Inside the first legally binding contract between a college athlete and a school

NCPA announces its release of the first players' contract in college sports! This free document helps inform and empower recruits and their parents who are denied the right to legal representation by NCAA sports.

Dennis Dodd
June 14, 2017
NCPA Cap Guarantee

What is being called the first-ever legally binding contract between a college prospect and his school will be unveiled Wednesday at the NBPA Top 100 Camp at the University of Virginia.

The College Athletic Protection Agreement would make negotiable such items as medical treatment/insurance beyond an athlete's eligibility and an automatic release from a scholarship should a player want to transfer.

The agreement states that the protections and benefits secured by such a contract would be "worth over $100,000 beyond a minimum scholarships without breaking NCAA rules."

"We think this will change things," said Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association. "This will be a good place to start. It opens Pandora's Box."

Huma's nonprofit organization has advocated for players' rights and is behind development of the contract. He says the NCPA has thoroughly vetted the document with legal and NCAA experts.

"I think the biggest impact of the document could be it educates athletes and families about benefits to them that are not uniformly provided," said Tim Nevius, a former NCAA enforcement official. "The ultimate benefit could be education, even if no one utilizes the document."

While the contract is being rolled out at an National Basketball Players Association event, it would cover all sports.

The 23-year-old Top 100 camp annually assembles elite high school basketball prospects. Huma is rolling out the CAP Agreement with the blessing of NBPA that runs the camp.

According to the contract document obtained by CBS Sports, the CAP Agreement can be used instead of the National Letter of Intent or with the NLI. Either way, it would cover several areas the letter of intent doesn't.

A school could be bound to an all-encompassing transfer release for a prospect before enrollment. The document asks if an institution "agrees"  or "does not agree" "to comply with any request for transfer" and "to not restrict the ability" of a player to transfer to any other school.

That should be of particular interest to all coaches who have the power to block transfers from certain schools and/or not release them from their scholarships.

Any athlete could use such a clause as a condition of signing with a school. Obviously, the more highly valued the recruit the more leverage he would have in such an agreement.

High-profile cases recently regarding Pittsburgh's Cameron Johnson and Kansas State's Corey Sutton have made the issue a national discussion.

A school could not "cancel, reduce or fail to renew financial aid … due to injury or athletic performance."

Since 2012, the NCAA has allowed schools to provide multiyear scholarships (as opposed to year-to-year renewal). While several conferences "guarantee" four-year scholarships, Huma contends that without penalties for schools that violate that guarantee, they are mere "policies."

" … the degree to which these conferences' colleges abide by these policies is questionable," the document states.

Players would have to be notified by March 15 before the following academic whether their scholarships are being renewed or reduced.

A player could negotiate the cost of a remaining scholarship to complete a degree at some point in the future should he/she leave early for a professional draft.

The Pac-12, for one, already provides for this. So do individual schools. However, this would put the promise in writing.

The contract would ask schools to make their best offer on terms of the deal by Aug. 1 before the prospect's senior high school season.

On National Signing Day, the document signed and dated by the offering school would be sent to the prospect.

"This is all transparency," Huma said. "What can a player ask for without breaking NCAA rules? … It's something you can customize yourself. It's something you can send out to schools who are recruiting you."

Nevius, a former NCAA associate director of enforcement, has been advising the NCPA on the viability of the contract.

"This has a chance to be successful if you find a coach or a school who is interested in bringing in a top prospect," Nevius said. "… At that point, you might see some movement … Depending on stature of the athlete, it could have a big impact on its first use."

The executive director of the college coaches' professional organization had not seen the document.

"I've heard some like things in the past that never really came to fruition," said Todd Berry of the American Football Coaches Association. "I'd have to look to see exactly what they're proposing."

The NCAA manages the daily operation of the NLI. The Collegiate Commissioners Association provides governance oversight.

The NLI is voluntary, but once signed it is a binding agreement that mandates an athlete must attend that institution for one calendar year, during which the school provides financial aid.

Prospects do not have to sign an NLI. In fact, any athlete can instead sign "scholarship agreement" that is not binding until the time of enrollment.

However, custom, tradition and pressure from coaches have created the phenomenon that is National Signing Day.

"Once Pandora's Box opens, schools could say, 'We're not going to give you a written contract,'" Huma said.

And prospects could look elsewhere based on that stance. The CAP Agreement would put it in writing.