As discussed yesterday, the NCAA is a cartel that rarely, if ever, has an athlete's best interests in mind.
There are myriad reasons behind how and why that's true, but that larger truth begins to underwrite itself in a prospect's life from the very second he or she signs a National Letter of Intent. Earlier this year, our own Patrick Hruby went into the nitty gritty of how and why the NLI so terrible, but, in a nutshell, few contracts in sports are so one-sided in favor of an institution and fewer still are so ubiquitous to the point that they're effectively compulsory. Save the (very) occasional prospect with serious leverage, there's no avoiding the grim reality that the entry cost for playing is one's own freedom.
Suffice it to say that it wouldn't be hard to improve on that kind of sham and, finally, a solution might be in the offing. As first reported by CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd, the National College Players Association has drafted up a contract they're calling the College Athletic Protection Agreement, which has been presented at today's NBPA Top 100 high school basketball camp. The deal can be signed in addition to or instead of an NLI and allows players to "request and secure legally binding protections/benefits worth over $100,000 beyond a minimum scholarship."
Among the highlights:
- Guaranteeing all-encompassing transfer releases before a player enrolls
- Colleges footing the bill for 100 percent of sports-related injuries
- Greater stipend money
- Mandating multiyear scholarships instead of year-to-year renewable agreements
There can and will be growing pains with the implementation. For instance, the transfer release clause is an optional check box, one in which a college coach can either check "agrees" or "does not agree" to allow freedom of movement. A coach can simply check 'no' and players can find themselves back in the same boat they're often marooned in now. That is, of course, if the players agree to terms, which is where this really could change the landscape. The leverage bit will continue to apply but now, there's nothing stopping a top-tier prospect from using a preemptive transfer release as a condition to his recruitment, and only considering the school(s) that meet his demand. And that's really the only way this succeeds—if big-time players push it as far as possible—because otherwise schools still retain the power they've always had.
You can read and should read Dodd's report for more. But, as NCPA head Ramogi Huma told Dodd, this could a "open Pandora's Box" that the NCAA has long kept closed. If nothing else, that's reason enough to hope this succeeds.