NCAA basketball committee chair wants more control over players from ages 10-to-17, but that's just the start
NCAA changes to college basketball could start as early as with youth basketball
SAN ANTONIO – The college basketball season isn't quite over yet. In fact, later this month it may be changed forever.
From the floor of the national championship game Monday, NCAA Division I Basketball Committee Chairman Bruce Rasmussen provided a glimpse into some of the changes being considered by the Commission on College Basketball.
The commission, led by former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, is now the focus of the college basketball world. It was formed in October as a reaction to the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption in the sport.
Its recommendations are expected to be forwarded to the NCAA on April 25.
Rasmussen isn't part of the decision-making process by Rice's commission, but his committee will be briefed on the commission's progress soon.
The changes should start way before players suit up to play college basketball, Rasmussen said.
"My feeling is this, we spend too much time on the one- and-done," said Rasmussen, also the athletic director at Creighton. "There's an old Chinese proverb: No matter how pure the lake, if the stream flowing into the lake is polluted, the lake will soon be polluted.
"We've got to get control over basketball from [ages] 10 to 17. If we do a better job of getting control of basketball from 10 to 17 I think we'll see a lot fewer problems in college. I think we can."
Rasmussen suggested there needs to be more "transparency" from shoe companies in their dealings with youth basketball.
But all the way down to age 10?
"Shoe companies are always going to be part of the equation but there has to be some transparency," he said. "We need to know where they're giving their money and we need know where AAU programs are spending their money."
Former shoe marketer Sonny Vaccaro has said there is one way to stop that shoe company influence – don't take their money. Fat chance. Apparel company money is not only figured into athletic budgets, it is key to the bottom line.
"Shoe companies are always going to be part of the equation but there has to be some transparency. We need to know where they're giving their money and we need know where AAU programs are spending their money." Bruce Rasmussen, Chairman of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee
Try taking away the $280 million UCLA is getting from adidas.
All of it leads to the question of whether any real change can be made by the committee. It has been suggested that Rice wouldn't have chaired the commission if she didn't get assurances the NCAA would adopt suggested reforms.
"Just to be blunt about it," NCAA President Mark Emmert told reporters on Thursday, "you don't waste Condoleezza Rice's time if you're not serious about it."
One of the most contentious issues for the commission is to decide whether players will be allowed more access to agents. There is an irony there. The FBI is snooping around the recruiting cesspool that is major-college basketball, in part, because of too much influence by agents and their runners.
Now the commission may recommend more contact. Forty-three states have agent laws. If law enforcement can't keep away agents, how can the NCAA?
"Kids need to have access to advisers, but those advisers need to register," Rasmussen said. "They have to be accountable to the NCAA. And summer camps, if Adidas wants to run a summer tournament they can, but coaches can't be there."
We'll see how that works out. The July evaluation period is considered key to the recruiting process. It is also a time and place when a lot of under-the-table deals get done.
At stake is the definition of amateurism itself. What used to be an NCAA violation is no considered reform whether perceived as right or wrong.
In most cases, signing with an agent is not allowed until a player has exhausted his/her eligibility. However in a sport like baseball, players are allowed "advisers" while still playing in college to gauge their pro potential.
The NCAA isn't expected to go as far as allowing players to capitalize on endorsements. Short of that, what keeps – for example – Adidas from?
"In college athletics what we forget is we've got 351 schools, each given 13 full rides," Rasmussen said. "That's over 4,500 scholarships. There are a few – very few -- where the athletics is more important than the academics …
"But in the majority of cases the students are receiving extraordinary benefits [scholarship, training, health care] that are better than their value.
"There are a few where their value is [more]. We need to find a way to accommodate those within the Division I structure."
One of the ideas being kicked around is allowing underclassmen. to declare for the draft and retain their eligibility if they aren't drafted. If football, players have a 72-hour window to pull back their name after the typical mid-January deadline for underclassmen declaring for the draft.
The NCAA will need the help of the NBA and its players association in getting rid of one-and-done. Even then, that eliminates a market for about 10 players who would realistically be drafted right out of the high school.
Does that in itself keep the third-party influence away? Rasmussen chose to concentrate on a positive takeaway from Monday night's game between Villanova and Michigan -- two programs not loaded with "one-and-dones."
"Human nature is you focus on the negative," he said. "We have faults. We have never been perfect. we're not perfect now. We never will be. But it shows you at Michigan, the majority of those kids are students.
"Villanova is the same. We talk about those kids who really don't have an interest in being in school. Obviously both of these programs have kids who want to be in school."
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