The NCAA sent a policy memo early last week to NBA-certified agents, a maneuver that easily could have fallen into one of the tiny cracks in the universe that consume most of the more arcane procedures conducted by the governing body for intercollegiate athletics. This one was dumber than most, however, and its folly was recognized – and appropriated – by NBA star LeBron James. So the NCAA wasn’t so fortunate this time.
What the NCAA stated: agents who wished to be certified by the organization for involvement with those college athletes exploring their NBA draft prospects but not forfeiting eligibility would need to meet a series of requirements, including a college degree. The existence of this memo initially was reported last Tuesday by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports.
James decided the degree requirement was aimed at his agent, Rich Paul, and James’ reach turned this into a major topic.
The news release announcing the NCAA’s decision to abandon the bachelor’s degree requirement arrived Monday afternoon.
Count ’em up: That means this fiasco was a seven-day story for the NCAA.
And those stories weren’t pretty, right up to Paul’s moderately self-aggrandizing and periodically inaccurate op-ed written for The Athletic.
One thing Paul gets right: It’s highly unlikely this requirement was aimed at him because it’s possible to be aware of Paul and his group of accomplished clients without having an idea what Paul’s background might be, and it’s highly likely at least some of those on the committee that formulated the certification requirements were entirely unaware of Paul.
You can bet they knew who Christian Dawkins was, though. Dawkins was the aspiring agent/manager who was on trial twice within the past year – convicted twice – overheard on a series of videotapes during the second trial discussing and/or conducting activities that would not conform to NCAA rules with a series of college assistant coaches.
Dawkins and similar operators were the likely target of this requirement, but the organization’s imprecision and naivete allowed that purpose to be usurped.
The sloppiness is kind of baked into the apparatus. There are so many different committees performing so many different functions at the NCAA that occasionally those in position to assure messes such as this don’t develop aren’t given the opportunity to have a say.
Once this became a huge deal, though, the NCAA failed to identify a proper exit strategy. One would have been to point visibly to similar requirements in place with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and leave it at that, instead of trying to justify it by giving it the veneer of academic significance: “The NCAA values a college education and continues to emphasize the importance of earning a degree.”
The best course, though, would have been to acknowledge the initial blunder and correct it at once. The degree requirement was redundant, anyway, since it’s part of the NBPA’s regulations and the NCAA requirements already were demanding three years of active certification by the players association. (Paul received an exemption from the NBPA’s degree requirement because of his experience).
If Dawkins and his sort were the concern, he never was a certified agent. So even if he hadn’t been arrested, tried and convicted by the federal government, he would not have been in position to represent athletes testing the NBA draft process.
Paul was absurdly mistaken when suggesting the NCAA’s initial proposal would have kept any prospective agent out of the business of representing college players for their transition to the professional game. Again, one must be an agent for three years before the NCAA will consider certification for this process.
Instead, after resolving no issues with its initial statement, the NCAA issued a clarification of that statement whose purpose is impossible to discern. It contains almost all the same words as the original but arrived a day later. At the least, it gave people on Twitter a reason to take a second swipe at the foolishness of the degree requirement.
At last, on Monday, someone in Indianapolis recognized the battle it should never have waged in the first place.
Rich Paul, and other agents lacking a college degree, can become certified to represent players who provisionally enter the NBA Draft, if they wish. How it could take a week for the NCAA to reach this conclusion remains a mystery.
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