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Division I Council begins study of agent issue

Sports agent Jimmy Sexton told the Division I Leadership Council on Thursday that education is the key to minimizing eligibility problems stemming from student-athletes receiving benefits from agents.

“The only way to solve it is through educating the student-athlete on the right way to do things and what’s in their best interest in the long run,” Sexton said during the meeting at the NCAA Convention. “You have to educate the player. Your pre-med and pre-law students have somebody in place on campus to help them get to the next level. Why not have somebody help your student-athletes get to the next level?”

The Council directed Director of Agents, Gambling and Amateurism Rachel Newman Baker and her staff to return to the Council with concrete examples of what form education of players might take place.

Sexton said the current practice at some institutions of trying to shield student-athletes from any discussions with agents or about becoming a professional athlete was ineffective and didn’t address the reality faced by many incoming student-athletes who believe their future lies in the professional ranks. Attempting to keep student-athletes sheltered keeps only the most scrupulous agents away, Sexton said, and also harms the credibility of the institution with the student-athlete who believes he will be a professional athlete sooner rather than later.

Educating student-athletes about their draft potential, about the process and about agent contact and benefits will go a long way toward reducing some of the eligibility issues faced by Division I schools in recent months, Sexton believes, and will build credibility with younger players who may or may not have the talent to make the jump to the professional level.

The Council also requested that the Amateurism Cabinet study two concepts that could end up as legislative changes: a broadening of the definition of agents to include “any person (including, but not limited to, a contract advisor, financial planner, marketing representative, runner or individual who is employed or associated with that person) who (1) represents directly or indirectly, any individual in the marketing of his/her athletics ability or reputation or (2) seeks to represent or gain financially.”

While the Council didn’t believe the wording was a perfect fit, members supported the concept of broadening the definition of agents. According to Baker, these third parties often attach themselves to prospective student-athletes early in their athletics career – sometimes years before they reach a college campus – in order to establish trust and build a relationship that will pay off when the student-athlete turns professional. Because these third parties don’t negotiate contracts with professional teams, they rarely trigger NCAA agent legislation and are not accountable to the NCAA, professional leagues, professional players’ associations or state government agencies

The Council also asked that the cabinet continue to examine the concept of creating a detailed agent registry operated by the NCAA. The registry would help schools identify which agents are working within the rules and could serve as an incentive for agents to follow NCAA legislation.

Though the idea of a contact calendar for agents did not receive broad support, the cabinet is likely to continue investigating possibilities in that area.

In other business, the Council also began its examination of the men’s basketball recruiting model, hearing presentations from various constituencies. Members heard from Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe, representing the Collegiate Commissioners Association; Jim Haney, National Association of Basketball Coaches; Floyd Keith, Black Coaches and Administrators; Jim Tenopir, National Federation of State High School Associations; and Neil Dougherty, iHoops.

 The discussion began when the CCA asked the Board to eliminate summer recruiting, a proposal that did not carry the day but prompted the Board to ask the Leadership Council to study the issue. At Thursday’s meeting, the Council heard a variety of viewpoints, sometimes contradicting each other. Dougherty and others talked about the connection between APR and recruiting – APRs could improve if coaches could make more informed recruiting decisions, they assert.

The Council will take all the viewpoints into account when composing recommendations, and the members will continue to consult with the stakeholders they heard from Thursday and others that will appear at meetings later this year.

The Council will continue to consider the men’s basketball recruiting issue, with an eye toward making recommendations to the Board of Directors later this year.