Going Pro in Sports: Providing Guidance to Student-Athletes in a Complicated Legal & Regulatory Environment
Glenn M Wong
University of Massachusetts Amherst - Isenberg School of Management
Warren K. Zola
Boston College - Carroll School of Management
Harvard University - Football Players Health Study
September 22, 2010
Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, Vol. 28, 2011
In 2008 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) launched its national advertising campaign titled “Going Pro in Something Other than Sports.” As a major strategic and branding initiative by the NCAA years in development, this effort seeks to emphasize the academic rather than athletic abilities of collegiate student-athletes. Humor captivates the audience yet it is the campaign’s tagline that the NCAA has “over 380,000 student-athletes and just about every one of them will turn professional in something other than sports” that resonates with the viewer. While this declaration is true, and the promotion’s purpose is clearly aimed at calling attention to the core purpose of the NCAA, thousands of student-athletes begin professional sports careers every year. Given the complexities of the amateur to professional transition process, coupled with the fact that student-athletes and their families are woefully unsophisticated and unprepared, colleges and universities have done shockingly little to assist student-athletes through this process.
Many of these student-athletes do not make optimal decisions during this process for a variety of reasons, including conflicting and poor sources of information, the lure of professional money and an inability to understand the many complex legal and regulatory issues surrounding the amateur to professional transition. The results of these poor decisions can be dramatic and affect a long list of stakeholders, including student-athletes and their families, colleges and universities, the NCAA, professional sports leagues and players associations and professional advisors.
Although fans are most familiar with the riches and fame of professional athletes, the reality is that such a lofty status is the exception and not the rule. Far more student-athletes end up as hidden victims of this flawed process. The athlete may suffer permanent career and financial harm while his former school may suffer penalties and embarrassment for any misconduct that occurred while the athlete attended the school. Furthermore, the NCAA and/or the professional league with which the athlete is now involved may have to deal with a paying public critical of their operations and constituents.
This article will discuss the existing process for this transition, the problems therein and the urgency with which these problems need to be addressed. Then we will explain why it is in the best interests of all interested parties to improve the system and make recommendations for doing so.
Among our most meaningful recommendations:
• Colleges must enhance their use of Professional Sports Counseling Panels
• Colleges must increase funding for Compliance Offices.
• Colleges must actively participate in the enforcement of the Uniform Athlete Agents Act.
• The NCAA must consider increasing its loan options to student-athletes. The loans can be forgiven if the student-athlete does not break any NCAA rules.
• The NCAA must reconsider its Bylaws as they relate to permissible advisors and prohibited agents.
• The NCAA should create and fund seminars, conferences, and webcasts for student-athletes on the amateur to professional transition.
• The NCAA should consider applying a strict liability standard to Lack of Institutional Control findings in Infractions cases.
• Colleges and the NCAA should develop a for-credit course that educates student-athletes in this process.
• Professional leagues and unions should consider allowing for the punishment of athletes found to have broken NCAA rules.
• Agents and other professional advisors must police their own industry.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 55
Keywords: NCAA, MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, Agents, Draft, ESDI, AAU
Date posted: September 23, 2010 ; Last revised: February 8, 2011