LeBron James' Agent Rich Paul Rips NCAA's New Rule for Systemic Control

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29: Sports Agent Rich Paul is seen during the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Charlotte Hornets on March 29, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)
Chris Elise/Getty Images

Agent Rich Paul wrote an op-ed piece in The Athletic on Monday, ripping the NCAA for its new rule requiring players to hire agents with a four-year degree in order to test NBA waters and maintain their eligibility.

Paul, who does not have a four-year degree, says the rule will prevent people like him—those from disadvantaged backgrounds and people of color—from taking an alternative path to representing players. 

"Requiring a four-year degree accomplishes only one thing — systematically excluding those who come from a world where college is unrealistic," Paul wrote. "Does anyone really believe a four-year degree is what separates an ethical person from a con artist?

"Let’s also be clear that once the NCAA requires a four-year degree for athletes 'testing the waters,' it’s only a matter of time until this idea is socialized, no longer questioned, and then more broadly applied. We all know how this works. Unfair policy is introduced incrementally so people accept it because it only affects a small group. Then the unfair policy quietly evolves into institutional policy. I’m not sure what the technical term is for that because I didn’t finish college but I know it when I see it."

Paul, who got his start representing close friend LeBron James, has become one of the more powerful agents in the business. His clients include Anthony Davis, John Wall and Ben Simmons, among others. 

Paul said he did not know whether his representation of Darius Bazley played a factor in the new NCAA rule. Bazley chose to forgo college in favor of a $1 million internship at New Balance set up by Paul, which allowed him to train for the 2019 NBA draft, where he was the No. 23 overall pick. Many have speculated the NCAA put that rule in place because of the Bazley situation.

However, the NCAA did make Paul an exception to its new rule, which also forces agents to have three years of experience and complete testing at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. Paul said his concern is for the futures of people like him taking an alternative path. 

"Respectfully, how do four years studying sports marketing in a classroom make you more qualified to represent a kid than working at Klutch Sports Group or for an NBA front office; or at any other entrepreneurial business for that matter? All this will do is exclude the agents whose life experience helps them understand the needs of many of these players best," Paul wrote.

The NCAA has said these rules have been put into place for the protection of the student-athletes. Looking at it from Paul's perspective, it's easy to see why he views it as gatekeepers trying to keep him and people like him on the outside. 

"No matter what the NCAA does, I want young men and women no matter their color or background to know that this shouldn’t discourage them from aspiring to be in this profession," Paul wrote. "Continue to strive for greatness, the marathon of life will continue."