Last week, John Infante, a former compliance officer at NCAA Division I schools, wrote an article titled, Allowing Prospects in Some Sports To Have Agents Gaining Steam. In the article, Infante says that a proposal to allow prospective student-athletes in a limited number of sports the opportunity to have sports agents prior to said athletes entering college is gaining momentum. The title is far more exciting than the true description of the proposal. But the proposal should not be ignored (even if it may not affect anyone until at least 2014) and appears to be at least somewhat promising in that the NCAA may be viewed as backpedaling ever so slightly on its strict no-agent rule.
If enacted, the rule change would only affect prospective individuals participating in sports where there is no opting-in to be selected in those sports (baseball, hockey and soccer). For instance, many underclassmen football players have recently “declared” for the NFL Draft. That would be a clear example of a sport where the student-athlete opts-in to the draft. A sport like baseball; however, has no formal opt-in procedure. If the Miami Marlins wished to select a high school stand-out, the team may do so and the player has the option of accepting or declining the offer. That same option is not afforded to a high school football player, who will have to wait three years after graduating to formally opt-in to the NFL Draft. Once the period for removing his name from the draft has closed, that football player cannot return to the institution of higher education wherein he enrolled.
By allowing high school seniors to sign with agents (as opposed to “advisors”) prior to enrolling at a university or junior college, those prospective student-athletes will have the opportunity of more able counsel to help them with the entire draft process. Continuing the focus on baseball, under current NCAA rules, a prospective student-athlete can only seek the help of an advisor, who is (1) not permitted to speak directly to any professional team executive on behalf of the player; and (2) cannot even be in the same room as the player and a member of the team when any discussions concerning the player’s future with the team are taking place. This severely limits the player’s ability to have full assistance of counsel.
If the proposed rule is enacted and a prospective student-athlete who seeks the services of an agent determines that he wishes to enter a junior college or four year university, that athlete must immediately cease using that agent in an “agent capacity” or subjects himself to possibly forfeiting his eligibility to participate in NCAA sanctioned competitions. However, as is currently the case with these non-opt-in sports, student-athletes will continue to have the option of receiving “advice” from advisors (who are often also agents to other players, depending on the circumstances of the representation).