I’m someone who’s long thought that the NCAA is wrongheaded to prohibit student-athletes from signing with agents, but even I’m a little uneasy with Andy Staples’ enthusiastic approval of former agent Josh Luchs’ proposal for the NCAA to let agents sign and loan money to college athletes.
I get the “better to have ‘em pissing inside the tent than outside pissing on the tent” aspect of Staples’ argument and it’s good that Luchs wants to structure these loans so that they’re only repayable if the kid ultimately lands a professional career, but there’s something about the easy assertion that “(t)his way, no one gets sued or shaken down after failing to reach his potential” that I’m a trifle shaky about. These are agents we’re talking about, after all. It’s not like some of them don’t have a propensity for skirting rules they find inconvenient. Not to mention possible conflicts of interest between what a school demands from a kid both on the field and in the classroom and what an agent thinks is best. Each party has skin in the game, but whose direction is the student-athlete more likely to follow?
And let’s not even get into what happens when an 18-year old kid fires an agent to whom he owes money.
I continue to have this nagging feeling that in the name of being fairer to the kids, we’re making things more complicated than they should be. Letting college players have representation? Sure. Making agents into personal bankers? Eh, not so much. Wouldn’t it be cleaner to let these kids have marketing access to their names and likenesses as every other person on the planet does so that they can have money in their pockets without having to borrow it? (And isn’t earning instead of borrowing a better lesson for these kids to learn about getting ahead, anyway?)
Of course, the cleanest thing of all would simply be for the NFL or somebody to create a paying alternative for those 18-year olds who don’t want to play college ball for nothing more than a scholarship. (Along those lines, see this provocative post from John Infante.) I know, I know…