NCPA Proposal: Reggie Bush, Agents and "The Amateur Problem"

"Ask yourself would you rather have seen Reggie Bush doing a Subway commercial while playing for USC or giving back the Heisman Trophy?"

May 13, 2011

“Ask yourself would you rather have seen Reggie Bush doing a Subway commercial while playing for USC or giving back the Heisman Trophy?"  NCPA President Ramogi Huma asked this question while testifying in yesterday's California Senate hearing on how to protect college athletes from unscrupulous sports agents.

Huma put forward the NCPA's proposal about how to minimize "The Agent Problem".  The proposal takes aim at the root of the problem, which is the NCAA’s unjust financial constraints that keep high-value college athletes financially desperate, frustrated and vulnerable to taking money from agents.  In the current environment, there will always be scandals.

Marc Isenburg, player advocate and author of “Go Pro Like a Pro” and “Money Players” may have best articulated the situation.  In yesterday’s hearing he stated, “We don’t have an ‘agent problem’, what we have is an ‘amateurism problem’.”  

The NCAA uses so-called “amateurism” as a weapon to keep as much revenue for itself at the players’ expense.  The NCAA claims that amateurism is an ideal worthy of the (involuntary) sacrifice of players’ financial stability.  If amateurism is so virtuous, shouldn’t coaches, ADs, and NCAA executives make similar sacrifices instead of record-breaking salaries?

There can be no credible reform effort without alleviating the desperation and some of the disparity caused by the financial arrangement that colleges force on their athletes.  In addition, NCAA rules allow unscrupulous agents willing to break the rules to have exclusive access to many athletes.  The lack of a moral compass among such agents only increases the likelihood that a violation will occur.  

The NCPA has offered a 3-step proposal to help minimize these problems without professionalizing college sports:

Step 1. Increase the scholarship to equal the cost of attendance as defined by each college.  Athletes would finally have enough to survive and would therefore be less tempted to break the rules.

Step 2. Establish a process by which agents can legitimately sign student-athletes throughout their college career.  Players have a right to access and secure competent representation just like all other American citizens.

Step 3. Give players access to the non-professional free market by allowing them to enter commercial agreements.  They would not be paid to play their sport like professionals.  They would be paid for their fame just as AMATEUR Olympic athletes have been allowed to do.  

This would help bring more economic parity for the highest profile athletes, who are the most targeted by unscrupulous individuals.  It would give them an alternative that would not jeopardize their future.