The NCAA has passed a proposal that will allow men’s ice hockey prospects to have an agent without jeopardizing their college eligibility. The decision is both terrific and frustrating.
Because of hockey’s unique development system, athletes can be drafted before they attend college. However, it’s unfair to expect teenagers and their guardians have a proper understanding of how to deal with interested professional teams.
Agents should be involved. The NCAA has this part right.
The now-passed proposal will protect eligibility “with some parameters.” In college baseball, the existing rule requires the player to pay the standard fee for an adviser’s services. And if the athlete decides to attend college, he must stop communicating with the agent before enrolling.
But this is happening largely because the NCAA must compete with professional teams for talent in hockey and baseball. Conversely, the NCAA holds all the power when dealing with basketball and football prospects.
First, they are basically obligated to attend college for one year (basketball) or three years (football) before being eligible for the pros. There are a couple of alternative routes, but playing overseas or sitting out aren’t preferred.
Then, once a player hires an agent, he is no longer eligible to return to college. It’s completely inconsistent for the NCAA to grant that ability in hockey and baseball yet not allow basketball and football players to have the same privileges as they consider whether to pursue the pros.
This is a step in the right direction, but the NCAA needs to take two more.