Jonathan Mayo

NCAA allows prep draftees to have agents deal with MLB

NCAA allows prep draftees to have agents deal with MLB

In a move that might seem a bit like formalizing something that was already taking place, the NCAA voted on Friday to allow high school players who are drafted to have an agent negotiate with the Major League club that drafted them without it impacting their eligibility.

The measure was voted on at the annual NCAA convention and passed easily. The new rule will count now in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12 and SEC. Other conferences can adopt the rule if they want to.

According to the legislation, high school players who are drafted will pay agents for services, but are not allowed to receive benefits beyond negotiating deals with the teams that selected them. If a player chooses not to sign and goes on to college, all ties with the agent must be severed before enrolling.

"You're dealing with high school students who are approached by professional baseball scouts, and a life-changing amount of money can be thrown your way," said Anthony Lyons, a Texas Tech outfielder who spoke at the convention in favor of the rule change. "In this situation, it's very important for student-athletes in high school and their families to feel comfortable, to have an agent or adviser or lawyer to help them out. ... I believe this proposal will help not only [preserve] eligibility for student-athletes all across the nation, but also help them and their parents make decisions ... and smoothly transition into their college athletic experience."

The rules for college players will not change. Those with eligibility remaining would risk losing it by using an agent to negotiate a contract.

Previously, the rule stated that players were only allowed to have advisers to help guide them through the Draft process, but who weren't officially allowed to communicate directly with MLB organizations. While that was the written rule, it's generally gone unenforced, with a few exceptions.

Andy Oliver was suspended right before regional play with Oklahoma State back in 2008 on the grounds of improper agent contact with the Minnesota Twins back when he was a high school senior in '06. Oliver sued the NCAA and settled the case for $750,000.

Jeremy Sowers missed six games for Vanderbilt in 2002 because his adviser had improperly contacted the Cincinnati Reds. He had been a first-round pick out of high school in '01.

Current Astros manager A.J. Hinch was put through the wringer as a Stanford freshman in 1993. He had been a second-round pick of the White Sox in '92 and was investigated -- but not suspended -- for alleged improper contact between his adviser and Chicago.

"They made it OK to do something that already was being done," said one agent who has advised high school draftees in the past. "They basically put their rubber stamp on it. It's a good day, for sure. You don't have to dance around the issue anymore.

"It's been an on-going concern since I became an agent [in the late '90s]. It's a basic right people have in the United States. They should have the right to have counsel. We were taking away that right from an 18-year-old kid dealing with a professional team that does this every day in an $8 billion industry. Having the opportunity to be represented by counsel in any type of negotiation is a basic right in this country. Not allowing an 18-year-old kid to have that right? It defied logic."

The situation for baseball has always been different than in other sports. In football and basketball, players must declare their intent to enter a professional draft -- a sign to the NCAA that the player is leaving his amateur status behind. The drafts in those sports also take place after the collegiate season has been completed.

In baseball, players in high school and college are drafted without having to enter the process. The fact the Draft takes place while college baseball is ongoing -- during Regional play -- further clouds the situation as eligibility has not yet expired for those still playing.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.