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The Rich Paul Rule: Why the NCAA is big mad at the NBA’s hottest agent

The NCAA hasn’t been in the public’s good graces for some time now and at this point, nobody’s hiding it.

Apart from being a multi-billion dollar industry where coaches get millions and athletes barely get lunch — not allowing players to profit off their names even down to autographs and YouTube streams — the NCAA has this week, yet again, managed to one-up themselves. Not to mention the FBI investigation for paying players under the table just happened last year.

Wednesday, the NCAA made a splash in the sports world with an announcement of significant rule changes for NBA Draft-bound basketball players, stating that they could hire agents in an advisory role ahead of the Draft and still retain their eligibility… but only if that agent had a Bachelor’s degree.

While this may seem regulatory and on-brand with any high-level organization, there is more than what meets the eye here.

It just so happens that the most successful sports agent and, subsequently, the biggest threat to the NCAA today is a man named Rich Paul who represents Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons, Draymond Green, John Wall, and his buddy LeBron James, among others and, oh yeah, doesn’t have a degree.

And nonbody is seeing this as a coincidence.

Paul, 37, is the CEO of Klutch Sports and got his start in the sports agency due to his relationship with James. After meeting him at an airport in 2002 and bonding over streetwear, the two forged a partnership that led to a thriving representation business for sports and entertainment. After leaving Creative Artists in 2012, Paul created Klutch Sports Group, signing Bron as his first athlete.

Yet, despite his well-accomplished resume, according to the new NCAA criteria, Paul wouldn’t be able to represent underclassmen who are looking to test the NBA draft waters.

As he alluded to in his tweet, Bron feels like the 2012 ESPN story ruffled some feathers, highlighting a passage that accurately forecasted what’s currently going on.

“Rich is now a major threat to every large corporate agency that exists,” agent Chris Luchey told ESPN that year.

“The fact that the largest icon in the sport today has an agent from a boutique firm kills every myth these large agencies have been standing on.”

The NCAA, however, refutes that this rule-change takes aim at any singular individual but protects students against faulty fraudulent sports agents and simply bad decision making.

In the past, if you declared from the draft and did not withdraw before the deadline and ended up not being drafted, you were left in limbo. The NCAA rules allow future undrafted players to return to school — it’s not retroactive to the undrafted 2018 players.

Despite these protections, it still does not defend the laziness and unresponsible language the rule depicts, as it suggests that these athletes aren’t smart enough to weed through legit agents and that you somehow need a degree to be competent enough to do the job.

As NFL Network host Rich Eisen pointed out, plenty of other accomplished people don’t have college degrees. “Imagine if people in their industries lobbied to make sure they couldn’t ply their crafts with some silly rule about needing a degree,” he tweeted.

“Requiring Rich Paul to get a BA is BS.”

This rule hurts the league because it says that you can only succeed through life “their way” and that is through college and, ultimately, through them. But that’s not always the case.

Rich Paul himself defies that.

If you don’t think NCAA’s rule is about Rich Paul, remember this: One of his youngest clients is top prospect Darius Bazley, who de-committed from Syracuse in March to land a first-of-its-kind three-month $1 million shoe-company internship with New Balance, a deal Paul brokered.

Bazley was the No. 13 prospect in 2018 by ESPN. You bet NCAA wanted him with them. But as LeBron said, this, won’t stop them.

And I doubt it will.