I was recently interviewed by Steve Silver of The Legal Blitz, on the topic of agents and advisors in amateur hockey. Here is an except from the interview:
It is my understanding that the NCAA has a flat-out agent ban in that student athletes or soon-to-be student athletes can not sign with or have any contact with an agent. Is that correct? What is the policy?
Rule 12.3 of the NCAA Manual covers agents. Student-athletes are prohibited from entering into an agreement, written or oral, with an agent for future representation; accepting transportation or other benefits from any person who represents any other person in the marketing of his or her athletic ability; and accepting transportation or other benefits from an agent who has indicated that he or she has no interest in representing the student-athlete and does not represent athletes in the student-athlete’s particular sport. Student-athletes may receive legal advice from an attorney, so long as that advice does not involve direct negotiations for a professional sports contract with a professional sports team.
If a high school athlete is weighing the option of turning pro vs. going to college, particularly in hockey or baseball, who are they supposed to seek advice from?
Student-athletes can seek advice from parents, former coaches, so-called advisors (providing NCAA rules are not violated) and attorneys. Attorneys, however, may not have contact with the professional sports team to discuss a contract offer.
It seems as if it would be in the best interest of the student-athlete to get professional career advice before making such a huge decision, why is the NCAA against that?
In my opinion, the NCAA is fine with a student-athlete receiving advice. However, the NCAA is extremely protective of the concept of amateurism. Once a student-athlete has an attorney or agent negotiating with a professional team on his or her behalf, the student-athlete’s amateur status is compromised.
The NCAA does permit schools to form a Professional Sports Counseling Panel to assist student-athletes with such decisions. These panels may review proposed contracts, provide advice concerning the purchase of disability insurance, meet with representatives from professional teams and assist the student athlete in the selection of an agent. For example, Warren Zola leads Boston College’s efforts in this area and has been extremely effective in this role.
I do not think that a parent or student-athlete should be negotiating directly with the seasoned negotiators of a professional team. An attorney should handle those negotiations. If the student-athlete and the professional team do not reach an agreement, the student-athlete should be free to compete collegiately. Also, it is problematic that the NCAA limits the extent to which an attorney can advocate on behalf of his or her client, an issue that was discussed in Oliver v. NCAA.
Click here to read the interview in its entirety. Thanks to Steve for a great interview.