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NCAA Reverses Course on ‘Rich Paul Rule’

Jason Scott

The NCAA last week instituted new rules for agents representing college players considering a leap to the pros — but after a wave of criticism, including words by one of the highest profile athletes in the world, the governing body has amended those rules.

According to Yahoo Sports, new rules would have required agents to be certified by the NCAA, and as a part of that certification, would have also required agents to have a bachelor’s degree — which is where much of the controversy began.

That’s because Rich Paul, a high-powered agent who represents some of the NBA’s biggest stars, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis, John Wall and Ben Simmons, pointedly does not have a bachelor’s degree. 

James quickly dubbed the proposed change “The Rich Paul Rule” on Twitter, and fans overwhelmingly panned the rule change, which would have excluded agents who failed to meet the NCAA’s criteria from being able to represent prospective NBA players. The NCAA allows student-athletes to “test the waters” by allowing draft prospects to work out and receive feedback from NBA teams, and more recently by allowing them to sign with agents and retain the option to return to school, where previously signing with an agent would’ve put a player’s eligibility at risk. 

Paul published a piece on The Athletic, saying that the rule changes were meant to target “young people from less prestigious backgrounds.”

“Does anyone really believe a four-year degree is what separates an ethical person from a con artist?” Paul asks in the op-ed. 

Six hours after that piece was published, the NCAA adjusted its proposed rule change, announcing in a statement that “specific individuals were not considered when developing our process.” 

The amended requirements for certification set forth by the NCAA are that agents:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree and/or be currently certified and in good standing with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA)
  • Have NBPA certification for a minimum of three consecutive years
  • Maintain professional liability insurance
  • Complete the NCAA qualification exam
  • Pay the required fees

From the NCAA release announcing the amendments:

“This policy provides student-athletes with access to hundreds of qualified agents who can offer solid guidance but also protects those same students from unscrupulous actors who may not represent their best interests. We remain focused on improving the college basketball environment, and over the next year, we will continue to evaluate the agent certification policy as well as the implementation of other rules recommended by the Commission on College Basketball.”

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