PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The NFL players' union has voted to repeal a rule that prohibited certified agents from having contact with college players until the student-athletes have been out of high school for three years.
NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis said Tuesday that player representatives from each team voted to eliminate the so-called "junior rule" last weekend.
The rule was passed in 2007 by the NFLPA, not long after it was discovered that Reggie Bush and his family received cash and gifts from fledgling marketing agents before his junior year at Southern California. The idea was to limit agents' access to college players who were not eligible to enter the draft. College players must be three years removed from high school to be draft eligible.
Francis says "recruiters" or "runners" working for agents still cannot speak with college players at any time. He says only certified contract advisers can speak with players before their junior season.
Proponents of repealing the rule say that it keeps legitimate agents who can be better monitored away from underclassmen, while doing nothing to prevent those who have not been certified by the union from getting access to college players.
"I hated this rule, which only benefits slimy characters," agent Ralph Cindrich said. "A bad, dumb rule."
In 2010, a scandal involving improper contact between players and agents resulted in a major NCAA investigation involving North Carolina. The Tar Heels suspended more than a dozen players that season, and players at other schools, including Georgia and South Carolina, also missed games for taking improper benefits from people deemed to be agents by the NCAA.
Earlier this month, the NCAA sanctioned North Carolina with a one-year postseason ban and scholarship reductions and issued a three-year show-cause penalty for former Tar Heels assistant coach John Blake, who had received personal loans from an NFL agent.
Shortly after the scandal broke at North Carolina, several prominent college coaches, including Alabama's Nick Saban and Ohio State's Urban Meyer, who was then with Florida, reached out to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFLPA to try to address the issue of agents making illegal contact with college players.
It's an issue that the NCAA is still trying to better address.
"Tackling the complex issue of improper agent activity in college sports requires commitment from several groups to provide effective education and enforcement," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said Tuesday. "For this reason, we appreciate the NFLPA continuing to examine how best to address inappropriate contact from third parties with student-athletes, while also holding agents and runners accountable for unscrupulous activity."
Many states have laws prohibiting agents from putting a student-athletes' NCAA eligibility in jeopardy, though they are rarely enforced.