Local high school coaches have mixed opinions about a new NCAA policy that will allow “elite” male senior basketball players to hire the services of an NCAA-certified sports agent.

Though the ruling only applies to basketball players, some observers wonder if high school football players could eventually be allowed to hire agents.

The rule changes are a response to a September 2017 announcement of a federal investigation into fraud into college basketball and are designed to:

  1. Provide college players more freedom and flexibility to decide their future.
  2. Minimize the leverage of outside influences on high school recruits and college athletes.
  3. Make the NCAA investigations and infractions process more efficient.
  4. Set stronger penalties for schools and individuals who break the rules.
  5. Bring in independent investigators and decision-makers to enforce rules.
  6. Add public voices to the NCAA Board of Governors for fresh perspectives.

NCAA president Mark Emmert and Division I Board of Directors announced the new policy in August, and it will go into effect once the NBA and National Basketball Players Association approve that high school players can go straight to the pros.

Currently, male basketball players must be at least 19 years old or one year removed from high school to be eligible for the NBA draft. (NFL players, who are not part of the new NCAA policy, must be at least three years removed in order to be eligible for the pro draft. WNBA eligibility policies require players to be 22 years old and have completed college or be four years removed from high school).

In Anglo-dominated leagues like the MLB and NHL, senior high school athletes are permitted eligibility to the pros straight out of high school. The NCAA also grants college hockey and baseball players access to gain certain free career advice from “advisors” who are actually agents.

In addition, there are countless international student-athletes that are playing professional basketball against grown men overseas before they even reach the age of 16.

The benefit of the NCAA’s new policy is that it finally attempts to create a more open process where high school student-athletes can communicate with Division I college programs avoiding fraud and other under-the -able deals.

The limitations of the policy are that agents are only able to represent “elite” players, which is a small sample size.

Here is what some area coaches had to say about the policy:

Richard Flores, Cypress Falls basketball coach: “On the positive side I definitely foresee an opportunity for the high school coaches, AAU coaches and parents to figure out what is going to be the best avenue for this kind of player as long as they’re on the same page. I tell my guys as long as somebody is looking out for you and they have the best interest of you and your development currently and in the future, then it’s a good thing.”

Tom Nolen, Lamar football coach: “I’ve had big-time recruits in football and I’m sure basketball is the same thing. You can either deal with one agent or deal with a hundred college coaches.”

Shawn Narcisse, Madison football coach: “The bad side of it is that I don’t think kids need to be focused on that right now. I think the most important thing is to get in school, do your three or four years and then worry about getting an agent. Doing it straight out of high school is going to be more of a distraction for the kids because you have all these different people coming at you and it can take away from what your main focus is. I think the best thing for elite high school players is to rethink it and do it the way it’s been done…”

Kevin Hall, Manvel football coach: “It’s insanity. It’s the most insane thing I have ever heard of. These guys are seniors in high school. The fact that [the NCAA] would even consider doing something like that just speaks volumes about the ignorance that is going on somewhere in the NCAA.”

Emmert, who has led the NCAA since 2010, contends the policy will benefit players.

“These changes will promote integrity in the game, strengthen accountability and prioritize the interest of student-athletes over every other factor,” he said. “We remain committed to promoting fairness in college sports and creating an environment that will champion the success of student-athletes.”