Could Northwestern Athlete Unionization Change Agent Rules?

The NCAA has been strict on its amateurism rules since its creation

footbalHowever, the ruling that Northwestern athletes are employees who can unionize could change that. One fallout could mean changes to the agent rules as the NCAA may no longer be able to prevent these interactions if athletes are considered employees. The current agent rules prohibit students from:

  • Signing or entering into a written or oral agreement with an agent for representation
  • Receiving extra benefits from an agent or person who wishes to represent them
  • Accepting transportation or other benefits from a person who represents them in the marketing of his or her ability

If these rules are deemed moot because of the downfall of amateurism, the NCAA would likely want to find a way to regulate benefits received by collegiate athletes. Former agent Josh Luchs published an idea in his book “Illegal Procedure: A Sports Agent Comes Clean On The Dirty Business of College Football,” that the NCAA may want to consider, according to Sports Illustrated.

Luchs’ Grand Idea

Luchs recommends allowing college athletes to have agents who can provide them with loans. This would essentially professionalize players – but that would have already happened if the Northwestern ruling became widespread. His argument for allowing this type of system is that agents already provide student-athletes with extra benefits, so why shouldn’t the NCAA want to put rules in place that allow them to regulate the process rather than suspending everyone who is caught?

Regulating agent-athlete relationships may be hard for the NCAA to accept, but it could be the right step for the association to help establish a fair compensation system for student-athletes.  However, the better approach may have been to completely reconstruct the NCAA to better address the big time college sports scenario of the 21st Century. Getting ahead of the apparent wave of litigation would have been more responsible and effective. Perhaps its not too late.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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