probably shouldn’t be in the game of approving whether or not an agent is qualified. That’s not what they are designed to do. The NBA Players’ Association is, and certification with the NBPA should be enough.

The truth is this: Agents should have to apply with the NCAA so the NCAA has a record of who is representing players. They should also have to fill out some kind of form or questionnaire to prove that they – or, at the very least, someone in their office – understand what the specific NCAA bylaws are. If the NCAA thinks that’s worth charging a $250 processing fee, I can even get on board with that, too.

But by putting together a list of criteria this strict is only going to make NBA agents laugh at the idea of getting NCAA certified. One agent that NBC Sports reached out to simply deleted the memo as soon as he received it. “It’s gone,” he said.

And if agents aren’t going to take the certification process seriously, underclassmen are just going to be told to leave early without actually testing the waters. That, in turn, will make the early entry drain on college basketball’s talent level just that much quicker.

But hey, at least those television contracts are guaranteed, am I right?

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