NCAA interim president Jim Isch issued a mandate last week that his organization would review its policies regarding the interaction of agents and advisers with premier student-athletes. The difference between an acting agent and a friendly adviser has been a gray area for the NCAA, which is the best explanation for why Kansas freshman guard Josh Selby now finds himself in limbo.
Three months before the college basketball season officially begins, Selby, rated the No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2010 by Rivals.com, has not been cleared to play by the NCAA, KU coach Bill Self confirmed in a press release Thursday night.
“It is not at all unusual for the NCAA to look into many of the country’s top-rated recruits each year for any number of reasons,” Self said.
The NCAA, according to a CBSSports.com story posted Thursday, has been investigating for months the relationship between Selby and Robert “Bay” Frazier, who is the business manager for Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony. Selby has acknowledged a friendship with Anthony in past interviews and spoke of his contact with Frazier in an April story in The New York Times. All three are Baltimore natives.
Frazier told The Times that he has known Selby since he was a boy and that he was serving in the role of an adviser during his college recruitment. Maeshon Witherspoon, Selby’s mother, said she and her son needed Frazier’s help. The Times report said Witherspoon asked Frazier to host Selby’s in-home visits with college coaches at his own home and that Frazier attended a KU-Missouri game at Allen Fieldhouse last January.
“I don’t see a problem with Josh,” Witherspoon told The Eagle on Thursday in a text message.
Student-athletes are allowed to have contact with agents, according to NCAA Bylaw 12.3, as long as they do not “agree verbally or in writing to be represented by an athlete agent in the present or in the future for the purpose of marketing the student-athlete’s ability or reputation. If the student-athlete enters into such an agreement, the student-athlete is ineligible for intercollegiate competition.”
In NCAA bylaws, the term “agent” refers to “actual agents, runners (individuals who befriend student-athletes and frequently distribute impermissible benefits) and financial advisors.”
Bylaw 12.3 states that a student-athlete could go to dinner with an agent and there would be no NCAA violations if the student-athlete provided his own transportation and paid for his meal.
In The Times story, Frazier demonstrated an understanding of the rules.
“It’s a new hustle in Baltimore,” Frazier said. “People think they can take a kid out for a meal or buy him something, but that’s not what I am about. I’ve had relationships with Carmelo and Josh since they’ve been young.”
According to a 2006 feature story in the Rocky Mountain News, Frazier began coaching Anthony’s AAU team when he was 10 years old and would occasionally give Anthony, who grew up poor, money for clothes and shoes. Frazier is now one of Anthony’s close confidantes and refers to himself on his Twitter page (bayfrazier) as “manager/adviser” of “Frazier Mgmt, Inc.” He points out that Anthony is his client.
In all likelihood, the NCAA is trying to figure out whether Frazier has already secured his next big-time client in Selby through a verbal agreement or an actual contract or whether Selby received any improper benefits from Frazier.
If Selby is found to have entered into an agreement with Frazier, he would be ruled ineligible. If Selby is found to have accepted improper benefits, the minimum NCAA penalty would require him to repay the value of the benefits and to be suspended for a certain number of games.
Selby, a 6-foot-3 combo guard known for his jumping ability, is considered a likely one-and-done player.
The line between pro and amateur in college sports is becoming murkier by the day. Last month, reports surfaced that the NCAA was investigating football players at four schools — North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia — for possible improper dealings with an agent. Players from the schools attended a party in Miami, and the NCAA is looking into whether the party was funded by the agent.
With the issue creating a national buzz, Isch, the NCAA’s interim president since September, felt compelled last Thursday to react in a statement on the organization’s Web site.
“We need to ensure that those select student-athletes with professional athletic opportunities have the best information at the right time to make informed decisions,” Isch said. “While the NCAA wholly supports student-athletes getting complete information, the membership is not likely to change its opposition to student-athletes receiving benefits from agents and advisors.”