The NCAA amended its week-old agent certification rules Monday amid widespread backlash over its bachelor’s degree requirement, which culminated in an opinion article written by NBA super agent Rich Paul.

Rather than hold a degree from a four-year university, which was one of the three main criteria the NCAA instituted last week, agents who want to represent college basketball players who are exploring their pro basketball options may now have a bachelor’s degree or be certified and in good standing with the National Basketball Players Association.

For its certification, the NBPA accepts equivalent relevant life experience in lieu of a degree from a four-year college or university.

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“We are committed to providing student-athletes who are deciding whether to stay in school or explore NBA draft options with access to a wide array of resources to make their decision,” the NCAA said in a statement. “… We have been made aware of several current agents who have appropriately represented former student-athletes in their professional quest and whom the National Basketball Players Association has granted waivers of its bachelor’s degree requirement. While specific individuals were not considered when developing our process, we respect the NBPA’s determination of qualification and have amended our certification criteria.”

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The NCAA laid out five criteria for agents in its amended regulations. They must:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree and/or be certified and in good standing with the NBPA.
  • Have NBPA certification for a minimum of three consecutive years.
  • Maintain professional liability insurance.
  • Complete the NCAA qualification exam.
  • Pay the required fees.

The NCAA’s agent certification regulations were met with negative reactions last week. The policy quickly became known as “The Rich Paul Rule,” referencing the Klutch Sports Group chief executive and agent of LeBron James. Paul represents a handful of top NBA players, including Draymond Green and John Wall, but does not have a college degree.

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Although it is unclear when the NCAA was “made aware” of agents such as Paul — the association unveiled the new rules during NBPA meetings in May to much concern from agents, and Paul is perhaps the most powerful NBA agent at the moment — the amendments appear to be a response to a week’s worth of pushback from agents and prominent voices in college sports.

Paul penned an opinion article in the Athletic on Monday, saying that the college degree requirement targets people of color and those of lesser means.

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“The harmful consequences of this decision will ricochet onto others who are trying to break in,” he wrote. “NCAA executives are once again preventing young people from less prestigious backgrounds, and often people of color, from working in the system they continue to control. In this case, the people being locked out are kids who aspire to be an agent and work in the NBA and do not have the resources, opportunity or desire to get a four-year degree.”

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Paul, like many critics of the new rule, pointed out that an agent having a college degree does not mean the agent has a player’s best interests in mind.

“Does anyone really believe a four-year degree is what separates an ethical person from a con artist?” he asked.

While Paul took aim at the requirement that most directly relates to him, the college degree rule is not the only part of the new policy that agitated college sports experts and agents.

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Many agents are just as concerned about the new requirement that NCAA-certified agents be certified by the NBPA for at least three years. Agents such as Darrell Comer have argued the rule will exclude those trying to break into an agent pool that is predominantly white and male — especially damaging because such lower-level agents are the ones most likely to try to represent college players testing the waters.

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“By not allowing that person to practice once they have that certification, you’re limiting how good of an agent they can become [and] you’re not allowing them to get experience with recruiting. And one thing I’ve learned in this business is you become a good agent by gaining experience,” Comer said last week. “Historically, if you look at the past 10 drafts, it’s the same agencies who have success in the draft. So it is showing favoritism to the incumbents.”

Paul wrote that he supports requiring three years of experience before an agent can represent a player testing the waters, but he didn’t specify whether that would mean three years of NBPA certification.

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The NCAA, at least, appears open to amending the rules again. In its statement Monday, the association said it will continue to evaluate the agent certification regulation over the coming year.

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This post has been updated.

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