The Rich Paul Rule

I am sure you have heard about/read about the new NCAA ruling about qualifications for agents that will represent student-athletes and how it is directed negatively against NBA “super-agent” Rich Paul.  The issues that stick in the craw of those who have taken Paul’s side in this controversy is the mandate of a bachelor’s degree (Paul does not have one) and the requirement for all applicants to show up at NCAA HQs in person to take a qualifying test. I am going to try not to take any side in this matter because I don’t think it is sufficiently important to create any agita in my life.

When I first read that the NCAA would require agents to have a college degree, my mind went down this path:

  1. Well, of course they would emphasize a college degree; they are an association of colleges and universities.
  2. Do other sporting entities have any similar rules?

Before looking at other sports, there is a distinction to be made here.  In other sports – like pro football – the certification of agents is done by the NFLPA which is a labor union that represents the players who would acquire an agent.  Nominally, that union is there to seek for its members the best possible situations.  In no way can I contort myself to believe that the NCAA is an entity that represents the student-athletes and seeks to maximize their pleasures.  With that speed bump in the way of a set of direct comparisons, consider:

  • The NFLPA requires applicants to have inter alia an “Undergraduate AND Post Graduate degree (Masters or Law) from an accredited college/university” plus mandatory attendance at a 2-day seminar in Washington DC plus a passing grade on a “written multiple-choice proctored examination.”
  • The MLBPA does not mention educational levels as part of its criteria to be a certified agent.  There is a written exam to be passed and mandatory agent meetings called by the MLBPA during the year as part of the process to become an agent and remain certified as an agent.
  • I cannot find any listing of certification criteria issued by the NHLPA.
  • The NBPA requires applicants for provide a copy of the “highest diploma received” which I take to mean anything including the successful completion of a pre-kindergarten program.  There is also an exam given by the NBPA every January consisting of 50 multiple choice questions with a 3-hour time limit and a requirement to attend “agent seminars” for the first three years of certification.
  • The website for the Major League Soccer Players Union states simply, “Currently, we do not have agent regulations.”

My conclusion here is that the proposed NCAA hurdles to becoming an agent are not the most stringent ones out there but the educational requirement is higher than most of the other major US pro sports entities.  That is the unemotional conclusion to be drawn here – – and of course, in today’s highly rational environment, the reactions do not stop there.

Rich Paul is Black; that is an objective statement; that has also led some commentators to assert that the proposed NCAA regulation which is “obviously” targeted at him must also be racially inspired.  As I have reminded the world many times, I cannot read minds; therefore, I have exactly no idea if indeed there is a racial ingredient in this NCAA pronouncement.  I would only point out that Rich Paul would also fail to meet agent requirements set forth by the NFLPA and his failure would be for the same reason that he would not meet the NCAA standard.  And that objective fact leads me to this avenue of thought:

  • If an educational requirement set forth by the NCAA is racially motivated, then an even more stringent educational requirement set forth by the NFLPA might be considered in the same light.
  • The NFLPA represents approximately 2000 players and more than 60% of them are Black.
  • The elected head of the NFLPA – DeMaurice Smith – is a Black man.
  • I have difficulty getting my mind wrapped around the idea that the NFLPA should be thought of as somehow “deficient” on issues along a racial dimension.

Enough serious stuff; let me switch gears to a topic that is monumentally unimportant.  I speak here of the NFL Exhibition Season which got started last night – – assuming that you paid no significant attention to the Hall of Fame Game last week.  The games are meaningless, and the first game of the Exhibition Season is meaningless-squared.  The players on the field for most of the snaps are not going to be anywhere near an NFL stadium this Fall – – unless they are in Section 505 Seat 11 having purchased that ticket on StubHub.  Notwithstanding that fact, there are folks who wager on Exhibition Games and it will not be long until there is a way to play daily fantasy sports on Exhibition Games.

In reality, the only reason to pay attention to these games is an almost ghoulish one.  Players get injured in pro football games – and practices – and injuries to key players or to players who are important fixtures on a team’s depth chart can have a significant negative effect on that team’s regular season record.  For that reason, I scan the “gamers” written by reporters who were at the Exhibition Games.

Occasionally, there is an Exhibition Game without a disastrous injury that merits a second look.  Last night’s game between the Giants and the Jets fit that category:

  • LeVeon Bell has not been in a football game for about 18 months.  He did not touch the football in last night’s game either.
  • Eli Manning made a cameo appearance throwing 1 pass for 3 yards.
  • Daniel Jones went 5 for 5 for 67 yards and 1 TD in the game.

Oh yeah; the Giants won the game 31-22 – – as if that matters.

Finally, here is an observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The Oakland City Council voted to not collect a parcel tax this year.

“Apparently the city overflowed its coffers in 2018 just from the Raiders mailing it in.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



5 thoughts on “The Rich Paul Rule”

  1. I’ll agree that the degree requirement is a bit hinky. However, let’s remember that an agent is speaking in the role of the player’s attorney during negotiations and so some standards would be useful to make sure the players aren’t being taken for a financial ride.

    So, let’s try these:
    1. Fiduciary training and certification at a minimum, in order to ensure that the player’s interests are placed first. This might also include the fiscal operation of salary caps and the other money considerations that turn up in contracts. How to structure payments will be directly affected and the agent would be the one figuring it out.
    2. Labor and contract law training (not necessarily a JD, but more focused) since that’s what’s being negotiated here. Details are important, so some training and certification on what the various clauses will actually do, or for example how to figure out if a team is sandbagging a player to avoid paying a contractual achievement bonus is what would be most useful IMHO.
    3. Agents will need to be barred from ranking players in competition for roster spots, especially if those are limited. I can’t see how a fiduciary standard would permit picking one over another.

    1. Rugger9:

      It would seem to me that declaring that a certified agent must act as a fiduciary at all times with respect to his/her client would make point #3 moot. That declaration would also seem to demand some evidence of fiducial competencies – – meaning presentation of diplomas and/or passing some sort of test.

  2. MLB and NBPA seems to be more reasonable…. I note the NFL the lawyers give themselves an automatic in… why are they automatically considered qualified? Contract details? What if the guy had specialized in criminal law? Why can’t I hire someone to look one over? Suppose I had a kid who was a star athlete and someone wanted to sign him? I negotiate for him. They come up with a proposed contract. I have my lawyer look it over. He’s on my team, but he isn’t the agent. By the rule they have, sounds like if I have a bachelor’s, and my dad was the dean of Harvard Law, and I have him as a consultant – I am not qualified. But a personal injury lawyer who just graduated IS?

    I recall with Mark Messier his dad was his agent. Don’t recall Doug’s qualifications. Except Mark trusted him.

    1. Ed:

      The players unions here have developed rules for their sports that have been “ratified” or “acceded to” by their memberships. AND, the unions try to represent the best interests of those players – – some unions are more successful than others but they are all on that vector heading.

      The NCAA does not – has not and never will be – an organization devoted to the betterment of the athletes. If anything, the NCAA is about the business of restricting the behaviors of said athletes. Ergo, the NCAA should have exactly no say in anything related to regulating/certifying agents for collegiate athletes.

      There has to be a “family loophole” in all of those certification regulations because some players represent themselves and those players do not meet all of the requirements.

      1. Maybe the related player’s union is where to decide who can be an agent, and (in theory) the union legal shop would provide the necessary legal / financial training.

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