In a move toward common sense and fairness to athletes, the NCAA voted Friday to allow high school MLB draftees to negotiate with an agent without sacrificing college eligibility.
Previously, high schoolers who hired agents to negotiate their deals were considered to have violated their amateurism and therefore could not return to college. This new allowance does not extend to college players with eligibility remaining, who will still be prohibited from returning to school after hiring an agent.
High school draftees must pay the agent’s going rate and may not receive any additional benefits. If they do not sign, they must terminate their relationship with the agent before enrolling in college.
At last week’s American Baseball Coaches Association convention, executive director Craig Keilitz said he thought it was a good rule.
“Really it’s giving the opportunity for a student to make the correct decision for them and to have all the facts,” he said. “If we’re talking about student welfare, I’d like the student to have all the opportunities to make the right decision.”
Before this vote, 18-year-old high school grads and their construction-working dads had to either negotiate directly with MLB teams, which was hardly fair to the players, or hire an agent and sacrifice their right to play in college, which sapped their leverage. Now they’ll be able to enlist professional help without sacrificing their ability to fall back and go to college.
The next step is for the NCAA to extend the same rule to college players. All the same logic applies: The average college kid is not equipped to negotiate with a pro team and should be allowed to pursue the best possible contract he can get. Taking eligibility from those who hire agents creates a tradeoff between representation and leverage that limits a player’s ability to financially capitalize on his talent, all for the sake of an ill-defined ethos of “amateurism.”
Even if you don’t think amateurism is a total farce, you can’t easily argue that hiring an agent for a few months to help negotiate really undercuts a kid’s amateur status. If a guy doesn’t sign a pro contract, he can easily return to school and keep working for free just like before.
Of course, players have always gotten around NCAA rules prohibiting players from negotiating with agents. Draftees often consult unpaid “advisers,” who magically become paid agents once that contract is signed. The NCAA’s decision to let agents into the process legitimately when it comes to high school players is a good step toward fairness in post-draft negotiating. Extending the rule to college players would be even better.