Yesterday, the NFLPA made a smart move to repeal the "Junior Rule" that barred agents from talking to college football players prior to the completion of their third year of college.
Smart is the best way to describe the move, as it was largely a useless method of stopping legitimate agents from contacting collegiate players prior to just months before the NFL draft.
This is a rule that was implemented in 2007 after the Reggie Bush situation caught fire and, in the grand scheme of things, it is a rule created out of panic. Not out of necessity.
Now, there are groups of people out there that would have you believe that the repealing of this rule will lead to utter chaos in the college football world. Those folks should do a little homework.
Football's the only sport that has this rule. Basketball players don't contend with it. Sure, they have the option of leaving after year one, but the point remains that as players come back for additional seasons they know where they stand with agents.
Want a more direct parallel? Look to college baseball and their policy on agents.
Players can have advisors and remain in contact with said advisor at no penalty, so long as benefits do not change hands. College baseball players, like football players, cannot leave until after their junior year.
No, baseball isn't an NCAA revenue sport, but you know what baseball is? A sport where draft picks make bank. Agents don't care about how much money you're making the college, they care about how much money you can make them at the next level.
Baseball players have utilized this system for a while because there is clarity and openness in the process. Two things that football does not have.
With the covered up policy of football, especially with the junior rule, it has only served to do one thing; push more agent dealings underground.
Agent has become a dirty word. They're slimy, creepy bad guys that just want to ruin your college football program and can do no good for the athletes. The rule helped give rise to the very groups it was designed to protect against—runners and marketing agents and agent recruiters.
The repeal of this rule is not about opening up the floodgates for agents to bop around campuses and hobnob with players. The rule is being lifted to allow for better monitoring and coverage of the agents by the NFLPA.
Instead of agents feeling like they need to get the jump on younger players by sending out runners and recruiters, now they can be up front and open with who they are attempting to talk about future business with.
Now the ball is in the NCAA's court. They can opt to push their lazy but effective "agents are bad" rhetoric, or they can actually step up and do some good for the athletes and the institutions.
Odds are, because they are the NCAA, they will continue to toe the "agents are bad" company line. It is easier and plenty of fans and media types have bought into that line of thinking. What they should do is step up to the plate, the way coaches around the nation already have.
Coaches understand how integral agents are to the process of the NFL Draft. There's a reason all of the major schools bring agents in to talk to their players and let them know what is and is not standard practice. There's a reason coaches help vet agents for their athletes.
The process is difficult, and what the NCAA asks is for the players to have no relationship with an agent then sign up to one in December and early January for training to kickoff for the draft. That's a quick turnaround, especially when the player's future is at stake.
The practice of banning agents from talking to players and building a relationship, establishing a rapport, so that players can make a smart decision serves to further the "agents are bad" meme.
If looking out for the best interest is the goal, the NCAA needs to regulate, take an open approach to these dealings instead of giving an advantage to agents who resort to runners to recruit players prior to the open talks period.
But, alas, it is the NCAA. An organization that doesn't exactly do the jobs they have now very well.
Perhaps the unwillingness to try a more glasnost approach just seems like too much work, what with all the paperwork and having to actually monitor dealings instead of hoping a runner slips up or gets upset with a player who doesn't pick his agent.
We are talking about the future of the players the NCAA is supposed to have a vested interest in protecting. The move should be to help them get more information, but given the NCAA's policies and practices the NFLPA's move will likely do nothing to help the situation.
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