NCAA studying athlete/agent interaction

Updated: July 30, 2010, 3:43 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The NCAA Amateurism Cabinet has begun looking at ways NCAA athletes could have contact with agents and retain their eligibility, but no timetable has been set for any new rules to be put into effect.

The topic has been a volatile one in recent days, as a number of high-profile football players -- including several in the SEC -- have been questioned about offseason dealings with agents. But the Amateurism Cabinet, at its June meeting, began discussing ways to allow athletes to get advice, but not benefits, from agents.

The discussion comes several months after the NCAA settled a case with Oklahoma State pitcher Andrew Oliver, who was declared ineligible prior to the 2008 NCAA postseason because he had used legal representation after he was drafted in high school.

NCAA rules permit athletes to have advisers, but those advisers/agents aren't allowed to be part of any negotiation process.

Oliver sued, arguing that the NCAA was preventing him from getting legal help, and a judge ruled in his favor, forcing the NCAA to look at whether it was being unfair to its athletes.

"This is on our radar screen and we're in the information gathering stage,'' Baylor law professor and faculty athletics representative Mike Rogers, chair of the Amateurism Cabinet, told ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil. "One of our overriding concerns is getting accurate and non-biased information to get meaningful decisions. We're going to be wide open to suggestions.''

In a statement, the NCAA said that it "has begun preliminary discussions about our current agent and advisor legislation. We need to ensure that those select student-athletes with professional athletic opportunities have the best information at the right time to make informed decisions."

Several prominent conference commissioners, including Mike Slive of the SEC and Dan Beebe of the Big 12, have suggested that allowing agents to have some contact would actually help clean up college sports.

"Let agents have contracts with players and the schools,'' Beebe told ESPN.com's Pat Forde. "Those clauses would have a liquidated damages clause, where it would cost the agent $1 million or $2 million if they did anything that made the player ineligible . . . The ethical guys will come out of it in better shape by putting sunshine on this. You'll promote the agents who want to do it the right way.''

The NCAA cautioned that no wholesale changes in its rules about agents are expected.

"While the NCAA wholly supports student-athletes getting complete information, the membership is not likely to change its opposition to student-athletes receiving benefits from agents and advisors," the NCAA statement said. "As a result, this discussion within our Division I governance structure will be framed in the context of existing rules and how advisors might assist in providing information to student-athletes who are weighing their options. Feedback from NCAA members, including coaches, athletic administrators and others, will be vital to this dialogue."

Rogers said the process is just beginning, but said: "I think there's a good chance that there will be some legislative proposals in next year's cycle. I think that's a reasonable goal."

Information from ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil and Pat Forde is included in this report.