NCAA reverses course on 'Rich Paul Rule', says bachelor's degree not required for agents

Yahoo Sports

The NCAA has already adjusted what quickly became known as the “Rich Paul Rule.”

Last week, the NCAA instituted new rules for basketball agents who could represent college players considering becoming professionals. The rules required the agents to be NCAA-certified, a qualification that controversially included having a bachelor’s degree.

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LeBron James was quick to call out the NCAA (and did so again after Monday’s news), saying that it singled out Paul, one of the game’s most powerful agents. Paul, who does not have a bachelor’s degree, represents James and other NBA stars like Anthony Davis, John Wall and Ben Simmons.

The response to the rule was overwhelmingly negative, and even Paul himself responded, saying in a piece published on The Athletic that the agent restrictions target “young people from less prestigious backgrounds.”

On Monday, the NCAA reversed course by saying that student-athletes can be represented by agents who “have a bachelor’s degree and/or are currently certified and in good standing with the NBA Players Association.” Translation: a bachelor’s degree is not required.

To represent prospective pros, agents also must have NBPA certification for a minimum of three consecutive years, maintain professional liability insurance, complete an NCAA qualification exam and pay required fees.

The NCAA quickly reversed course on a rule that required agents to have a bachelor's degree. (Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The NCAA quickly reversed course on a rule that required agents to have a bachelor's degree. (Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

NCAA: ‘Specific individuals not considered’ when making rule

In a press release, the NCAA said it did not consider “specific individuals” — presumably in reference to Paul — when it formulated its initial rules. The NCAA said it amended its criteria after being “made aware” of agents who have “appropriately represented” players despite not having a bachelor’s degree.

“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. “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.

“While specific individuals were not considered when developing our process, we respect the NBPA’s determination of qualification and have amended our certification criteria.”

In recent years, the NCAA instituted rules that allowed college basketball players to explore professional options, including working out for and receiving feedback from NBA teams, before ultimately deciding whether or not to return to school. More recent changes allowed players to align themselves with an agent and still have the option to return to school. Previously, any affiliation with an agent would jeopardize a player’s NCAA eligibility.

“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.”

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