Headline Recruiting Sports Law

Should the NCAA Register Agents?

In a previous article I wrote, I focused on the topic of the NCAA as well as university athletic association Compliance Offices taking on a greater role with regard to athlete-agent regulation. There are laws which attempt to regulate activity, but why not have actual enforcement through a mandatory registration process much like the player associations of the NFL, NBA, and the MLB at the NCAA level?

Provided such a regulatory mechanism, the NCAA could directly enforce the activity of agents wanting access to athletes; the concept of transparency plays a large part in my recommendation. The idea that those agents who are entirely transparent and work ethically with universities to provide all necessary information in the best interest of the student-athlete, are given the right to develop a relationship, is conceivably a mitigation mechanism for diluting rogue agents and runners.

Despite any effort on the state or federal end in terms of legislation, something must be done at the university level, otherwise players will continue to take money from promoters and rogue business people attempting to gain access to important decisions that should not be under the influence by anyone but the athlete, his family, and a registered advisor.

In fact, why not have a three-tier system, with the NCAA having its own registration process, the respective player associations with their’s as well, and the federal government with its own clearance and oversight process– all for the greater good of the student-athlete. Take a hard look at comparables such as investment professionals, attorneys, accountants, or medical professionals – they all must pass or be acknowledged by several organizations inclusive of a government entity. They adhere to the law or they lose the right to practice their skill-set indefinitely.

The root of the problem is that there are too many shady people involved, coming in at vulnerable points of athletes’ lives (need of money for family, media speculation about upside of pro future, etc..). A long-term decision can affect not only an athlete, but a family or even an entire community for years to come. The best recruiters don’t always make the best agents or advisors.

Representing young adults is a privilege not a right. If someone goes behind your back (i.e. agents not working through university compliance offices – even those who “do,” but then use runners to do the work), wouldn’t you be pissed?

If the NCAA established a mandatory policy in accordance with respective professional players associations and the federal government (do away with individual state athlete agent laws – confusion), then combating all the ridiculous issues such as giving improper benefits (giving money, using company golf cart to transport players, etc…), improper influence by early adoptive leeches (AAU promoters, staff, “friendly’s”), and unsolicited contact by agents would eventually be mitigated.

Visualize it as a three stage water filter with each stage, (I) NCAA registration, (II) Player’s association registration, and (III) a Federal clearing and oversight process, taking what was a murky and shady atmosphere (runners, AAU promoters, lurks, users, etc..) into something pure and potable for a long-term career as a professional athlete without the typical 2 to 3 year learning curve seen so often with athletes switching to agents they actually like and trust (not to mention equipped to serve client in best way). Let’s face it, agents and those around them come into the picture quite early, especially with highly talented athletes.

I imagine some will grumble or argue, why should the NCAA be accountable beyond providing guidance and education or even why should such a “large scale” effort be applied to mitigate such a seemingly ‘small’ problem? Well let’s take a hard look at the industry and each league’s respective collective bargaining issues. It’s all about the dollars, and in the decades to come, billions of them – from salaries to licensing. The collective bargaining talks should indicate where professional sports at-large is heading. If you’re a doctor, an attorney, or even an investment professional, what’s your risk vs. reward? Even more importantly, what if you mess-up? Sport as an industry is becoming a premier opportunity to earn a living and it better be under the same microscope as other professions when it comes to those actually creating that value, the clients.

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