Rich Paul says NCAA's new agent restrictions target 'young people from less prestigious backgrounds'

Rich Paul railed hard against the new NCAA rule that has unofficially taken his name in an unlocked op-ed for The Athletic released Monday morning.

Paul, an NBA agent who founded Klutch Sports Group and represents LeBron James, called out the “harmful consequences” of the NCAA’s decision to require agents advising prospective NBA players to have a college degree.

Paul: NCAA locking out kids without resources, opportunity

Paul, who does not have a college degree, wrote that the NCAA “should be called out” for a rule that’s “harmful consequences” will “ricochet onto others who are trying to break in.” He writes that the barriers of entry into the sports agent world are high enough, especially for young people of color in low income neighborhoods.

NCAA executives are once again preventing young people from less prestigious backgrounds, and often people of color, from working in the system they continue to control. In this case, the people being locked out are kids who aspire to be an agent and work in the NBA and do not have the resources, opportunity, or desire to get a four-year degree.

The NCAA was immediately criticized for its new guidelines released last week for agents representing players considering entering the NBA draft. Per the NCAA, agents must now take a test, be certified at least three years, and have a bachelor’s degree.

Paul writes that requiring a four-year degree for an agent only accomplishes 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?

The average cost of tuition and fees for an in-state, public school was $9,716 last school year, according to the U.S. News & World Report. It rises to nearly $22,000 per year for a public out-of-state school.

That doesn’t include room and board, other essentials and contributing to the family finances. Not all schools offer a sports marketing program, which can further complicate getting a degree and putting it to use.

Paul would rather see prospective agents work in an NBA front office, sports agency or even other business to gain first-hand experience rather than sit in a classroom for four years to get a piece of paper.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 21: Agent Rich Paul attends a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on February 21, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
Agent Rich Paul wrote an op-ed for The Athletic explaining why the NCAA's new rules don't make sense and 'lock out' those with fewer opportunity. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Paul: Matter of time before idea applied broadly

A career requiring a degree for entry is not a new phenomenon, and the concerns of locking people out are similar to Paul’s regarding the NCAA. In his op-ed, he warned that the idea will be “socialized, no longer questioned, and then more broadly applied” in a short amount of time.

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.

Paul writes he does support the protocol that requires three years of experience. And he offers alternative ways for the NCAA to make sure athletes looking to jump into the NBA have a quality agent representing them.

NCAA, James and players at odds

Lakers superstar James took issue the day of the announcement with what he called the “The Rich Paul Rule.”

He wrote on Twitter the NCAA was “BIG MAD and Scared” with fitting emojis.

The NCAA released a statement the day after its announcement saying it “values a college education and continues to emphasize the importance of earning a degree.”

It also handed blame over to the Commission on College Basketball, which it said gave the NCAA recommendations.

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