John Clay

The NCAA just can’t stop itself from making crazy rules

It’s almost to the point now where we’d almost feel sorry for one of the nation’s most tone-deaf institutions, aka the NCAA. Well, we would feel that way except for the fact that, well, it’s the NCAA.

The latest example came Monday. That’s when the powers that be in Indianapolis issued a memo outlining new guidelines for agents who wish to represent underclassmen who are trying to make an informed decision about whether to enter and remain in the NBA Draft. ESPN obtained a copy of the memo. A story was published. The howling began.

“They big MAD and scared,” tweeted LeBron James.

“This is crazy,” tweeted Chris Paul.

It’s not just crazy. From the NCAA’s end, it’s another calculated power grab from an entity that surely feels its power slipping away. Just one year after finally allowing agents to counsel underclassmen, the NCAA is adding restrictions such as NBA Players Association certification for at least three years, professional liability insurance, completion of an in-person exam taken at the NCAA office and, last but not least, a bachelor’s degree.

That’s what caught the eye of most interested parties. After all, one of the most successful NBA agents is Rich Paul, recent Sports Illustrated cover subject and a longtime associate of James who owns Klutch Sports Group. Paul represents James, Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons and Draymond Green, among others. Paul does not, however, own a college degree.

Thus under the new rule, one of the most successful and influential agents in the business would not be allowed to share his expertise with so-called student-athletes making one of the biggest decisions of their lives. How does that make sense?

“#RichPaulRule,” tweeted James, adding. “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop! They Big MAD and scared. Nothing will stop this movement and culture over here. Sorry! Not sorry.”

I’m all for getting your college degree, but Steve Jobs didn’t have a college degree. Neither did Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s. Neither does Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Ted Turner Michael Dell. Neither did Abraham Lincoln. “Too bad Honest Abe wasn’t qualified to advise a basketball player,” tweeted ESPN’s Jay Bilas on Wednesday.

“Some life experiences are as valuable, if not more, than diplomas,” tweeted Chris Paul. “Y’all need to rethink this process.”

So what’s really going on here? Simple. Public pressure has forced the NCAA to come down off its high horse with regard to restricting player empowerment, but only grudgingly. This is another example. OK, the NCAA is saying, we’ll let underclassmen hire agents, but it’s going to be on our terms and we’re going to make it as difficult as possible.

Never mind what’s in the best interest of the student-athlete. In a perfect world, all college basketball players would be eligible for the NBA Draft. If you don’t want to play in the NBA, you can withdraw your name. If you don’t withdraw your name, but go undrafted, you can return to school and continue your college basketball career. Simple as that. You know, the way the real world operates.

But in the real world, of course, the people who are generating the money would get paid for their efforts. That’s not the antiquated NCAA model. And college athletic programs have more money now than ever before. Look at the salaries. Look at the facilities. Look at the number of athletic department personnel.

Here’s a small thing. At previous UK Football Media Days, attending media members filled out a name tag that they then stuck to their clothing. At this year’s Media Day, attending media members received a hard plastic media credential, complete with lanyard.

As former LSU safety Eric Reid tweeted abut the school’s new luxurious football locker room: “But there’s no money to compensate these young men for the revenue they bring to the school. #JustSaying.”

Making the draft process easier would put power in the hands of the players, something that has already happened in the NBA, thanks to agents like Rich Paul.

And that’s the last thing the NCAA wants.

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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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