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NCAA responds to criticism over ‘Rich Paul Rule’ by explaining why it wants agents to have a college degree

The NCAA ran head-first into a PR nightmare this week when word leaked about a new and more stringent agent certification process that requires those seeking to represent student-athletes in the NBA Draft process to have attained, among other criteria, a bachelor’s degree and an NBPA certification for at least three years.

The new prerequisites, which were quickly dubbed the “Rich Paul Rule,” were lambasted by LeBron James and other NBA players. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish dubbed the attempt — which the NCAA claimed in a memo to agents as one to “protect the collegiate eligibility of their athlete clients” — as utter nonsense. 

The NCAA issued a response on Wednesday and then an updated response on Thursday loosely acknowledging the new changes to their agent certification process and defending its stance by citing gathered insight from the Condoleezza Rice-led Commission on College Basketball. Here’s the NCAA’s statement with the updated portion in bold:

“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. We were guided by recommendations from the Commission on College Basketball — which spoke with the agent and advisor community — that the NCAA certification process should be more stringent than current processes. 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. We recognize they and others provide discretionary waivers to the degree requirement. 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.”

To go back to what Parrish wrote about the new changes, the new criteria can easily be explained away by the NCAA — a higher education organization standing by higher education — but it doesn’t exactly withstand the test of reason. Having a bachelor’s degree doesn’t guarantee that an individual is any less sketchy or reliable in terms of representing student-athletes. You only have to look as far as the latest college basketball scandal — which was the impetus for the formation of the Commission on College Basketball — to learn as much. 

Even amidst the backlash, though, the NCAA says it is standing by its changes — citing the betterment of the student-athlete experience.