We are just over a month since the NFLPA repealed the "Junior Rule" that limited agent contact until after the players' junior year in college. That was a great move by the organization designed to protect the best interest of the players. They recognized that legal agent activity was not the problem and by putting restrictions on the dialogue they were hurting good agents and helping those who already chose to operate off the grid.
While the NCAA has done nothing in response to the Junior Rule's repeal, one school most certainly has decided to step up their policy and regulations. According to Rand Getlin of Yahoo! the University of Miami has taken the junior rule and turned it into the all eligibility rule.
The University of Miami has a new "football agent policy" which bars athletes from communicating with agents until their eligibility expires.
— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) May 8, 2012
So, the NFLPA goes one way; opens up access and allows for on the record, on the books interaction with football players as they start their careers in order for the process to benefit all parties positively. Meanwhile, Miami decides to go the opposite way and cut off their players for their entire career. Getlin has the pictures of the policy posted here, here and here. If you can't read it. here is the "General Rule" text:
A football student-athlete (or his/her family member) shall not have in-person contact, telephone communication, text message communication, electronic (email) correspondence, written correspondence, communication via a social networking site, and/or contact/communication by any other means with covered individuals before the student-athlete finishes his college football eligibility. Exceptions to this rule may be granted by the Department of Athletics. A student-athlete seeking an exception to this rule must submit the request to the Head Football Coach. a committee including, but not limited to, the Director of Athletics (or designee), Head Football Coach (or designee), and the Associate Athletic Director for Compliance (or designee) will consider the request and render a decision.
Before you get into the whole "but what about the Shapiro situation" talk. I get it. What Miami has done is construct a rule in the hopes of fostering an environment where agents are discouraged from talking to their players and players are discouraged from talking to agents. It's a catch-all designed to insulate the university and cover their behinds.
A couple of different issues here. For one, the Junior Rule was repealed because it was not stopping bad guys from weaseling their way into the players' lives. This has those same pitfalls. People who know and/or respect the rule are not the problem. People without a respect or care for the rule are the issue. The same people who have already been breaking the rule to begin with. Business as usual if you will; except now it just got extremely difficult for a reputable agent to build a relationship with a player prior to the end of his senior season.
We've talked about this here before, there needs to be a more transparent and glasnost policy in-place when it comes to dealing with agents. To Miami's credit, even in enacting this terrible policy overall, they do have a provision to allow for meetings, which we'll comment on later. These meetings have to happen. Players have to feel comfortable with their agent choice. Get things out on the table. Whether that's a check in policy with the university for meetings, agents listing targets to university and/or NFLPA or players listing agents they have spoken to and with whom they are speaking.
That needs to be out on the table. It needs to be on the table for the schools to know who their kids are dealing with. It needs to be out on the table for states to be able to prosecute agents that violate their state legislation on sports agents. It needs to be on the table to make it more difficult for those operating in the shadows to compete with better agents who are not scared to operate in the light.
I want that to happen. I do not want runners and shady marketing agents giving kids bad advice about leaving early. I do not want a guy robbing a kid out of his eligibility by tossing empty promises.
As for Miami's provision to allow meetings:
Further, they dictate that any meetings w/ a "covered individual" must be held in the athletic department with the HC and AD in attendance.
— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) May 8, 2012
I'm not too keen on it. Getting permission is one thing. That absolutely helps compliance keep track of what's going on and can protect the player so that they are dealing with reputable business people. Having the head coach and athletic director there does not sit well with me. Not because an agent needs to operate in secrecy but because a client-agent relationship is about the two of them. How they fit. If the player wants the coach there, by all means the coach should show up. However, the coach is not living with that decision, that's a player-agent and player-family decision and should be treated as such.
Perhaps you don't buy the whole client-agent relationship deal, then let's talk logistics. Miami had six guys leave early this season. Six players that need agents. Six players that need to talk to their agents. Six players that need their waivers to be allowed to talk to their agents. Six players that need their head coach and athletic director to be present each time they talk to an agent prior to making that final decision of not returning to school.
That means these guys either have to forfeit their eligibility up front and then go agent hunting; or they have to go through the process each time they talk to an agent prior to when they finally pull the trigger and decide the NFL is their next step. Certainly there are players who know they are leaving and will decide to declare and never look back. Other players like to wait until the deadline and weigh their options.
Deadline is mid-January folks. College football coaches are busy in mid-January, and it most certainly is not with meeting with players to talk to an agent so the player can retain his eligibility. Agents are busy, and it most certainly is not with trying to organize their schedule around when a coach and an athletic director can sit down and talk to him and a potential client who is on the fence about leaving. Let's not even get into the athletic director's schedule here.
Through this policy Miami is making things more difficult, not better. This is not even the proverbial band-aid on a bullet-hole. This is swerving to the shoulder and then yanking the wheel into on-coming traffic, an over-correction. They are drawing up a plan that looks good to those who buy into the "agents are bad" meme. In doing so they are also cutting out their players from making use of a valuable opportunity afforded to every college football player in the nation.
It is shortsighted and reactionary. A rule like this does not serve to help the good agents build relationships with Miami's players. It most certainly does not "scare off" the unscrupulous individuals who got The U in the mess they are in now. At best it is a measure to scare their own players. It should not be about scaring, it should be about educating, putting their kids in a comfortable position to be successful and giving them the tools to make informed decisions. After all, more information in a live-changing process is a good thing.