OK, Don Jackson.
The craziness never ends for NCAA officials. Now they’ve devised what some are calling “The Rich Paul Rule,” which requires agents of college-bound athletes to do everything shy of run the steps inside all of the football stadiums and basketball arenas on campuses around the country while reciting the addresses and telephone numbers of each coach in those sports in order of seniority.
Not by much.
According to a memo obtained this week by ESPN, NCAA officials want agents to have “a bachelor’s degree, NBPA certification for at least three consecutive years, professional liability insurance and completion of an in-person exam taken at the NCAA office in Indianapolis in early November.”
Paul has none of those things. He’s been the agent of a guy named LeBron James since King James left high school 16 years ago in Akron, Ohio for the NBA, and to the chagrin of those NCAA officials, Paul is getting more power and wealth by the millisecond with his collection of other heavyweights such as Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons and Draymond Green.
Thus The Rich Paul Rule, but I digress.
Talk to me, Don. As a sports lawyer for nearly three decades out of your native Montgomery, Alabama, where you run The Sports Group, you’ve had a slew of clients battle the NCAA, and you’ve often won.
I know you just said the NCAA is “racist as hell,” but what do you (ahem) really think about this organization and its honchos, starting with the ramifications of these rules out of nowhere regarding player agents?
“They’re attempting to place an NCAA stamp of approval or denial on an entire industry (of sports agents) that they don’t have a vested interest in,” Jackson said over the phone from Montgomery. “I guess their next step will be trying to control the dentist and the doctor that student athletes visit. I said all of this would happen after the Rice Commission (conducted last year by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to give recommendations to the NCAA on how to solve corruption in college basketball).
“All of the things that (NCAA officials are) doing, where they’re attempting to push AAU and the shoe companies out of summer basketball, all of these things are an illegal use of monopoly power and are in violation of the Sherman Act (which has been around since 1890 in this country to outlaw monopolies and cartels to increase economic competition).
“Now (NCAA officials) are attempting to engage in conduct as far as certifying agents and certifying contract advisers, where, again, it’s outside of a union-management framework, and it’s a restraint on trade for agents who don’t have college degrees, which also violates the Sherman Act.”
Which is illegal.
Which is why Paul or one of these other agents who won’t be doing the NCAA’s version of running the steps of stadiums or arenas anytime soon will sue the organization sooner rather than later.
Which is why Jackson suggested these are the final days of the more than 100-year-old NCAA operation as we know it.
“For all of these years, the NCAA has claimed there is no employee-employer relationship between universities and student-athletes,” Jackson said. “They claimed these athletes were amateurs. So now they’re engaging in conduct that’s totally inconsistent with all of the things they’ve claimed over the years.
“They’ve almost acknowledged that there is an employee-employer relationship, which would call for unionization. With this action (of The Rich Paul Rule), they’ve thrown the whole concept of amateur sports out of the window.”
Yep, and you’ve probably noticed something by now. To say Jackson is sort of outspoken in his profession is to say the NCAA has a little problem with hypocrisy.
When you combine the two, you get perspective and emotion from Jackson, the 53-year-old owner of a blunt tongue.
As a youth, Jackson was a pitcher at Alabama State University and a Rhodes Scholarship candidate before he graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law. The Sports Group soon followed, along with clients ranging from World Cup soccer participants to players and coaches (both domestically and internationally) facing legal and arbitration matters.
In recent years, Jackson has spent much of his time representing student-athletes battling the NCAA on eligibility issues and other matters, and he’s also an adjunct associate professor of sports law at the Cumberland School of Law (Samford University) in Birmingham.
Those are all paragraphs among chapters of Jackson’s story that always evolve into one of the NCAA’s worst nightmares.
Take Operation Varsity Blues, for instance.
The scandal involved the rich and the famous bribing test administrators and folks at prominent colleges to get their sons and daughters enrolled by any means necessary. The feds alleged earlier this spring that more than 50 people were involved in various schemes that topped a collective $25 million from 2011 through the end of last year.
Jackson forced a chuckle. He thought about how long it took for the Varsity Blues people to get nailed compared to what his African-American and international clients encounter with the NCAA over mostly nothing.
“The interesting thing is, in the Varsity Blues situation, their test scores got through the process with the testing service over and over and over again for years,” Jackson said. “None of those kids had their test scores red flagged by the SAT or by the testing services or by the colleges. Since they were Caucasian kids, everybody just assumed their scores were legitimate.
“Those Caucasian kids got through the process, and they were listed as student-athletes, even though they weren’t, and I will tell you this: Unconditionally, if they had been members of a different demographic group, if they had been public-school kids from poor backgrounds, there’s no way those test scores would not have been red flagged.”
Even so, Jackson said a change is coming.
In the long run.
“All we’re seeing now by the NCAA is just a last-ditch effort to protect this current definition of amateurism that has been outdated since the 1920s and the 1930s,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t work anymore. You see how the (United States Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee) modified their definition of amateurism. The NCAA is going to have to do the same.
“So in the long run, I think we’re looking at a situation where we’ll have an Olympic-amateurism model for college sports that allows for sponsorship and endorsement opportunities for players.”
The short run?
There’s this mess involving The Rich Paul Rule.
“I wouldn’t be surprised If one or more agents that were impacted by this thing did not take the position that this is not acceptable,” Jackson said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if those agents wind up challenging this in federal court. The NCAA is accustomed to setting rules and not being challenged.”
Except by Don Jackson, of course.