Headline Sports Law

NCAA May Alter Its Definition Of “Agent”

The 2010-11 NCAA Division I Manual became effective as of August 1, 2010.  Throughout the year, NCAA administrators have reviewed the rules and regulations embodied within the Manual and will revise where appropriate for a new Manual, which will likely be published on August 1, 2011.  A bylaw that will earn a significant area of attention is 12.3 Use of Agents.

The general rule begins as follows:

An individual shall be ineligible for participation in an intercollegiate sport if he or she ever has agreed (orally or in writing) to be represented by an agent for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation in that sport.

But who is an agent?  Bylaw tells us that an agent can be someone who may represent an athlete in future professional sports negotiations. Bylaw is kind of confusing.  It says that a student-athlete cannot receive transportation or another benefit from “an agent, even if the agent has indicated that he or she has no interest in representing the student-athlete in the marketing of his or her athletics ability or reputation and does not represent individuals in the student-athlete’s sport.”  How do we then determine if the person is an agent or not?  Is it based on being certified in the state where the student-athlete is performing?  Does the person just have to be a licensed athlete agent in any state?  Does the person have to be licensed by any players association?  Or should it just be the players association that the student-athlete will (hopefully) eventually join?

The NCAA would do everyone a favor by clearing up its bylaws by creating precise definitions.  Luckily, the Division I Amateurism Cabinet and the Division I Leadership Council have recently stated that they may make changes to the definition of an agent.  Do not give up hope.

Amongst the potential changes would be to include runners under the definition of agent.  Furthermore, financial planners, marketing representatives, and other client management entities could become included in a new agent definition.  The NCAA may take a page out of the MLBPA’s October 2010 Regulations Governing Player Agents in this regard.

I believe that enhancing the agent definition would be a step in the right direction for the NCAA, not because the NCAA needs to increase the number of words in its manual, but to bring further clarity to an area ripe with confusion.  Educating athletes and educating agents with concise and precise rules and regulations is much better than allowing both entities to operate in a system with little to no clarity.

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.