The NCAA has amended its certification process for agents representing basketball players who are deciding whether to stay in school or explore the NBA draft and will no longer require them to have a bachelor’s degree.
Instead, agents who don’t have a bachelor’s degree will have to be in good standing with the National Basketball Players Association.
“We are committed to providing student-athletes who are deciding whether to stay in school or explore NBA draft options with access to a wide array of resources to make their decision,” the NCAA said in a statement on Monday.
“NCAA member schools developed the new agent certification process to accomplish that goal and reflect our higher education mission. However, we have been made aware of several current agents who have appropriately represented former student-athletes in their professional quest and whom the National Basketball Players Association has granted waivers of its bachelor’s degree requirement.”
Last week, the NCAA issued a memo to agents, outlining new certification requirements that included a bachelor’s degree, NBPA certification for at least three consecutive years, professional liability insurance and completion of an in-person exam taken in early November at the NCAA office in Indianapolis.
The NCAA’s new requirements were heavily criticized because some current NBA agents didn’t attend college. The bachelor’s degree requirement led some to refer to it as the “Rich Paul Rule.”
Paul, who represents LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons and Draymond Green, among others, and recently brought his Klutch Sports Group under the United Talent Agency umbrella, began working with James a couple of years after high school and didn’t graduate from college.
James and Thunder guard Chris Paul criticized the NCAA’s new requirements on social media.
In an op-ed piece for The Athletic on Monday, Rich Paul wrote: “Requiring a four-year degree accomplishes only one thing — systematically excluding those who come from a world where college is unrealistic. Does anyone really believe a four-year degree is what separates an ethical person from a con artist?
“Let’s also be clear that once the NCAA requires a four-year degree for athletes ‘testing the waters,’ it’s only a matter of time until this idea is socialized, no longer questioned, and then more broadly applied. We all know how this works. Unfair policy is introduced incrementally so people accept it because it only affects a small group. Then the unfair policy quietly evolves into institutional policy. I’m not sure what the technical term is for that because I didn’t finish college but I know it when I see it.”
Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon are in favor of the NCAA amending the “Rich Paul Rule” following the initial blowback.
The NCAA said in the original memo to agents that it implemented the new requirements “to protect the collegiate eligibility” of student-athletes.
“While specific individuals were not considered when developing our process, we respect the NBPA’s determination of qualification and have amended our certification criteria,” the NCAA said in Monday’s statement.
The NCAA will still require agents representing players who might return to school to have NBPA certification for a minimum of three consecutive years, maintain professional liability insurance, complete the NCAA qualification exam and pay the required fees.
In the application, sources told ESPN last week, agents are required to agree that they will cooperate with the NCAA in investigations of rules violations, “even if the alleged violations are unrelated to [their] NCAA-agent certification.”
Agents who complete the application and background check will take the in-person exam on Nov. 6, the day after the college basketball season begins with the Champions Classic in New York.
Agents who meet every requirement besides the three-year NBPA certification can receive an exception if the student-athlete they represented this past spring decided to return to school.
“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,” the NCAA said. “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.”
ESPN’s Jeff Borzello contributed to this report.