Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Football Agents: Back on Campus

After almost five years, the NFLPA decided to rescind the “Junior Rule” yesterday. This rule, enacted and enforced by the NFLPA, specified that agents were not allowed to contact a college player until after their junior year—specifically, either after their last regular season or conference championship game or December 1st, whichever came later. Since the NFL’s CBA requires that three regular seasons have completed before a player may be drafted, the intent was to reduce unnecessary contact between draft ineligible student-athletes and agents.

In theory, this rule made sense; in practice it became an unbridled disaster for the industry. The competition to sign student-athletes is fierce and this rule became a wedge between agents who completely ignored it and those who tried to follow the law. Unfortunately for the NFLPA and their agents, since contact with a student-athlete is not prohibited by the NCAA, by and large student-athletes and institutions neither cared about nor enforced this rule.

The result was that agents were forced to decide between abiding by this rule or losing potential clients to their competitors who largely ignored this prohibition. Furthermore, even if agents themselves decided to follow the law, they skirted its intent by hiring runners or representatives to recruit for them. Since the NFLPA has no jurisdiction over anyone not certified by the union, the industry saw an explosion of runners who descended on college campuses across the country.

Yesterday, the NFLPA, by a vote of the player representatives, rescinded the “Junior Rule.” What this means is that schools across the country must be even more prepared to educate their student-athletes. The good news is that the game has changed from enforcement to education. The bad news, how many schools take educating student-athletes in this transition process seriously?

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