So the NCAA finally started taking steps in the right direction, albeit imperfectly. They made a few amendments to their player compensation and eligibility rules. Here are the two big changes:
-If an underclassman player goes undrafted in the NBA Draft, they have until the Monday following the draft (about 4 days) to inform their school if they will return and will regain their remaining eligibility, which had been forfeited upon declaration for the draft in years past.
-“Elite” recruits will have the opportunity to sign with NCAA-approved agents.
Now, on the surface, this sounds fantastic. However there are a few kinks that need to be worked out before this can actually become a positive reality. First of all, the NBA has to start allowing players to be drafted out of high school again in order for the agent rule to actually come into effect, which hasn’t happened since Amir Johnson was a second round pick of the Pistons in 2005 (technically 3 players have been drafted since then despite not attending college or playing overseas, however all of them were a year removed from their high school graduation, which is acceptable under the current guidelines). The NCAA will only let players sign with approved agents if they have an opportunity to go to the NBA INSTEAD of the NCAA (the “elite”), which would lead to a bigger decision for the prospect. Go pro now, or go pro later and take some classes? Either way they’ll be making money but they’ll most certainly make more in the NBA, especially given the max contract climate of today’s game. Since players can’t get paid by the university, they’ll only have the endorsement money they get from working with an agent, unlike in the NBA where they’ll get a multi-million-dollar salary on top of those same endorsement deals. It doesn’t change too much but it is a step in the right direction.
However the part I have the most issue with is the term “elite” when talking about which players are allowed to do endorsement deals. Referring to someone as “elite” is about as subjective as you can get and the NCAA has defined this as being players selected by USA Basketball. There’s just one problem: the NCAA announced this without consulting USA Basketball or the NBA, who are reportedly pissed off that the NCAA is throwing these responsibilities on them without their approval. So should the rule come into effect, USA Basketball will have to pick the players who get to sign with agents and those who don’t. And I guarantee you any guy they snub is going to be PISSED, which will just create more tension than there already is amongst the very good players. I don’t understand why everyone can’t just sign with an agent. Besides, what kind of guidelines would they have to put forth? Does the player have to be a 5-star recruit, which is already extremely subjective and not always a great predictor of success? So in that case, using ESPN’s star system, Marvin Bagley would get to sign with an agent but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can’t (he graded as an 89, 1 point away from being a 5-star player). Plus, if that was the case, only about 30 players would’ve gotten to sign with an agent from last year’s class and only around half of them actually got drafted this year.
Also, the verbiage of the agent having to be “approved by the NCAA” seems kind of fishy. A part of me wonders if they’ll only allow players to sign endorsement deals as long as the agent works into the contract that the NCAA gets a cut as well. It does not sit well whatsoever with me and I’d have to see what one of the contracts looks like before I feel comfortable with that. I understand you don’t want a fishy agent representing 18 year-old kids, but you also don’t want a clean agent to be in the NCAA’s back pocket.
The idea that would allow undrafted college basketball players with unused eligibility to return to school is a damn good one and should’ve been in place a long time ago. The 4-day time period to inform their school of their decision feels a little short, however it may become up to the player to consider the possibility of not getting drafted longer and force them to ponder what they would want to do should they not hear their name called by Adam Silver. Maybe they’d prefer to sign as a 2-way undrafted free agent. Maybe they’d prefer to play overseas instead. But at least they’ll have the option to play college hoops again even though the draft didn’t work out yet and refine their skills. It’s better than the alternative, which is putting these kids at a crossroads. I’m sure a lot of them would choose to go back to college and continue to not only play basketball, but continue their degree.
How long these rules take to make it to college football and other college sports is unknown but if these new rules the NCAA has put out are any indication, they’re going to need to work out the kinks before they’re ready to really compensate these players.
Let me know what you think of the new rules in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.