On June 17, 2011, the NCAA released an educational column discussing sports agent issues at the NCAA Division III level. This column was not intended to be an official or staff interpretation but rather should be used to assist member institutions in understanding legislation that may be considered a “hot topic.” This column should serve as a reminder to Division III institutions that amateurism legislation regarding sports agents are an important component of rules-education and monitoring at the Division III level and will be enforced by the NCAA Enforcement staff. The following highlights some of the major points Division III institutions should take from this column:
Professional Sports Contracts: “Prior to initial full-time enrollment in a collegiate institution, it is permissible for a prospective student-athlete to sign a contract to play professional sports, as long as the prospective student-athlete does not receive more than, or the contract does not promise more than, his or her actual and necessary expenses to participate. Once an individual becomes a student-athlete, however, it is no longer permissible to sign a professional contract. Any student-athlete who signs a professional contract in a sport immediately loses his or her NCAA eligibility in that sport.”
Sports Agents: “Although entering into a professional sports contract is permitted before an individual becomes a student-athlete, it is never permissible for an individual to use an agent to market his or her athletics ability before or after becoming a student-athlete.”
Prohibited Interactions with Sports Agents: “Contracts for representation. If a prospective student-athlete or a current student-athlete has agreed (orally or in writing) to be represented by an agent for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation, he or she is ineligible in that sport. If an individual agrees to a general contract with an agent that does not specify a particular sport, the contract will apply to all sports and the individual will be ineligible to participate in any NCAA sport. Receipt of benefits. A student-athlete (or his or her relatives or friends) will lose his or her eligibility if he or she accepts transportation or other benefits from an agent. This rule applies even in situations where there is not an agreement, regardless of whether the agent is interested in representing the student-athlete and regardless of whether the agent represents individuals in the student-athlete’s sport.”
Professional Sports Counseling Panels: “For those student-athletes who are interested in pursuing professional careers after they conclude their NCAA eligibility, there is still the opportunity to receive advising. The institution’s president or chancellor (or a designee external to the athletics department) may appoint and oversee an institutional professional sports counseling panel to advise student-athletes on their options for post-collegiate professional careers.”
In light of these issues, The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm recommends that Division III institutions: a) enhance the institution’s current rules-education program for all relevant parties to include educational materials relating to sports agents, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisors; b) establish a sports agent, sports marketer, financial planner and investment advisor registration and monitoring program; c) review institutional policies and procedures regarding sports agents and related amateurism legislation; and d) establish a professional sports counseling panel under the direction of the institution’s president or chancellor.
NOTE: The bylaws referenced in this column fall under NCAA Division III Bylaw 12.3 (Use of Agents).