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UNC Has New Agent Policy But Does It Hurt The Players?

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Overreaction?

In the wake of an NCAA scandal which was peppered with improper benefits stemming from agent involvement, UNC has released a new policy concerning player contact with agents. Sports Agent Blog has a rundown of the new rules which may go a bit far in restricting contact.

On June 27, 2012, the UNC Department of Athletics released the UNC Football Program’s Agent Contact Policy to a select number of individuals.

The highlights of the policy are as follows:

  • Student-athletes are allowed to have in-person meetings with agents only during one specified week in the summer (July 16-20), and the meeting is limited to one hour on campus.
  • Student-athletes may not make phone calls to agents in August.  Starting in September, athletes may only call agents from 7-10pm on Sundays.
  • No electronic communication (email, social media, text) is permitted in August.  Starting in September, student-athletes may only communicate in the aforementioned manner from Sundays-Wednesdays.

The sports agent community believes that UNC is not protecting its student-athletes’ bests interests by implementing the new policy.  One individual associated with an agency stated sarcastically, “basically, [UNC] wants the kids to make decisions off a one hour meeting and some text messages.  What could possibly go wrong?”  That individual also pointed out that UNC’s new policy appears to only affect interactions between student-athletes and NFLPA Certified Contract Advisors and that  financial advisers, marketing representatives, business managers, etc. can continue to run wild and do whatever they want.

The new policy came via a letter which can be found here.

Given the events of the past two years, the fact UNC would seek to limit contact to agents is not surprising. Gary Wichard's relationship with John Blake proved to be eye of the proverbial storm that landed the Tar Heel football program probation and a bowl ban. In the aftermath of such a scandal, organizations often strike fast and hard to ensure there are not repeat offenses. Clearly something was amiss at UNC for multiple violations to occur and it is appropriate to review policy to address any issues. There is also a PR element at work as well as appeasing the NCAA by showing that "something has been done." The problem here and with most organizations moving to address a scandal of this nature is the reaction tends to be excessive. UNC's has responded to agent involvement by seriously restricting how much contacts agents can have with players either in person or via text message. In all likelihood this will be applauded by most even though there are serious concerns about the impact it will have on the players.

Outside of choosing which college to attend, the most important decision a college football player with NFL prospects makes is selecting an agent. A player's agent will be the one who represents him in front of his team, for endorsements and is usually his most important adviser as his career unfolds. It is not a choice that should be made lightly nor should it be made with as little information as possible. UNC's new rules about agent contact seem to ensure that players will do exactly that, operate in the dark when it comes to choosing an agent. In addition to what it restricts, Sports Agent Blog points out that there is a glaring loophole in terms of what the new rules don't restrict. All sorts of individuals who are not technically agents(but who the NCAA considers agent like creatures) still have free run in the players lives. As you recall Chris Hawkins was known as a "financial advisor" of sorts and Kendric Burney in particular paid a steep price in being suspended two games more than Deunta Williams despite their cases being very similar. ALCs pose as much a threat to player eligibility as agents do since the latter less likely to operate improperly out in brought daylight.

In other words, the rules lack real teeth. It doesn't address the individuals who still can create violations and it doesn't benefit the players as they make a decision that has a profound impact on their future career. UNC's answer to the scandal is to put up more walls when in reality they should create access that can be monitored. Telling people they cannot do something only means they will work harder to find a way to do it without you finding out.  Unfortunately in the wake of John Blake being on staff and receiving money from an agent, no one is going to go that route. Like so many other policy changes and responses to a large scandal, it is all largely for show. It is the appearance of "doing something" even if the policy proves to be ineffectual or hurts those who need the most help.