In a recently published letter, the agents of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) wrote, “[T]he NCAA Agent Certification process and the rules, regulations, and guidelines surrounding it are needlessly invasive and onerous and are completely counterproductive to meeting the NCAA’s stated purpose in attempting to certify and regulate NBA agents: to protect men’s basketball student-athletes by ensuring that they receive the best possible advice, guidance, and feedback from the most experienced and competent agents in the NBA Pre-Draft process.” The letter continued,

[T]he process itself undermines the ability of student-athletes to truly receive the most competent representation when they are ‘testing the waters.

For years, men’s basketball student-athletes must decide whether to remain in school and continue their education or enter the NBA Draft. Such student-athletes have vastly different agendas and needs from their agents, the NCAA, the NBPA, and the NBA.

The amended agent certification process creates an unnecessary hurdle in a student’s decision-making process and potentially violates agents’ rights.

The new process unreasonably allows the NCAA to obtain the “personal and private information of certified agents.”

For example, during the application process, an agent is required to complete a background check. This, agents contend, “amounts to subpoena power to embark upon investigations that are wholly unrelated to protecting the interests of men’s basketball student-athletes,” dismissing “basic due process rights” and “singl[ing] NBA agents out in a manner that lacks rational justification.”

Such requirements, agents contend, reach beyond protecting “the interests of men’s basketball student-athletes in deciding whether to remain in school or to enter the NBA draft.” Rather, these measures “ignore the realities of the world that student-athletes with professional prospects live in[,] … entrenching an ecosystem that cultivates and fosters an atmosphere of distrust among the student-athletes whom the NCAA is supposed to protect.” Further, many argue, the NCAA does not have the right to make such requirements in the first instance. As Alabama-based attorney Don Jackson stated, “[T]he entity that actually has the responsibility of certifying contract advisers in basketball would be the National Basketball Players Association, not the NCAA.”

The agents end the letter with the following:

  1. NBA agents are not required to adhere to additional certification requirements beyond those imposed by the NBPA.
  2. NBA agents will participate in biannual online seminars centered on preserving the amateur eligibility rights of men’s basketball student-athletes.
  3. NBPA will not agree to the stipulation that an agent can only pay for transportation and lodging when meeting with a student-athlete after that athlete has signed with them, as this requirement harms the ability of men’s basketball student-athletes to thoroughly weigh potential options in making their decision.

Finally, the agents wrote, “the NCAA does not regulate, and has not attempted to regulate, agents in any other sport in this manner.”

In August, the NCAA removed the bachelor’s degree requirement for all prospective agents from its amended agent certification requirements after much backlash. Jackson Lewis attorneys will report on how the NCAA responds to the latest pushback. Please contact us with any questions.

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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.