An NCAA moving at something other than the speed of a sloth or sludge? Who knew?
Yet that's just what happened Monday. In what was surely the first time college athletics' governing body admitted a mistake without being taken to court — though that surely would have eventually happened — the NCAA agreed that sports agents don't need a college degree in order to be certified by the organization before advising college basketball players on whether they should stay in school or explore the NBA draft.
What will still be required, which is a good thing, is that those agents without a bachelor's degree will have to be in good standing with the National Basketball Players Association.
Said the NCAA in a statement regarding the reversal from last week's guidelines, which did require a bachelor's degree from said agents: ""We are committed to providing student-athletes who are deciding whether to stay in school or explore NBA draft options with access to a wide array of resources to make their decision. NCAA member schools developed the new agent certification process to accomplish that goal and reflect our higher education mission.
"However, we have been made aware of several current agents who have appropriately represented former student-athletes in their professional quest and whom the National Basketball Players Association has granted waivers of its bachelor's degree requirement."
The previous certification requirements issued in a memo a week ago included a bachelor's degree, NBPA certification for at least three consecutive years, professional liability insurance and completion of an in-person exam taken in early November at the NCAA office in Indianapolis.
All of those will remain except the bachelor's degree, which is quite welcome news to super agent Rich Paul, who does not have a bachelor's degree but does represent a number of the NBA's biggest stars, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons and Draymond Green.
In fact, a number of folks, including James and Chris Paul, pointedly chastised the NCAA in recent days, calling last week's guidelines "The Rich Paul Rule."
Paul, who has worked with James for most of the player's career, wrote the following in an op-ed piece for The Athletic website on Monday: "Requiring a four-year degree accomplishes only one thing — systematically excluding those who come from a world where college is unrealistic. Does anyone really believe a four-year degree is what separates an ethical person from a con artist?"
While it is dangerous to accuse the NCAA of originally demanding a bachelor's degree as some scheme to remove the Pauls of the world from the equation, the agent's point about a degree separating an ethical person from a con artist should be wildly celebrated.
Especially in light of all the con artists out there who have degrees.
Besides, all the other NCAA requirements for certification — NBPA certification for at least three years, professional liability insurance and completion of an in-person exam administered at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis — should more than alleviate any concerns about an agent's qualifications.
Nor did the NCAA's Monday release exactly dispel the belief that it was reacting solely to the "Rich Paul Rule" assertions, its rabbit ears on display as rarely before.
Said the release: "While specific individuals were not considered when developing our process, we respect the NBPA's determination of qualification and have amended our certification criteria."
But whatever the reasons, getting the NCAA to amend anything in a week's time is noteworthy progress.
And its original reason for the new agent guidelines should also be commended, with or without the now-dead bachelor's degree requirement. As the NCAA noted in its statement: "This policy provides student-athletes with access to hundreds of qualified agents who can offer solid guidance but also protects those same students from unscrupulous actors who may not represent their best interests."
Now — as any Tennessee football fan would surely agree — if the NCAA could only find a way to speed up its eligibility rulings for transfers such as former Michigan defensive lineman Aubrey Solomon.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.