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Has The NCAA Lost Its Focus?

In Pat Forde’s column from last Friday titled, Cooperation key to solving agent issue, he wrote the following:

At the very least, the NCAA’s raid of sorts on North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama — those are just the schools we know about — has sent a panic through both college football and the agent community.

The association’s Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Activities department has some useful tools going for it: newfound knowledge; aggrieved parties; a recent history of crushed cheaters and dissemblers; and, of all things, Twitter.

Probably most importantly, the AGA has made better entrée into the agent netherworld and gotten a firmer grasp on how the seamy game works. Unlike the twin USC scandals involving Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo, the NCAA did not need a media-made road map to investigate the parties-and-plane tickets situation in South Beach. NCAA enforcement is, for a change, in front of the media on this issue, instead of vice versa.

Before you go ahead and start praising the NCAA and its AGA department, there are some things that need to be reported that have not yet been publicized.  Things advisors/agents are noticing, but have not yet been exposed.

One would think that the AGA, a very small group of people who are given the task to follow up on unscrupulous agent leads and follow through with investigations, would be appropriating almost all of its time to enforcing its rules regarding benefits given to football, and maybe even basketball, student-athletes by agents/runners/financial planners/etc.  Think again.

Instead, I’m hearing that even just two days ago, the NCAA called a baseball advisor’s advisee and asked the player questions such as, “How many times has your advisor talked to pro teams on your behalf?” and “How much have you paid your advisor?”  Just when you think the NCAA might be paying attention to issues that might have some importance (the benefits switching hands problem),they revert back to their old ways of just trying to show who is boss for no understandable reason.  Not to mention, the NCAA actually requires student-athletes to pay advisors for the services they provide.

One agent recently told me, “Make sure your guys are well-versed and schooled.”  Apparently, the NCAA has been actively contacting many student-athletes about this matter.

It stems back to the Andy Oliver vs. NCAA battle, which was thoroughly documented step-by-step on  Before Oliver settled with the NCAA, a court in Ohio had declared the NCAA Bylaw (the no-agent rule) null and void. Presence of a Lawyer at Negotiations. A lawyer may not be present during discussions of a contract offer with a professional organization or have any direct contact (i.e., in person, by telephone or by mail) with a professional sports organization on behalf of the individual. A lawyer’s presence during such discussions is considered representation by an agent.

The settlement allowed the NCAA to re-instate the rule immediately, which they did.  Unfortunately, the no-agent rule effectively only hurts student-athletes.  They are not permitted to have proper counsel advising them through the draft process, and if they do have an advisor merely talk to a team on their behalf, their student-athlete eligibility is gone and there goes their biggest bargaining tool in a negotiation with a professional baseball club.  Again, with everything going on lately in the southeastern schools, one would think that the NCAA has bigger fish to fry.

As’s Gene Wojciechowski recently said while discussing the many problems with the NCAA, “It has spread itself a mile wide and an inch deep.”  Herein lies a glaring problem.  There are true problems that the NCAA might be able to fix with effective enforcement.  But in order to do that, it must pick and choose its battles wisely.  To focus on baseball advisors who helping players by providing effective counsel, the NCAA is missing the boat.

Instead, NCAA continues to send out a baseball questionnaire to student-athletes who were drafted, but who did not sign, or who may be drafted in the future.  Student-athletes should not be pressured to answer this questionnaire.  Additionally, student-athletes should not feel the need to respond to investigatory phone calls.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.