There is not a week that passes where I do not have to answer questions pertaining to the rules that control what a family adviser can do, and the rules that the NCAA has in place for family’s regarding hiring a family adviser. Its my job, and whether the person who asks is a client or not, it is my obligation to make sure they understand the rules.
For many years, Agents have worked as Family Advisers and in general many players and parents can be confused about the rules and differences between the two. While much of the work done by an Agent is similar to the work done by and Adviser, the primary difference comes in how the Agent or Adviser is compensated for his work.
Under NCAA rules, an Agent is someone working for future earnings.
Under NCAA rules, an Adviser is someone who the parent or player hires and pays for his services rendered.
While on its face, the difference in compensation may appear to be minimal, it is actually quite a big divide.
It was once a long-standing tradition in hockey that an Agent would say he was working as an Adviser and the family would not be responsible for compensating the Adviser until the player signed a professional contract. That type of arrangement is COMPLETELY AGAINST NCAA RULES.
While there are many Agents still working as Family Advisers, those that are offering their services without reasonable and customary fee’s being charged are placing the players NCAA eligibility at serious risk. While reasonable and customary charges may vary from region to region, some Agents have tried to circumvent the payment system as well. If a player is caught doing this, he stands to lose his NCAA eligibility.
A “token” payment to an Adviser of a few hundred dollars for a year of representation is not something that is seen as being reasonable and customary when the Adviser who also works as an Agent for other players earns an average commission of a few thousand dollars for doing the same work as an Agent.
Lets be realistic and put yourself in the shoes of an NCAA compliance officer.
Look at nearly any NCAA recruiting application, on-line or on paper, and almost all of them ask if a player is working with an Adviser. They not only want to know who the adviser is to make sure the player is getting good advice, but they want to know who the Adviser is to make sure the player is not receiving an improper financial benefit.
You see a player has an Adviser. That Adviser is also someone known to work as an Agent. The NCAA has a responsibility to make sure that a Student Athlete is not receiving advice for free or at a greatly discounted rate that he should be paying for. Any financial benefit provided to a Student Athlete that is otherwise not freely available to every other Student Athlete is an improper financial benefit based upon the Student Athletes athletic ability.
Compliance Officers are not stupid people, and they know who try’s to cheat the system. If you’re caught you may as well be prepared to pay a very stiff penalty for trying to cheat, and the penalty could include a loss of eligibilty to play NCAA hockey.
Compliance Officers also do not like to be lied to. So if you think you can get away with not saying you have an Adviser, but you actually have one that also works as an Agent, you will likely experience the uncomfotable interogation and microscopic investigation that comes with being caught in such a lie.
Lets be realistic. Would any one of you go to the office or to the shop and work all day without getting paid for your work? You might do this for a short period of time if there were some benefit down the road you were trying to obtain. You certainly wouldnt make a career out of doing this unless there were some big payoffs in the end. An Agent works for the big payoff in the end.
Now, there is nothing wrong with Agents. Agents are needed, and are in fact required for all NHL players. They serve a valuable purpose in Professional Hockey.
For junior players looking to play NCAA hockey, you need and Adviser, not an Agent.
For players not going the NCAA route, and looking at Major Junior, you may hire either an Agent or an Adviser. If you are unsure of which route you plan on taking, it is always best to be cautious and hire an adviser, this way your options are kept open as long as possible.