The biggest changes proposed by the Commission on College Basketball face long odds
The NCAA will need help to get rid of the one-and-done rule and see more transparency from shoe companies
INDIANAPOLIS — NCAA President Mark Emmert created the Commission on College Basketball in October in response to the FBI investigation into the dark side of recruiting in the sport. It essentially was asked to recommend changes to NCAA rules with the intent of dramatically changing the culture of college basketball to deter the corruption inherit in the recruiting of players.
Changing a culture is not easy, and the more people involved in that culture, the harder it is to change it. Typically, one of the hardest jobs for a new coach of a team to do is change the culture of losing. That is a much smaller group of people to get to buy in or replace. The culture of college basketball recruiting involves not only the players and coaches, but boosters, extended family, high school coaches, summer ball coaches, agents, shoe companies and other outsiders. The NBA is a part of this culture too, at least in the sense that its rules are part of the structure.
A significant part of this culture was summed up nicely by Condoleeza Rice when the commission announcedon Wednesday.
"The crisis in college basketball is first and foremost a problem of failed accountability and lax responsibility," said Rice, the commission's chair. "The fault was always that of someone else."
However, this report often times points a finger at someone else, or at least acknowledges that someone else's help is needed to fix a problem. The NCAA does not have control over every aspect of these recommendations, especially the repeal of the one-and-done rule, which is controlled by the NBA and the NBPA. That makes sense, because of the number of entities involved in recruiting college athletes, but still, the NCAA is at the mercy of others.
Some of that help will be easier to obtain than others, but the NCAA is confident that help will come. University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, chair of the NCAA Board of Directors, thinks that will happen because these issues are bigger than just the NCAA.
"This is more than NCAA basketball -- This is about basketball as a sport as a part of American culture," he said, in a bit of hyperbole. However, he feels that, "the organizations that surround the NCAA recognize that this is a moment to address issues that go from age 14 to age 35 for basketball players and let's work together to get it right for everybody."
At the core of this, Rice said, is separating the professional path from the college path.
NCAA President Mark Emmert, who said he was pleased with the commission's recommendations, agreed.
"There needs to be a career path for people that simply want to choose professional basketball," Emmert said "We need to change some of our rules to facilitate that process and allow young people to get access to advisors, access to serious assessments of their skills and their abilities and allow them to follow that career path."
The commission addressed this issue first, and right off the bat, we have a recommendation that the NCAA does not control. The very first recommendation is that the NBA and its players' association do away with the one-and-done rule and allow 18-year-olds to be eligible for the draft again.
"We need to change some of our rules to facilitate that process and allow young people to get access to advisors, access to serious assessments of their skills and their abilities and allow them to follow that career path." NCAA President Mark Emmert
I am not sure I agree with all of these recommendations, but I like this one, and I think I am in the minority among those of us who follow this sport. While I like getting so see some very talented players in college basketball for one season, this rule has always rubbed me the wrong way. It's perfectly legal, of course, because it's collectively bargained, but it's un-American.
People should have the right to attempt to earn a living in their chosen profession when they choose. If your 18-year-old child can get a job as a jazz musician, or welder, or Bracketologist, or whatever, nothing is stopping them. It should be the same for basketball players.
Of course, there may not be as many jobs available for great basketball players, and not all of them are in the NBA, but players should have the right to pursue them. Players who want to be in college should be encouraged to follow that route, but those that do not should not feel like there are no other options.
I always felt this rule was put in place to protect NBA owners from their own stupidity. For every LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, there are a handful of mistakes. Now, the NBA has a means for helping players evaluate their prospects before choosing whether to enter the draft. That not only helps the player, but also helps the league scout the player.
A key recommendation from the commission that the NCAA does control – for the most part -- is allowing underclassmen to return to school if they opt to stay in the NBA Draft, but go undrafted. That assumes they are still academically eligible and requires them to return to the same school they were at before entering the draft. It also asks the NBA to change its rules to not allow those players to sign as free agents until going through the draft process again.
The commission also recommended that players be allowed to seek advice from agents and even sign with them as early as high school. Those agents would have to be certified by the NCAA and an education on college eligibility is a required part of the process for the player.
One thing not addressed by the commission is the issue of players using their name, image and/or likeness to earn money via endorsements and other means. It left that alone due to legal proceedings underway in that area.
These recommendations are an attempt to make it easier for players to make a decision about making a go of it professionally and giving them a fallback in the event it doesn't work out.
"Erroneously entering the NBA Draft is not the kind of misjudgment that should deprive student-athletes of the valuable opportunity to enter college or to continue in college while playing basketball," Rice said.
The commission said by making the path to professional basketball easier for those players who want to go that route, it creates a disincentive for the corruption that surrounds recruiting the players who are not seeking that path. I see the logic in that, but it remains to be seen if that will work in practice.
For those who are still undeterred, the commission also addressed the issue of enforcement, recommending stiffer postseason penalties for Level I offenses, which are the most significant. It also suggested setting up an independent panel to investigate and determine penalties for those violations.
The hope is that such a panel would bring credibility back to the enforcement process by having professionals do the job. That would seem to take that process out of the NCAA's hands, but Kaler does not agree.
"It is still in the NCAA purview," Kaler said. "It's just a matter of bringing a different level of competency and professionalism to what those decisions are and the process around them would be. And when the stakes are high, that's important to do."
Certainly, I think we would all welcome competency and professionalism to that process, but until this panel is created and judges its first case, the jury will still be out on that. The NCAA has to try something, though. As Rice pointed out, during the process, "not a single stakeholder supported the current system for handling high-stakes infractions."
The commission also would also like to see athletic directors and college presidents held accountable for major violations on their watches and be contractually required to fully cooperate with NCAA investigations.
Probably the toughest recommendation to get implemented – and certainly the toughest to enforce -- is the one asking the apparel companies to police themselves. Good luck with that!
Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson, also on the commission, is more optimistic.
"I'd be careful about throwing the apparel companies under the bus," he said. "We have some bad actors in every organization and I don't believe that the apparel companies have worked as a whole to undermine what the NCAA is doing."
We'll see how the FBI sorts all that out later on, I suppose.
The timetable for implementing the NCAA's portion of these recommendations is quick by the organization's standards. It expects to be able to present new rules at the NCAA's August meeting. The commission is going to review those proposed new rules as well and, possibly, give its support to them at that time.
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