The NCAA Is Requiring NBA Agents to Have Degrees. That’s Stupid.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) shoots against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., March 9, 2019. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)
It is absolutely not worth saddling yourself with extreme, life-limiting debt, especially for the sake of a career where it isn’t even necessary.

The NCAA released a memo to agents on Monday instituting new certification criteria — and one of them was a bachelor’s degree.

The memo, obtained by ESPN, also requires agents to have professional liability insurance and NBPA certification for a minimum of three consecutive years and to have completed an in-person exam at the NCAA office in Indianapolis in early November.

According to ESPN, some people have begun referring to the college requirement as the “Rich Paul Rule” after Rich Paul, who represents NBA stars including LeBron James, Ben Davis, and Anthony Simmons. Paul started working with James shortly after high school and never graduated from college. The new rule would mean that Paul couldn’t represent any of the new underclassmen trying to enter the draft.

The measure has proven to be controversial, but the NCAA released a statement defending it on Wednesday.

“Although some can and have been successful without a college degree, as a higher education organization, the NCAA values a college education and continues to emphasize the importance of earning a degree,” it states. “We were guided by recommendations from the Commission on College Basketball — which spoke with the agent and advisor community — that the NCAA certification process should be more stringent than current processes.”

Sorry — but this is so, so stupid. In fact, the very reason why agents should not be required to have a degree can be found in the NCAA’s own argument that they should: “some can and have been successful without a college degree.” If it is literally proven that people do not need a degree to do this career, and to do it successfully (and I’d certainly say being LeBron James’s agent would qualify as “successfully”), then making them get one anyway makes about as much sense as also making them get a cosmetology license.

The new rule is an especially awful idea considering the current student-debt crisis. As of 2018, almost 45 million Americans collectively owe $1.56 trillion in student-loan debt. To put things in perspective, $1.56 trillion is about $521 billion more than all of the credit-card debt in the entire country. That’s no joke!

It really is a huge issue, seeing as this debt certainly impacts the lives of the young people who are dealing with it. For example, a recent Clever Real Estate study found that 48 percent of young adults polled said that they will put off buying a home because of their student-loan debt. What’s more, a recent TD Bank study found even more impacts: 21 percent of respondents said they are delaying marriage because of their debt, and 26 percent said they’re delaying having kids because of it. That same survey also found that the debt also impacts many Americans’ daily lives, with 54 percent saying that they have “maxed out credit lines” because of their debt, 20 percent saying they can’t join a gym because of their debt, and 60 percent saying that they don’t take vacations because of their debt.

Given all this, I just have to ask: Why on earth is the NCAA adding yet another career to the list of those that require a college education? Sure, it says that it is doing so because it values education — and, although education is valuable, it is absolutely not worth saddling yourself with extreme, life-limiting debt, especially for the sake of a career where it isn’t even necessary. If someone wants to make a career as an agent without going to college, and sees a path forward to do so, then he or she should absolutely be free to do that. Part of the reason that our country’s young people are suffering with this epidemic of debt, after all, is the commonly held but misguided notion that you need a college degree in order to be successful, and that therefore, no price is too high to pay to get one. If we want to avoid making this problem worse, we should fight against that idea — and certainly not codify it in a list of requirements for a career that has proven to be possible, even lucrative, without a degree.


The Latest