My biggest complaint of the NCAA hasn't been that it doesn't care about cheating or want to stop it, but that the majority of people charged with investigating men's basketball violations don't seem to know what to look for or even where to aim their eyes. A shoebox full of cash is so last century. These days, high-major cheating tends to center around relationships with agents or summer coaches with non-profit organizations, and I've always thought the NCAA would be an ineffective governing body until it better understood how things get done.
|The NCAA wants to hire 'rats' to address the real problems with recruiting. (US Presswire)|
"The Basketball Focus Group is currently working to fill three new positions," acknowledged NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn. "[This] will double the staff to six people."
Some could argue that having only six people in a Basketball Focus Group is still low considering how corrupt high-major recruiting has become, but to argue that would be to miss the point. The point is that as recently as two years ago the Basketball Focus Group didn't even exist. But now it does -- men's basketball is the only NCAA sport with a specific focus group, by the way -- and now it's doubling its staff from three to six.
Could it use 60 on staff?
But there were zero two years ago, and now there's about to be six, some of whom will likely be former coaches. Combine that with new rules against hiring people connected to prospects to work camps and it's becoming clearer by the month that the NCAA is at least trying to clean up the mess that is college basketball recruiting.
Whether it'll work depends on your definition of "clean up."
The truth is that the amount of money being made by universities, coaches, agents and runners is so insane that amateur statuses will continue to be murdered each and every summer. The best of the best in basketball are typically identified at a young age, sometimes as early as 13 or 14 years old. So agents and runners will continue to try to create relationships with those prospects and their handlers well before the prospects enter college, and coaches will continue to try to create relationships with those runners and handlers to ensure they at least have a chance of enrolling those prospects when the time comes. Universities will continue to offer million-dollar contracts to the coaches who do that best, which all leads to an endless cycle of corruption that'll exist for as long as we have "amateur" athletes.
In other words, the NCAA can "clean up" college basketball but never quite get it clean.
In that way it's a lot like my son's toy room.
Just with less Bakugan Battle Crawlers.
But it should be noted that the NCAA's rule about hiring people connected to prospects to work camps has actually ended the practice of Elite Camps at some universities because many coaching staffs determined the camps aren't worth holding if they can't be used to funnel money to summer coaches, high school coaches, parents or handlers. That's the best piece of evidence suggesting the rule has been effective to some degree, and now the NCAA is hiring three more people to join its Basketball Focus Group to help create more useful rules that target problems in what is widely viewed as its most corrupt sport.
It's a tough and likely never-ending fight, for sure.
But the NCAA is at least trying to fight.
That's better than the alternative.