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Allowing Prospects in Some Sports To Have Agents Gaining Steam

A serious proposal to allow prospective student-athletes in some sports to have agents before they start college is gaining momentum. The proposal, in the works since a review of agent legislation started in 2010, was discussed by the Division I Leadership Council in October. The same proposal is on the agenda for the Division I Legislative Council at the NCAA Convention in January.

The proposal, pushed most vigorously by the American Baseball Coaches Association, would permit prospective student-athletes in sports with non-opt-in drafts to have an agent negotiate a potential professional contract, not just an advisor who is supposed to review and offer his opinion on a contract offered to the prospect. The agreement with the agent would have to cease when the athlete enrolled at a Division I school and benefits of any kind from the agent would still be prohibited.

The rule would cover baseball, hockey, and soccer. All of these have draft rules that do not require the prospect to declare for the draft. In baseball and hockey, all prospects who finish high school are eligible for the draft. In soccer, early entry draft candidates are signed by the league to professional contracts before being placed in the draft.

This would be a major change from existing NCAA rules on agents, advisors, and professional drafts. The NCAA’s rules are generally consistent with some notable exception, it is the professional leagues that cause differences. And while the NCAA has had different amateurism rules for different sports (see for instance the $10,000, no questions asked annual limit on prize money in tennis), these rules have generally not touched on agents and drafts, and have not involved the “borderline revenue” sports.

That means a challenge could come almost immediately from football and basketball prospects as well as current student-athletes in all sports who wish to get advice and assistance in starting their professional career. The Leadership Council also raised concerns about recruiting rules, since college coaches would now have contact with professional sports agents about their clients.

The issue is be on the agenda for the Legislative Council to discuss, so after the athletic directors of the Leadership Council had their say, it is now the turn of the FARs and compliance professionals. The Board of Directors’ agenda has not yet been published by the NCAA, so it is unknown if that group will discuss the model. However, without a formal proposal yet, the timeline on this type of change looks to be next October at the earliest, with a first possible effective date of August 1, 2014.

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