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The ‘Rich Paul Rule’ is another misguided attempt by the NCAA to control something it shouldn’t be controlling

I’m sure the NCAA official in charge of sending out the memo on Monday to inform agents of a new certification process thought it would be a little story, if it were a story at all, and that it would probably frustrate a few agents, and a couple of talking heads, and that would be that. But nobody is worse at properly gauging how decisions and rule-changes will be received, or at anticipating public-relations nightmares, than NCAA officials. So here we are once again — thanks, in part, to LeBron James.

Yep, The King took some time away from his family’s Taco Tuesday celebration to label the NCAA’s new certification process (for agents to represent players testing the waters of the NBA Draft) as #TheRichPaulRule because one of the requirements is that agents must have a bachelor’s degree — and his agent, Rich Paul, does not. So LeBron tweeted and got things rolling. Then Kevin Hart, the comedian, jumped on board. Then Chris Paul, the future Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer, chimed in. Combined, those three men have a Twitter following of 86.6 million people. So, unsurprisingly, #TheRichPaulRule started trending nationally. And, just like that, the NCAA was taking another very public beating.

On Taco Tuesday, of all days.

Now, to be clear, I don’t necessarily believe this change is designed to minimize Rich Paul — mostly because the mega-agent is a big-game hunter who rarely pursues the type of clients who are merely testing the waters. But to focus on that is to miss the point entirely — specifically that this is another unnecessary move by the NCAA to further restrict, and control, basketball players with the justification being that the NCAA is just trying to save them from themselves.

It’s insulting, really.

No, the NCAA hasn’t yet released a statement explaining the change. But if I know the NCAA like I think I know the NCAA, the explanation will be that people without bachelor’s degrees are more likely to be the sketchy characters who are taking advantage of student-athletes and leading them in bad directions. In theory, I get why somebody with little understanding for the inner-workings of college basketball might think such is true. But what this approach ignores is the fact that every person who was arrested in September 2017 for accepting bribes to steer players to unscrupulous characters was a man with a bachelor’s degree. In other words, a bachelor’s degree doesn’t guarantee somebody is ethical or guided by a moral compass. And it also doesn’t prove somebody is equipped to provide good advice to a player about whether he should stay in, or withdraw from, the NBA Draft. So the NCAA drawing a line here is undeniably ridiculous.

And spare me “the NCAA is just trying to protect the players” crap.

That’s utter nonsense.

Contrary to how some like to frame it, these players are not “kids.” They’re young adults. And the NCAA suggesting these young adults are incapable of making good decisions without restrictions is, again, insulting. Which, of course, doesn’t mean some players won’t make bad decisions — like staying in the draft when they should probably return to school, or signing with an agent who might do them wrong in various ways. But, to quote my friend Dan Wetzel, so what? Young adults from coast to coast in this country make bad decisions all the time. They drop out of school to join a band that’s going nowhere. They throw away a scholarship to chase an acting career that will never exist. They marry the wrong girl. Or the wrong guy. They use their savings to open a lame bar that’ll never turn a profit. They buy a brand-new BMW they cannot afford because it costs roughly what they make in a year.

That last one was me, by the way.

I was a young adult, fresh out of college, with a great fresh-out-of-college job. But it was not the type of job that should’ve had me buying a luxury vehicle. So my parents tried to talk me out of it. But they failed. So I bought the BMW, crippled myself financially, and realized pretty quickly it was a pretty stupid mistake.

But guess what?

It was my mistake to make. It wasn’t anybody’s job, or right, to prevent me from making it. I was old enough to make bad decisions on my own. So why the NCAA thinks it should be in a position to prevent other of-age people from possibly making similar bad decisions is beyond comprehension — except, you know, the NCAA has made billions of dollars over the years thanks to a system that’s designed to restrict student-athletes in ways most outsiders deem unfair, and this is just the latest attempt to restrict more.

Honestly, nobody should be surprised.

More than anything, it’s about control.

The NCAA wants to forever control the people it calls amateurs but treats like assets. That’s the long and short of it. But what’s hilarious about this change is that it won’t actually prevent players from dealing with uncertified agents without bachelor’s degrees. It’ll just push everything back below the table, which was the problem the NCAA was trying to eliminate in the first place.

Bottom line, what a mess.

In an attempt to control something it should not be controlling — i.e., whom a player relies on to help guide him through the draft process — the NCAA has for the bazillionth time created something that is universally panned, a public-relations blunder and destined to be challenged by somebody, perhaps Rich Paul himself.

Bravo, geniuses.

Once again, you’ve fixed nothing.

Once again, you’ve solved no problems.

Once again, you should be embarrassed and, yes, ashamed.


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