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Posted under: News

NCAA Backtracks On 'Rich Paul Rule' After Weeks Of Criticism From NBA Stars

The NCAA changed parts of its new rules after dozens of the NBA's biggest names criticized the organization.

Update (August 12, 2019): The NCAA announced on Monday it was changing parts of the new ‘Rich Paul' rules after a week of universal criticism from NBA stars, agents and even academics.

In a statement released Monday morning, the NCAA denied the rules were targeting Rich Paul but made changes that would allow him to represent college players.

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

“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.”

Last Tuesday, the NCAA set off a firestorm when it released a new set of guidelines aimed at controlling who can become an agent for college players. 

The rules set a number of new benchmarks that agents have to meet, the most notable of which was the need for a bachelor’s degree.

LeBron James and dozens of NBA stars called the new rules “elitist” and said it was a blatant attempt to keep out successful Black agents like Rich Paul. 

Six hours before the NCAA announced the changes, Paul finally spoke up about the rules. In an op-ed published on The Athletic, Paul said he welcomed the new rules but found the degree stipulation petty and arbitrary.

“I actually support requiring three years of experience before representing a kid testing the market. I can even get behind passing a test. However, requiring a four-year degree accomplishes only one thing — systematically excluding those who come from a world where college is unrealistic,” he wrote.

“The harmful consequences of this decision will ricochet onto others who are trying to break in. 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.”

He added that if the NCAA truly wants to protect kids involved in the process of professional sports, they need to help foster a new generation of agents instead of shutting them out.

“The barriers to entry for the next Rich Paul are already high enough. When I travel back to neighborhoods like the inner city of Greater Cleveland where I’m from, young black kids tell me that they see my career as another path for them out of their troubled surroundings. They want to grow up to do what I do. That inspires me. So if the NCAA is invested both in helping young people get the education they need and in supporting student-athletes, like they claim, then we are on common ground,” he said.

“Does anyone really believe a four-year degree is what separates an ethical person from a con artist?”

Original: LeBron James and dozens of NBA stars, reporters and legal analysts have slammed the NCAA for a new set of rules designed to keep certain agents away from college hoop stars. 

The controversy started when news leaked on Tuesday of brand new guidelines governing agents who wanted to work with NCAA athletes.

The tweet set off a firestorm because it seemed to be directly aimed at Rich Paul, the 37-year-old agent and best friend of James.

Paul, who did not go to college, founded Klutch Sports Group and is now one of the league's most successful and powerful agents. He is currently the agent for James, Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons, Draymond Green and John Wall.

James led the charge in bashing the NCAA for the new rules.

Paul has made waves in NBA circles for bucking the larger sports agencies and pushing his clients to flex their power over NBA teams. He helped former high school five-star recruit Darius Bazley make the decision to skip college and train while being paid $1 million by New Balance.

The decision angered NCAA coaches and officials, who were even more incensed when Bazley was drafted into the NBA in June.

The new NCAA rules were criticized by analysts as having deep racial implications. The NCAA has tried to imply that many of the advisers to future NBA stars are predatory and rules were needed to protect students.

But others have said the moves are designed to give NCAA coaches more power over players while keeping out successful, self-made agents like Paul.

The NCAA released a statement on Wednesday evening addressing the scandal and reiterating their stance that they are trying to protect their players.

“Although some can and have been successful without a college degree, as a higher education organization, the NCAA values a college education and continues to emphasize the importance of earning a degree," they wrote. 

“With this in mind, we benchmarked our new rules against requirements for other organizations that certify agents, like the NBPA, which also requires agents to have a bachelor’s degree. While different and distinct, our rules taken together, which is the manner they were meant to be examined, provide a clear opportunity for our student-athletes to receive excellent advice from knowledgeable professionals on either the college or professional path they choose.”

Legal analysts have already said Paul could easily sue the NCAA and win the case because the new rules clearly violate dozens of federal laws.

Other NBA officials tried to say the rules were designed to protect players who were not surrounded by smart, competent people like Paul.

The situation has brought renewed skepticism and anger toward the NCAA, which has spent years doing similar things in an effort to keep control of players in their system.

"Elitist and paternalistic, controlling and confused, the NCAA has come up with some new rules ... really this speaks more toward the general feeling in college athletics that elite basketball players are dumb rubes who need to be protected…and anything that helps college coaches (who make millions off of them) control the process (and possibly keep them from the NBA) is a good thing," said Yahoo Sports Columnist Dan Wetzel.

"The bachelor’s degree requirement alone is illogical. Getting a diploma has no correlation to whether someone can be a good agent, particularly whether someone can gather accurate draft information, which is the skill that is most germane to this situation. It also doesn't signify business ethics. Neither does passing some test or having seven years of housing history or experience with the NBPA. There are an untold number of shady agents who had a wall full of degrees inside their lavish homes that bilked clients for money."

In dozens of tweets since Tuesday, James has defended Paul and highlighted the discriminatory nature of the new NCAA rules. Others have said the rule is ridiculous because it would keep out hundreds of NBA players who did not graduate college, deeming them not worthy enough to give advice to college players about the league.

"Whatever you think of an agent like Rich Paul, the suggestion he would be more qualified if he had a bachelor's degree is ludicrous. Life/work experience is what makes a good agent," said Sports Illustrated Basketball Analyst Chris Mannix.

"Would all agents be better if they took economics classes and spent four years playing beer pong?"

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